Water tender rollover, Jolly Mountain Fire in Washington

Report released

Water tender rollover
Water tender rollover on the Jolly Mountain Fire in Washington. Photo from PNW RLS report.

A brief lessons-learned report has been released for the rollover of a water tender that occurred September 11 on the Jolly Mountain Fire in central Washington.

Here is an excerpt from the document:

On night shift, at approximately 1845, while driving to the fire line just a short distance outside of fire camp on a county road in a semi-rural area, a cooperator Water Tender drifted to the right-hand side of this narrow road that had a minimal shoulder. According to witness statements, the Water Tender was traveling approximately 34 miles per hour.

The Water Tender driver said that he felt the rear tires move off of the pavement onto the gravel shoulder. The driver did not try to correct for fear that this action would cause the Water Tender to rollover. The driver believes that when both rear tires went off of the pavement, this action pulled the truck into the ditch—causing it to rollover and land on its side. The Water Tender was full of water. During this rollover, the Water Tender’s axles became separated from the vehicle and four sections of private fence were destroyed.

Members of the public who were following the Water Tender were first on scene and called 911. They acknowledged that the driver—who was wearing his seatbelt at the time of the accident—was alert, oriented, and had minor facial lacerations. (This Water Tender was mobilized through the state and did not go through the inspection process during check in.)

The Rapid Lesson Sharing report released by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, other than the facts above, only discusses the management of the incident within an incident, and does not cover causes, prevention, or mention the frequency of rollovers involving water tenders and fire engines. There may be a more complete analysis completed in the coming months. At Wildfire Today there are over three dozen articles tagged “rollover”.

Our hope is that the agencies that respond to wildfires will place more emphasis on training drivers and acquire vehicles that are less likely to rollover and that have a cab strong enough to protect the occupants during a crash.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.