Updated at 5:25 p.m. PDT June 7, 2022
A “72-hour preliminary report” dated June 6, 2022 shed a little additional light on the May 29 incident in which three firefighters were injured when struck by water dropped from a helicopter on the Calf Canyon-Hermits Peak Fire in New Mexico.
It adds that the hotshot crew was not injured directly by the water, but were knocked onto boulders by the force of the drop.
They were hit by the water “while they were crossing a steep rocky piece of ground, consisting of 2 to 3 foot diameter boulders. Three crewmembers were injured by falling in the rocks as a result of being impacted by the water drop” from a Type 1 helicopter.
The most seriously injured firefighter, who had multiple surgeries to repair facial fractures and a broken kneecap, was released from the hospital over the weekend and will be traveling home over the next several days, accompanied by family members and his crew supervisor.
A Facilitative Learning Analysis will be conducted “to share learning from unintended outcomes and to reduce the probability of future occurrences of similar events.”
3:08 p.m. PDT June 1, 2022
Three firefighters were injured, one seriously, May 29, 2022 while working on the Calf Canyon / Hermits Peak Fire in Northern New Mexico.
According to a 24-hour preliminary report dated today June 1, the Bureau of Land Management Vale Interagency Hotshot Crew was holding a section of fire line when a large Type 1 helicopter “missed the identified drop area” while attempting to drop water on the fire edge. The last of the load landed on several crew members, three of which were transported to a hospital in Santa Fe, NM, two by ground vehicle and the third by an agency helicopter.
One of them with severe injuries was later transferred to a hospital in Albuquerque where he has received multiple surgeries, one to repair skull fractures to the face, and the other to repair a broken knee cap. The employee is still in the hospital, accompanied by family and his crew supervisor.
The other two firefighters received injuries described as minor; they were treated and released.
Other than the specifications of the helicopter qualifying it as a Type 1 ship, no other description was given in the report. Type 1 helicopters can carry between 700 and 3,000 gallons, ranging from the 700-gallon K-MAX to a 3,000-gallon Chinook.
The Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak Fire in New Mexico started from two separate escaped prescribed fires which merged into one. It has burned more than 315,000 acres 20 to 47 miles east and northeast of Santa Fe.