U. S. Wildland Fire Fatality Report–2007

The Safety and Health Working Team, part of the National Wildfire Coordinating Group, on January 15 released a “Safety Gram” listing the wildland fire related fatalities in 2007.

“Nine fatalities occurred in 2007 when employees were performing wildland fire management activities. This is a substantial decrease from the 24 fatalities that were reported in 2006. Also noteworthy is the absence of any entrapment or burnover related fatalities.

  • Aviation – 1: Fatality occurred when helicopter was performing logistical support.
  • Driving – 3: Fatalities occurred when firefighters were returning from a prescribed fire (1) and training (2).
  • Hazard Tree/Snag – 1: Fatality occurred when a tree fell on a firefighter during chain saw training.
  • Heart Attacks – 2: Fatalities occurred following the Work Capacity Test (pack test) and firefighting.
  • Other – 2: Fatalities occurred when a dozer rolled over while constructing fire line (1) and by electrocution (1).”

 

Black Lining With a Machine

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in South Dakota has been experimenting with a tractor-towed machine that creates black lines which can be put in prior to a prescribed fire. Black lines, a relatively narrow strip of burned vegetation along the perimeter of a planned prescribed fire project, can make the ignition and holding of the main burn go much more quickly and also reduce the chance of a slop-over.

The equipment is made by Firebreak Equipment, a firm in South Africa. Their web site does not play well with Firefox–it’s better with Internet Explorer. More photos are on their web album.

The device uses propane burners in a metal enclosure to burn the ground fuel, while water nozzles on the sides create a wet line to keep the fire from spreading. This toy tool looks like it would be fun to play with.

Wayne National Forest Coal Refuse Fire

I have seen coal seam fires in Alaska that were started by lightning, but until today I had never heard of a “coal refuse fire”. Apparently they are pretty common in southeast Ohio where the Wayne National Forest has been dealing with this mostly underground, one-acre “Coal Dale” fire since October 29. Now they are saying it is out.

According to the Logan Daily News:

“Using heavy equipment, D.J. Group, Inc. from Beverly spread the burning coal debris out onto a previously stripped mined area where it was extinguished. Once the material cooled, the entire area was graded to its original condition. This spring the area will be reseeded and planted with trees native to the area.”

Here is a link to the InciWeb info, but it has not been updated since November 20.
(photo by US Forest Service)

Well Written Reviews of Two Wildland Fire Books

Towards the end of last year two books about wildland fire were published. The Thirtymile Fire,” by John N. Maclean, and “A Great Day to Fight Fire” by Mark Matthews. The topic of Maclean’s book is obvious. Matthews writes about the 1949 Mann Gulch fire, which Maclean’s father also covered in his book, “Young Men and Fire” which was finished in 1992 by others after his death.

A writer for the High Country News, Ray Ring, reviewed both new books, showing more understanding of fire than most reviewers. Here’s a sample where Ring writes about “A Great Day to Fight Fire“. (The entire review can be found on the Vail Trail site.)

“Matthews’ book on the gulch fire is the literary landmark there now. It’s also a kind of policy landmark. Matthews spends a few words on how the Mann Gulch deaths led to improvements in firefighting, but his underlying message is that, no matter what tactics we try, no matter what technologies we develop, wildfires will always be wild, chaotic and lethal. As global warming promotes more intense blazes, we can only reduce the risk of casualties by backing away from the flames. Let more fires burn on their own terms; that’s part of Matthews’ acceptance. And the next time prosecutors and next-of kin rush to assign blame for casualties, maybe we should hold off. The deaths and injuries radiating outward are already punishment enough. In the desperate moments when the flames come too close, we’re all perfect in our imperfections.”