A rocket scientist who calls himself “old coyote” wrote a ridiculous post on another wildland fire web site about accountability. He or she was offering an opinion about the disciplinary actions that were taken after the accident in which eight members of the Klamath Hot Shots were injured when their crew carrier was hit by a semi truck and rolled over on August 22, 2009 in northern California. According to rumors on that site, some members of the overhead on the hot shot crew were forced to take some time off as a result of their actions or inactions related to the cause of the injuries, reportedly for some members of the crew not wearing seat belts. “Old coyote” wrote:
When you think about it, the personnel actions fall right in line with the fall-out from the Sadler Fire. Now, why did practically a whole platoon of team overhead lose their quals due to an independent decision of a certain dumb-ass Crew Boss?
For the December/January 1999-2000 issue of Wildfire magazine (vol 9, no. 1) I wrote an analysis of the findings from the Sadler fire investigation report. I was moved to write the analysis due to the unique nature of the August, 1999 incident. The sheer number of errors in judgement that were made on that fire were astounding. Never before or since have I been aware of a large fire being run by a Type 1 Incident Management Team where so many poor decisions were made that seriously and adversely affected the safety of firefighters.
To imply that the single cause of the entrapment on the fire was the fault of a “dumb-ass Crew Boss”, or that the IMTeam should not be held accountable, is absurd.
The Incident Action Plan written by the Type 1 IMTeam for the Sadler fire stated that the tactics for every Division that day “will be announced at briefing”. And, neither the Division Supervisor nor the Branch Director were given copies of the written plan.
The strategy of backfiring from a dozer line out ahead of the fire that was developed by the Branch Director was presented to two hot shot crews by the Division Supervisor, but the crews refused the assignment. The Crew Boss of a Type 2 crew of National Park Service regular employees accepted it. They were not a full time organized crew.
The entrapment happened to six members of the crew as they were igniting the backfire along the dozer line in grass and sage vegetation. There were no lookouts posted, and unexpectedly to the firing team, the head of the main fire overran their location.
The entire article as it appeared in Wildfire is on our Documents page, but below are some excerpts, including a long list of some of the mistakes, errors in judgement, and sheer laziness in emergency management that were exposed in the report.