Massachusetts: Dog reports fire, saves house

Robert Lane and his dog, Max

In Ipswich, Massachusetts yesterday, a dog escaped from his leash, discovered a fire, then like Lassie, barked at his 13-year old master and led him to the fire.

Like a scene out of “Lassie,” Robert Lane, 13, followed his barking dog yesterday to a brush fire burning in the woods behind the family’s home, then ran to a vernal pool to soak his T-shirt in water to try to put out the 10-foot circle of flames.

“I just wanted to get it out as fast as possible,” Robert said.

Discovering the fire was bigger than he thought, Robert ran home to tell his mother, who called the Fire Department at 12:30 p.m. If not detected early by Robert and the family dog, Max, who had escaped its leash, the brush fire could have easily spread and damaged the home and construction business located on their property at 285 High St., David Lane said.

“It could’ve been 10 times worse,” David Lane said by phone last night. “If it wasn’t for the dog getting off the leash, we wouldn’t have a house.”

Firefighters from six communities were able to contain the fire to a 400-by-800 foot area of woods, about three-quarters of an acre, on property across from the Dow Brook Reservoir, said Ipswich firefighter Lee Prentiss. Lane’s antique horse-drawn manure spreader was destroyed, but an estimated 30 to 40 pieces of his equipment were not damaged.

From the Salem News. Photo courtesy of the Daily News.

CO: Details about SEAT crash

More information has been released about the single engine air tanker that crashed on April 15 near Fort Carson in Colorado.

Gert Marais reported a mayday and said, “I’m going down,” just before his single-engine air tanker crashed while fighting the 9,800-acre Fort Carson fire last week, the National Transportation Safety Board reports.

But the preliminary report from the NTSB does not identify a crash cause.


Marais, 42, of Fort Benton, Mont., (see photo below) was a pilot and mechanic and worked as a contractor for Aero Applicators of Sterling.

The Colorado State Forest Service had called the company to help fight the fire.

Two planes left Sterling at 5 p.m. with full fuel tanks, 500 gallons of water and Class A foam, the report said. Marais was flying an Air Tractor AT-602.

When the planes arrived at the site, a U.S. Forest Service agent on the ground maderadio contact to give the pilots directions.

The agent worked with Marais to do a practice run over the drop site, a line of pine trees to the north of a gravel road bordering the wildfire. The goal was to douse the trees in case the fire jumped the road.

Marais flew over the site, the NTSB report said, with the other plane about 500 feet overhead as a spotter.

Then Marais made the real drop. He flew over the top of a tall pine tree and released his load 500 feet west of the target, right on top of the U.S. Forest Service agent and his car.

A second or two later, the agent told investigators he heard Marais report a series of maydays and say, “I’m going down.”

The agent watched the plane’s right wing hit the ground on a grassy hill just off Colorado 115. The time was 6:10 p.m.

The tanker landed upright, with the right wing and fuselage crushed. The U.S. Forest Service agent told investigators that wind gusts at the time were 30 to 40 knots.

Fire investigators with the U.S. Army and the El Paso County Sheriff’s Office have yet to release the cause and specific point of origin of the fire on the base, which was declared fully contained Wednesday.

A funeral for Marais, who was a native of South Africa, will be Friday in Montana.

His wife, Esme, and the couple’s children had planned to move to Sterling this summer.

The couple were married 10 years ago this month. He was already caring for three of his children from a previous marriage, ages 19, 17 and 12, and together he and Esme had a 5-year-old.

Photos and excerpt courtesy of the Denver Post.


New Mexico: Trigo Fire

A news release from the Trigo fire on the Cibola National Forest southeast of Albuquerque at 8:00 AM today:

The Trigo Fire refuses to lay down. Firefighters on the swing shift stayed out much of the night fighting active fire behavior on the north side, below Capilla Peak. Crews managed to catch a couple of small slopovers and a few spot fires that tried to escape during the night. Fire management officials say firefighters on the ground and in the air have done an excellent job, but they can’t let up yet.

Today will be a critical day in maintaining control of the Trigo Fire. Extreme wind conditions are expected between 11:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., with gusts up to 40 miles per hour.

The east and west extremities of the fire have cooled down and rehabilitation efforts are underway in those areas. The area below Capilla Peak however, continues to provide resistance.

Aircraft will fly today as wind conditions permit, monitoring fire lines. Air tankers and helicopters will drop retardant and water as needed.

Fire Facts:

Containment: 46% Acres: 4,600

Fire Personnel: 506

Hot Shot Crews: 6

Type II Crews: 11

Engines: 18

Aircraft Available: 5 helicopters, 4 air tankers, 1 lead plane

Cost to date: $3,800,000

EPA's Whitman not liable for statements about 9/11 air quality

A federal appeals court has dismissed a suit against the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, ruling that Christie Whitman can not be held liable for giving the false information that the air was safe to breathe following the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. Many firefighters, including those working on the Incident Management Teams at the scene, were affected by the contaminated air while working on the recovery and clean-up in New York City.

More information from the New York Times:

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals said that Mrs. Whitman, a former governor of New Jersey, was forced to balance competing interests after the attack. The court found that complying with instructions from the White House to hasten the return of financial workers to Wall Street as soon as possible after the World Trade Center was destroyed conflicted with Mrs. Whitman’s obligation to highlight the health risks facing people who lived, worked or went to school in Lower Manhattan.

“Whether or not Whitman’s resolution of such competing considerations was wise,” the court said, “she has not engaged in conduct that ‘shocks the conscience’ in the sense necessary to create constitutional liability for damages to thousands of people.”

In February 2006, Judge Deborah A. Batts of Federal District Court in Manhattan refused to dismiss a range of charges brought by residents against Mrs. Whitman in 2004. Judge Batts found that Mrs. Whitman made statements about safety that were so misleading that they were “conscience-shocking.”

The plaintiffs alleged that Mrs. Whitman and the environmental agency she led had deliberately misrepresented the health risks of the dust from the collapsed trade towers that clouded the air in Lower Manhattan.

In their lawsuit, they argued that Mrs. Whitman should have been obligated to pay for the cleanup of homes, schools and offices in Lower Manhattan.

In her defense, Mrs. Whitman argued that as a public official she was entitled to immunity because her conduct had not violated anyone’s constitutional rights.

Vegetation fire in the UK destroys 5,000…..

I was reading a story online about a vegetation fire in Scotland that destroyed 5,000… and I was thinking… ACRES? In Scotland? But no, it destroyed 5,000 small trees on 10 acres. The fire occurred a year ago on land managed by the Woodland Trust, the story said, but recently six small fires have been started intentionally in the Carnmoney Hill area northeast of Belfast.

“No doubt those starting the fires consider it some sort of joke. The grim reality is that they’re actually putting people’s lives, including their own, at risk,” said Gregor Fulton, Woodland Officer with the Trust.

“A forest fire can cause total devastation to nature, resulting in the loss of trees, plants and animals. We’re appealing to those responsible to stop and think about the consequences of their actions,” he added.

Photo and quote courtesy of the Newton Abbey Times.

Ellreese Daniel's trial schedule

Ellreese Daniels was the Crew Boss and Type 3 Incident Commander on the Thirtymile Fire near Winthrop, Washington in 2001 on which four members of his crew were overrun by fire and died. On January 30, 2007 the U.S. Attorney in Spokane, Washington charged him with four counts of involuntary manslaughter and seven counts of making false statements.

Now the trial schedule has been established by the court:

THIS MATTER is scheduled for trial beginning May 5, 2008 and ending July 2, 2008. Counsel shall meet with the Court in chambers at 8:30 a.m. on the first day of trial. Jury Selection will begin at 10:00 a.m. Trial will be held each day from 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. excluding the following days: May 9, May 16, May 22, May 23, May 26, June 5, June 6, June 20, and June 23 -27.

I hope that there will be some people attending the trial as spectators who will be recognizable as firefighters. But since it appears that the trial could go on for 2 months, that’s going to be difficult to do on a continuing basis.

We covered this issue earlier, here, here, and here.