AZ: Firefighter Killed In Private Medical Helicopter Collision

Two medical helicopters collided on Sunday while trying to land at the same hospital, killing six, with one of them being a wildland firefighter that had been working on a fire in Grand Canyon National Park.

From the National Park Service Morning Report:

Firefighter Michael MacDonald was tragically killed in a private medical helicopter collision while being transported from the Grand Canyon to a northern Arizona hospital for a medical condition not directly related to firefighting on Sunday, June 29th. Six people, including MacDonald, were killed in the collision of two medical helicopters near Flagstaff Medical Center.


MacDonald, 26, was a member of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots, an elite Bureau of Indian Affairs-funded Native American firefighting crew based on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Montana. The crew was assigned to the Walla Valley Fire on the North Rim. The Chief Mountain Hot Shot crew will be released from the incident today to travel home.

From the Associated Press:

Two medical helicopters collided Sunday about a half-mile from a northern Arizona hospital, killing six people and critically injuring a nurse, a federal official said. Two emergency workers on the ground were injured after the crash.

One of the helicopters was operated by Air Methods out of Englewood, Colo., and the other was from Classic Helicopters of Woods Cross, Utah. Both aircraft were Bell 407 models, said Ian Gregor, a spokesman with the Federal Aviation Administration.

After the collision, the helicopters crashed in a wooded area east of Flagstaff Medical Center and started a 10-acre brush fire. An explosion on one of the aircraft after the crash injured two emergency workers who arrived with a ground ambulance company. They suffered minor burns, but their injuries were not life-threatening, authorities said.

“Crazy chaos, just lots of twisted metal wrapped up around people,” Capt. Mark Johnson, a spokesman for the Flagstaff Fire Department, said near the crash site.

Three people on the Air Methods aircraft, including the patient, died. On the Classic helicopter, the pilot, paramedic and patient all died. A flight nurse on the Classic helicopter was in critical condition at Flagstaff Medical Center.

“It’s just a very unfortunate tragedy,” said Matt Stein, a program director and lead pilot with Classic Helicopters subsidiary Classic Lifeguard Aeromedical Services in Page, Ariz.

Stein said his company’s crew was landing at Flagstaff Medical Center carrying a patient with a medical emergency from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim.

“We’ve been in business 20 years, and these are the first fatalities we’ve experienced,” Stein said. “They were all heroes. They were out doing a great service for their communities.”

Stein said the pilot for Classic was experienced with more than 10,000 hours of flight time. He added that it’s rare for two medical helicopters to attempt to land at a hospital at the same time.


Preparedness Level 5 and the military

The national Preparedness Level increased to Level 5 today, the highest level. The criteria for this includes

Geographic Areas are experiencing major incidents which have the potential to exhaust all agency fire resources. 80 percent of Type 1 and 2 IMTs and crews are committed, as well as the majority of other national resources.

This means national fire leaders may assess the need for seeking international or military assistance. The National Multiagency Coordinating (MAC) Group gave the geographic MAC groups quotas for the number of Military Crew Advisors (MCAD) and Military Strike Team Leaders (STLM) they they must send to Boise by July 3. They are requesting a total of 26 MCADs and 6 STLMs for 30-33 day assignments. So, one would have to assume they are activating some military hand crews.

N.C.– Eight firefighters struck by lightning


LENOIR, N.C. — Five firefighters are still in a hospital after being struck by lighting while battling a forest fire.

A total of eight firefighters with the North Carolina Forest Service were trying to contain the blaze Saturday, which was sparked by lighting the day before. The strike happened at 4:48 p.m.

Forestry officials believe the lightning bolt hit a tree; the energy radiated underground, where the firefighters were taking a break. They say the sky was clear blue at the time.

“It was totally unexpected. We monitor and try and keep up with the weather and there was no prediction, no threat of imminent danger. Had there been, we would have pulled those firefighters off the mountain,” said Rusty Dellinger, a ranger with the North Carolina Forest Service.

The area was so remote that it took crews an hour and a half to get them down from the mountain and into an ambulance. None of the injuries appear to be life-threatening.

“Most of them were complaining of pain in the lower extremities. Some were complaining of headaches. Some did receive some minor burns,” said Dellinger.

Initially, all eight firefighters were hospitalized. Doctors are treating the remaining five firefighters at Caldwell Memorial Hospital. Four of the eight are inmates who assist the forest service though a work release program. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is investigating what happened.


California: Basin and Indians fires map and update

The Indians fire is looking very good. The firing on the north side along the Arroyo Seco drainage is complete and they are predicting official containment on July 3.


Crews on the Basin Complex near Big Sur are constructing indirect firelines up to 6 miles out ahead of the fire, using some of the same tactics that were successful on the nearby Indians fire, indirect line and then burning the fuels between the line and the main fire.

On the south side, dozers and hot shot crews are constructing and firing out a line from the North Coast Ridge Trail, south to the coast near Big Black Rock south of Esalen.

The fire on the north side is burning around Big Sur, while crews, dozers, and engines are working on containment lines that are mostly indirect, and are firing out behind houses as needed.

The map below shows heat, in red, orange, and black, detected by satellites last night, with the red areas being the most recently burned. The yellow lines are the perimeters uploaded by the incident management teams. Click on the map to see a larger version.

California: Piute fire

The Piute fire, about 6 miles south of Lake Isabella, was very active again yesterday, growing by 4,840 acres. This fire has a lot of potential to be a problem. It is now 7,040 acres and 6% contained.

South Zone reported this at 1800 yesterday:

The West side of the fire is unsafe for direct attack. The north end of the fire is running towards numerous camping areas and the communities and structures in Lake Isabella, Bodfish, Liebel Ranch, Valley View Sub-division, French Meadow, Historic Rocky Point Mining area, Red Mountain, and Claraville. Road closures were initiated today.

The map below shows heat in red and black detected by satellites last night, with the red areas being the most recently burned. Click on the map to see a larger version.

California: Piute fire from space

Here is a satellite photo of the Piute on the Sequoia National Forest fire taken about 2 p.m. PT Monday. The red area at the base of the smoke plume is heat detected by the satellite. Click on the photo to see a larger version.

HERE is a link to a satellite photo that shows most of California. It’s a large file.