Report released for engine rollover on Anderson Butte Fire

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Engine rollover Anderson Butte Fire
Engine rollover on Anderson Butte Fire. Photo from the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center report.

On October 2 one of three responding Type 6 engines rolled over while responding to the Anderson Butte Fire in Oregon. On the gravel road much dust was being kicked up compromising the visibility of the drivers. They were heading into the sun and the driver of the rollover engine said he was relying on the emergency lightbars of the engines ahead of him to find his way.

As he rounded a shaded corner, the sun hit the engine windshield and severely impacted his vision. He did not notice the curve in the road. Soon after, the Engine 241 driver—who was the vehicle’s sole occupant—noticed that the passenger side front tire was no longer contacting the ground. He attempted to steer back toward the road, but momentum caused the engine to tip. The engine then rolled more than two times before being stopped by a small grove of oak trees, finally coming to rest on the driver’s side, approximately 100 feet below the road.

The driver was able to climb out through the passenger window, walk up to the road, and radio for help.

Engine rollover Anderson Butte Fire
Engine rollover on Anderson Butte Fire. Photo from the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center report.

The driver indicated that he basically just had a laceration on his leg. He initially requested to continue to the fire, but was held back for further evaluation. A local ambulance crew arrived around 30 minutes later. The driver was evaluated for head trauma and his lacerated leg was treated. The ambulance was released, the driver was instructed to return to his home unit, and was driven there by his supervisor.

The engine, which was totaled beyond repair, was retrieved by a wrecker the following day.

Two of the lessons pointed out in the report were:

  • Continuously evaluate conditions, as dust and sun angle make for less visibility, travel at slower speeds, and allow for more space in between yourself and the vehicle in front of you.
  • If you can’t clearly see the road: STOP.

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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.

12 thoughts on “Report released for engine rollover on Anderson Butte Fire”

  1. Sick and tired of engines driving in the contrail of trucks ahead of them on fires. IMO it is an agency induced idiocy. Only need to ask one question- is there an actual baby on fire or are you just an idiot ?

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    1. If you do not learn to slow down and take better care of your equipment then you are no use to anyone and just another drain on the logistical load in a time of scarce resources.
      Do no harm comes to mind.

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  2. You just can’t rely on another trucks tail lights like that. What if they go over the edge and you follow them? Take responsibility for your own engine and crew safety. Slow down until visibility is feasible, try not to dust out other trucks, and use water tenders to water dusty roads when possible. We’ve had it before where visibility was so bad we needed a guy on foot to walk in front of the truck. It was slow as heck but we got down the hill alive.

    If you’re on IA or it’s just an exciting moment, dont get tunnel vision. You can’t do any firefighting without the engine. Getting there 1 minute sooner is not worth risking a vehicle accident.

    Sounds like everyone made it out without major injuries. That is good

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  3. 1995 NV Engine Academy Stead Air Base….learned to drive slow and slower at night…not get ahead of yur headlights

    Like the other folks have indicated about “Lane Departure tech”…..dirt, dust, and debris make that tech a little obsolete…unless someone has got an answer..mini wipers?? ? ?

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  4. I do not think lane departure tech would be helpful. The cameras would get covered in dirt, dust, debris and mud or just destroyed. I like to think that I am a decent driver, but any situation can go sideways fast.

    Slowing down is the best option I can think of.

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  5. Been there and saw it. We were coming off the line about “O-dark-30”, on a fire on the Los Padres. Dark, dusty, and very smokey. All I could see was the very dim tail lights of the engine in front of me which suddenly disappeared. We all got stopped only to find the crew of said engine exiting the passenger side doors with the only thing keeping the engine from going completely over the side being a scraggly manzanita bush. The plan was to bring in two dozers with one attaching to the front of the engine with their winch and the other the back of the engine. They would then gently move the engine back into the road. Unfortunately, in their haste to get the road cleared, the powers that be failed to tell the HFEO’s which one was to move forward and which one to back up. At the signal both went forward. Never saw an engine with the front end torn off before. When in doubt STOP, and make sure it’s safe to move before proceeding. I’d like to add that it got real interesting when the agencies involved started haggling as to who was responsible for what and who was going to pay for a new engine. I do know that a FAE and a BC got some unpaid vacation.

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  6. Lane departure tech? Geez just drive on dirt with proper spacing.
    ya I agree…commonsense would be a solution…glad no serious injury.

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    1. We have Lane Departure Warnings on our two newest Brush Engines at my home agency, a rural volunteer FPD. Even on my narrow two lane country roads it works very poorly, alerting about 25% of a drive. It’s extremely distracting, especially when there is also a radio going off, your partner discussing call details, navigation and everything else. We have turned it off.

      I have also been there, and had to just tell my driver to stop and let the dust clear. As a group, we discussed that if it’s too dusty to see the headlights of the vehicle behind you, you need to be slowing and making less dust. At the end of a 14, all some people are thinking about is dinner, a shower and rack.

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