Shots fired toward firefighters in Washington state

Four firefighters felt they were targeted, including two from Australia

(This article was updated at 6:13 p.m. PDT September 10 after more information became available.)

Four firefighters said they were shot at while working on a fire in Washington State last month. Two of the firefighters were with the group of 80 that came over from Australia in early August to help suppress wildfires in the United States.

The incident occurred August 23 on the Miriam Fire near the White Pass Ski Area west of Rimrock Lake about 40 air miles west of Yakima, Washington in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. The Miriam Fire is adjacent to the ski area.

A Rapid Lesson Sharing (RLS) report was posted at the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center on September 7, 2018. It explains that two lookouts were talking with two of the Australian firefighters, one of which was a Division Supervisor and the other was a Safety Officer. They saw two people walking on the Pacific Crest Trail about 200 yards below them. Excerpts from the RLS document will take it from here:

…The incident personnel stand up and holler and wave. All four are wearing yellow Nomex fire shirts. Two had bright yellow hardhats. They therefore thought they had been seen by these two individuals.

The incident personnel watched with binoculars as one of the two individuals put a scoped rifle on a bi-pod and looked up the mountain toward them. They continued to wave until a shot was fired. They then bailed off the backside of the mountain to take cover as a second shot rang out.

DIVS A/C notified Communications of the rifle shots and told them to notify the two Lookouts on DP 10 about what happened and tell them to leave the area. The shooter and companion started to walk north on the PCT. The four incident personnel could no longer see them but heard several more shots coming from the direction that they had gone. The four bailed off the ridge, ran to the PCT, and went to Helispot H-4 for a helicopter ride out of the area.

At approximately 1510, the Incident Management Team (IMT) initiated the Incident Emergency Plan (an Incident within an Incident-IWI). The Deputy Incident Commander, Air Operations Branch Director, and Safety Officer went to the Communications Unit.

At that time, the following actions took place:

  • Divisions A and C were evacuated.
  • The Sheriff was notified.
  • The IMT’s Law Enforcement Officers (LEO) were responding to area, as well as the Field Operations Section Chief.
  • Helicopters were put on standby for evacuating the four incident personnel from H-4.
  • The ICP was locked down and supervisors were ordered to account for their personnel.
  • The Incident Commander and Agency Administrator were giving briefings (of what they knew) periodically to ICP/Camp personnel.
  • The Sheriff’s Deputies found the rifle shooting individuals’ vehicle on Highway 12 and ran the license plates. They were then able to locate people who knew them and confirmed that they had gone bear hunting near the ski area. The Sheriff’s Deputies then made contact with them.
  • They were cited for entering a closed area—with additional charges pending.

At 1730, the IWI was terminated. Personnel resumed their normal fire management and support duties.

Traci Weaver, a Public Affairs Officer for the Pacific Northwest Regional Office said a press release was issued the day after the incident. Apparently it did not get a great deal of attention at the time.

We checked, and this was in the middle of a long paragraph that talked about closures, resources, location, cause, and more:

…Yesterday, two people entered the Area Closure and fired rifles in the direction of our firefighters. This caused fire operations to halt in the ski area and that section of fireline to be evacuated until the situation could be resolved…

George Jacobs, a spokesperson for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Spokane said he understood that the two shooters were issued Violation Notices by the U.S. Forest Service. The charge was for being in an area that was closed by the Forest Service. The agency routinely issues Orders temporarily closing areas that are affected by large fires.

White Pass Ski area Miriam fire
Map showing the Miriam Fire (the red line) and the White Pass Ski area, about 40 air miles west of Yakima, Washington. Click to enlarge.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.
Typos or errors, report them HERE.

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. Google+

23 thoughts on “Shots fired toward firefighters in Washington state”

    1. It’s sad mate that our Aussie firefighters who travel halfway around the world to help Americans get shot at. Hopefully they realise we don’t care about illegal pot grows or other illegal activities, we are there to help prevent loss of life and property!

      1. And many of us here in Washington State give your men honor in being here helping our firefighters. I hope they are safe. We appreciate the service of your firefighters coming so many miles ,and then this to happen,its rubbish. So sorry they had to deal with this horrible act. God Bless…

  1. More than likely these where not Hunters but criminals growing marijuana illegally. It is common for illegal Marijuana growers to run public away from their marijuana growing area.
    The firefighters probably thought they where Hunters just because they had guns.

    1. Unlikely that they were Marijuana growers as this occurred at high elevation in or near the ski area boundary. I was there and was in the ICP during the lockdown.

    2. If you read the whole article…the mrn who were shootings…vehicle was located…the men were found and fined as it was said they were bear hunting…..

  2. If they where indeed Hunters. Then they where moronic idiots ones that can not be called Hunters but just plain fools! Glad they caught them!

    1. Pot is legal in Washington State and it doesn’t make sense to shoot at firefighters for trying to prevent their crop from burning up unless they were stoned…lol

  3. Pot growers with a crop right off the PCT? I doubt it. The story makes no sense though, it does sound like these kids intentionally shot towards the firefighters, probably not really at them as even an average shooter wouldn’t miss at 200 yards off a bipod. Either way its incredibly stupid and I hope they get the book thrown at them.

  4. I’m dissapointed to learn that they were not slapoed with more severe charges, drug tested, and their firearms confiscated, and their right to bear arms revoked. It gives legit hunters and responsible gunnowners a bad name.

  5. “Hunters with high powered rifles shooting at firefighters.” Sounds like the firefighters heard shots ring out and became paranoid, which is understandable. That’s a pretty serious offense for being dressed in bright yellow, only one of them fired shots and….. knowing they can be identified. That being said, anything is possible, but without knowing the hunters, it sounds wishy washy.

  6. Considering they found the guys and they were bear hunting, I’d say you’re wrong. And maybe can’t read. It clearly says they confirmed the men were bear hunting near the ski area.

  7. Guess what? Bear season does not run during the summer months in WA State. This deserves a second look and a couple of idiots sittin’ in jail on an Assault 1 charge.

  8. This is a serious question. I’m not a hunter, nor am I sure what the law is in this case… Do you have to actually kill to be charged with poaching? Don’t remember a bear ever wearing clothes. 200 yards away (even without a scope) one should be able to tell a clothed human from a bear. So they fired upon a species they had no tag for… So again, does on have to kill the elk when all you hold is an upland bird license? And finally, it is rather ironic the Australians with strict gun laws end up being fired upon for simply trying to help the US.

    1. In some states if you shoot at a decoy animatronic fake deer placed there as bait for poachers you can get cited for hunting out of season, without a license, without a tag, or shooting from a road… whatever the specific law is.

  9. In most units in Washington, bear season runs first week of August till November 15. I’m sure one of the LEO’s asked to see the bear tag. We know where the news was (buried by a PAO) but where was the sign that the area was closed to the public?

    1. I guess my question escaped you. Did the LEO ask to see their “human tag”? Thankfully they didn’t “bag” one. But they did fire upon them. And then there is the part about… Even if the area is open (not closed), you don’t shoot humans. Well…. you shouldn’t, anyway. That’s not cool, nor sportsman.

  10. Sorry, it’s my feelings that citations on the individuals firing shots in the area is not sufficient. Probably all that law enforcement could legally do, but seems to fall short in my opinion.

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