Firefighter killed by falling tree in Australia

A firefighter who worked for the National Parks and Wildlife Service in New South Wales, Australia was killed Friday, Feb. 4 when he was trapped under a falling tree while he was working on a bush fire near Quorrobolong, south of Cessnock (map). Here is an excerpt from an article at The Herald:

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A National Parks and Wildlife Service firefighter described as a ‘‘larger than life classic bush character’’ and devoted family man died yesterday doing the job he loved.

John Garland, 65, of Muswellbrook, was killed after a tree fell on him during a bushfire operation at Quorrobolong, south of Cessnock.

The father of six and great-grandfather was a divisional commander and firefighter with the Upper Hunter office at Scone for the past 11 years.

Regional manager Robert Quirk described him as a ‘‘truly wonderful human being who loved his job’’.

Mr Quirk said that at 65, Mr Garland was not ready for retirement and was talking about staying until he was 70.

‘‘He was fit and strong and worked as hard as anyone – it showed the measure of the man,’’ he said.

Mr Quirk said he had a love of the forest and had worked in the timber industry before joining the national parks.

‘‘He was passionate about his job, he was always the first one on and last one off the fire ground,’’ he said.

‘‘He had a sense of pride, that he was working on behalf of the community.’’

Mr Quirk said Mr Garland was an occupational health and safety committee member. He was ‘‘one of the safest blokes’’ he knew and would have had ‘‘his eyes open to everything’’.

‘‘It is just an awful tragedy,’’ he said. ‘‘It goes to show how dangerous fighting fires is.

‘‘… he was doing what he loved.’’

The accident occurred about 12.30pm near a 70hectare bushfire at Baraba Lane, which had been burning since Monday.

NPWS head Sally Barnes said in a statement that Mr Garland, an advanced tree feller, was working to remove problem trees from the fire ground when the incident occurred.

She said crews worked frantically to free him but he died before the tree could be moved.

Ms Barnes said the accident devastated colleagues. Mr Garland was an experienced, senior firefighter and much-loved mentor.

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Our condolences go out to Mr. Garland’s family and co-workers.

Australians lease 5 air tankers from Canadian company

CV-580
Conair’s fleet of CV-580 air tankers

The Country Fire Authority (CFA) in the Australian state of Victoria is leasing five air tankers and one “bird dog” aircraft from a Canadian company for the down under summer fire season. Two CV-580 air tankers, three single engine Air Tractor 802’s, and a Turbo Commander 690 bird dog are being provided by Conair in what the CFA is considering a trial of the larger air tankers.

CV-580 capacity
Capacity of the CV-580

The CV-580 has been used in Canada for a decade, but this is believed to be the first time they have seen action in Australia. The aircraft can carry up to 2,100 U.S. gallons and has a top speed of 310 mph.

A group of Canadian pilots and mechanics flew across the Pacific with the planes in early December, stopping to refuel at several islands along the way. The aircraft will be based at Avalon, Victoria (map) for the fire season.

The Canadian air tankers will join the three Erickson Air-Crane helicopters, Elvis, Elsie, and Marty, which are also leased for the next several months.

This video shows the CFA testing the CV-580’s at the Avalon Airfield in early February, 2011.

The video below, posted on YouTube in 2007, shows CV-580’s in action, dropping on numerous fires in British Columbia.

In what we called the “Siege of ’08”, four CV-580’s were sent from Canada to assist with the hundreds of wildfires that were started by a massive lighting barrage in northern California.

A CV-580 operated by Conair crashed in central British Columbia on July 31, 2010, killing the two pilots.

While we’re on the subject of air tankers, the richard-seaman.com web site has dozens of excellent photos of mostly amphibious aircraft that were taken at an air show in 2006, the Gidroaviasalon (“hydro-aviation exhibition”) held at the Beriev test center near Gelendzhik on the Russian Black Sea. Here is a very impressive photo of the two Russian-made amphibious air tankers flying in formation. The upper one is the Be-200, and the other is the A-42 Albatross. The site also has several other photos of these two air tankers operating at the air show.

a-42 Be-200
A-42 “Albatross” (lower aircraft) and the Be-200 (upper aircraft). Photo: Richard-Seaman.com

Wildland firefighter LODDs, 2010

At Wildfire Today we try to keep track of the line of duty deaths (LODD) of firefighters working on wildland fires. The past year, 2010, again produced a lengthy list of firefighters who passed away while doing their job. We make no claim that it is a complete or official tally. If you are aware of any that we missed, let us know. Some of the dates are approximate and may be the date of the report of the fatality. The last three incidents are gray areas, in that the victims were not all firefighters, or were not necessarily actively involved in fire suppression at the time of the incident. They were included because they were very significant incidents.

At the end of the list is a report from the U.S. Fire Administration providing their statistics on the number of LODDs for 2010.

January 11. Australia. A firefighter was killed and four others were injured when their fire truck rolled over while they were responding to a grass fire at Lake Mokoan near Benalla in northeast Victoria, Australia. (map)

April 11. Kansas.  A firefighter was overcome by smoke and died while working on a fire west of Peru.

April 24. New Brunswick, Canada. A pilot from Grand Falls, with Forest Protection Ltd., was conducting a practice flight in a water bomber when the plane crashed shortly after taking off from the airport.

June 23. Washington. The chief of the Franklin Fire District 4 in Basin City, Washington, was killed when a snow cat that had been converted to a fire apparatus rolled about 100 feet down a hill while he was working on a vegetation fire.

July 30. Russia. Wildfires in Russia killed at least 25 people including 2 firefighters, and destroyed over 1,000 homes. Some reports say three firefighters died in the fires.

July 31. Canada. An air tanker crashed while working on a fire in British Columbia. The Convair 580, operated by Conair, went down in central B.C. The two pilots were killed.

August 2. Arkansas. A firefighter was operating an Arkansas Forestry Commission 2002 International tractor trailer, and was en route to check on the status of an earlier fire. The tractor trailer load reportedly shifted causing the vehicle to cross the roadway center line, go into a ditch and then overturn.

August 11. Portugal. Civil protection officials said a female firefighter died, one fireman was badly burned and their team had to be evacuated when they found themselves surrounded by flames after a sudden change in the direction of the wind in Gondomar region. On Monday, a fireman was killed and another seriously injured when their truck fell into a burning ravine in the mountainous Sao Pedro do Sul area.

August 13. Spain. Two firefighters were been killed in wildfires. The blazes hit near the village of Fornelos de Montes in the country’s northwestern Galicia region, close to the border with Portugal, where several forest fires are still raging.

September 21. Spain. A 46-year old firefighter died while extinguishing a wildfire in Senes.

September 24. Ohio. A firefighter was killed when a pressurized tank failed and he was struck by debris.

September 24. Virginia. A firefighter collapsed and later died while working on a fire in New Church, Virginia off Route 13.

November 16. South Carolina. A firefighter was suppressing a grass fire in the median of Interstate 20 when a van rear-ended a sedan as they approached the fire scene. The sedan was pushed into two parked fire trucks causing them to crash into a firefighter, causing his death.

November 23. California. One inmate was killed and 12 were injured when their crew carrier vehicle was involved in a head-on accident. Three of the injured were in critical condition. The elderly driver of the other vehicle was also killed. As far as we know the inmate crew was not assigned to a fire at the time of the crash.

December 5. China. A massive wildfire in Tibet’s Sichuan province killed 22 people, including Chinese soldiers during a rescue operation. Of the 22 killed, 15 were soldiers, two were workers with the grassland administration, and five others were local civilians.

December 6. Israel. At least one of the 43 government employees that were killed in the Carmel Mountain fire in Israel was a police officer. The Police Chief in Haifa (Israel) died in the Line of Duty from her burn injuries after 4 days of hospitalization. She was the first ever woman police chief there, and was gravely injured in the Carmel forest fire, while driving along with the bus full of Prison Service cadets that burned and killed the cadets as well.

Below is the The U.S. Fire Administration’s report of the on-duty firefighter fatalities in 2010. Click on FullScreen to see a larger version.

Continue reading “Wildland firefighter LODDs, 2010”

Railroad-caused wildfire in Australia spreads to factory. Air tanker and helicopters help suppress.

Two fires caused by a railroad near Adelaide, Australia burned together and spread to a pallet factory. The radient heat as the factory burned was so intense that fire crews could not get close enough to get water streams onto the seat of the blaze, until an air tanker and helicopters cooled it down.

One video is here, but Firegeezer has the whole story with photos and more videos. Check it out.

Top wildland fire stories of 2010 – with poll

Vote on the most significant wildland fire stories of 2010

As we documented earlier this month, the 2010 wildland fire season, when measured by the acres burned in the 49 states outside Alaska, was the slowest since 2004. But in spite of that, there has been significant news about wildland fire. In fact, we posted over 670 articles this year.

In 2009 we listed some of the top stories and invited you to vote on the ones that you considered to be the most significant.

Continuing that tradition, below we have listed the top stories of 2010. The line of duty fatalities are not listed unless there was an unusual spin-off story associated with the fatality. Below the list, there is a poll where YOU can let us know which stories you feel are the most significant of 2010.

Top wildfire stories of 2010

Jan. 8: The National Park Service released the report on the August, 2009 Big Meadow escaped prescribed fire in Yosemite National Park. The fire blackened 7,425 acres before being controlled by 1,300 firefighters at a cost over $15 million. It became the eighth largest fire in California in 2009.

Jan. 11: One of the five Type 1 Incident Management Teams in California was disbanded. Bill Molumby, who had been the team’s Incident Commander for several years, retired in November, 2009 and apparently they were not able to replace him.

Jan. 21: Federal wildland firefighter bill introduced in Congress. The “National Infrastructure Improvement and Cost Containment Act” would affect the pay, retirement age, and fireline liability of federal wildland firefighters.

Feb. 1: Fire contractor sentenced to 10 months in prison for forging wildfire training certificates and task books.

Apr. 23: NIOSH to study long-term health effects of working as structural firefighter, but not as a wildland firefighter. In a follow-up a few days later, Brian Sharkey of the USFS’ Missoula Technology and Development Center downplays lung cancer risks for firefighters. NWCG later responds to our article.

Apr. 30: The International Association of Fire Chiefs, an organization that concentrates on structural fire, received at least $13.2 million from the U.S. Forest Service and DHS-FEMA over a seven-year period, reportedly for wildfire-related purposes. The IAFC became furious at Wildfire Today for exposing the information.

Jul. 5: Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg, one of the wealthiest members of Congress, sues the Billings Fire Department over the loss of “trees and ground cover” on his property during an 1,100-acre fire in 2008.

Aug. 2: Hundreds of wildfires in Russia claimed more than 50 lives, left more than 3,500 people homeless, and caused massive air quality issues in Moscow and other areas.

Aug. 2: A BAe-146 jet airliner was converted to an air tanker and was tested in Missoula. The Interagency Air Tanker Board failed to certify it due to inadequate ground coverage of retardant.

Aug. 24: The 100th anniversary of the fires of 1910 and Ranger Pulaski’s incident are commemorated at several events in Washington, Idaho, and Montana.

Aug. 26: In spite of weather forecasts that would have alarmed most fire managers, the Helena National Forest in Montana ignited the Davis prescribed fire during a near record heat wave. The fire escaped and burned 2,800 acres. The report was released in November. The Forest Supervisor said the report did not point out “something clearly that we did wrong, done incorrectly or that we’re going to make big changes on”.

Sep. 6: The Fourmile Canyon fire burned 6,200 acres and 169 homes a few miles west of Boulder, Colorado. The fire was devastating to local fire districts within the burned perimeter in several ways, including the facts that a firefighter’s burn pile escaped and started the fire, the homes of 12 firefighters burned, and one fire station and an engine inside it burned.

Sep. 21: The Commander of the Utah Army National Guard assumed responsibility and apologized for the Machine Gun fire that burned 4,346 acres and three homes near Herriman, Utah. The fire started during target practice with a machine gun at a National Guard base.

Sep. 24: The Australian state of Victoria tested the U.S.-built DC-10 very large air tanker and concluded that it did not perform adequately and would not be suitable for use in their wildland-urban interface areas.

Oct. 13: The US Forest Service’s response to the 2009 Station fire is criticized, and Congress holds hearing in Pasadena, CA about the management of the fire, which burned 160,000 acres near Los Angeles.

Oct. 26: “Dirty Jobs” TV show features prescribed burning in a Florida wildlife refuge. Video footage captures some activities that are criticized by some viewers.

Dec. 2: A fire in Israel kills 43 prison guards and firefighters. Air tankers from the United States respond.

Dec. 7: NTSB holds a meeting about the helicopter crash on the Iron Complex fire in northern California in which nine firefighters and crew members died. Much of the blame was attributed to falsified helicopter performance documents supplied by Carson Helicopters when they applied for a contract with the U.S. Forest Service. Carson and the surviving co-pilot dispute that conclusion.

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Honorable mention stories (not exactly top stories, but interesting; they are not part of the poll).

Feb. 24: Wood piles were burned on frozen Lake Pactola in South Dakota.

Mar. 29: Washington D.C. Metro train drives through wildfire, and stops in the middle of it. And on July 25 we posted a very impressive video that was shot from a Greyhound bus that drove past a large bushfire during the night in Queensland, Australia.

May 11: NWCG outlaws the use of some terms, including “appropriate management response” and “wildland fire use”.

Jun. 20: It was not a wildland fire, but every firefighter can relate to some of the problems encountered when a kinked fire hose and improper procedures delayed the rescue of IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro from her burning race car which crashed at Texas Motor Speedway.

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POLL

Choose three of the wildfire stories you consider the most significant of 2010.

View Results

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Feel free to leave a comment (or “response”) explaining your choices, or to discuss other news items that did not make the list.

Australia to standardize air operations

Aussie helicopter
A helicopter works on a fire in Australia. Photo: Queensland Fire and Rescue Service

As a result of recent accidents involving aircraft working on wildfires, authorities in Australia are developing standardized procedures across the country in order to reduce the chances of additional mid-air collisions and other accidents involving firefighting aircraft.

Here is an excerpt from an article at Flightglobal:

Australia’s fire authorities are reviewing a draft firefighting operations manual designed to standardise aerial firefighting procedures across the country.

The development of the manual follows a firefighting review conducted in 2009 by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority after a number of accidents involving firefighting aircraft in the 2009 fire season.

The issue of a lack of standardised procedures was highlighted in the investigation by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau of a midair collision between a Eurocopter AS350B and a Eurocopter/Kawasaki BK117 performing aerial firebombing operations 20km (11nm) south-east of Orange aerodrome, New South Wales in December 2009.

The final report into the accident was released in late November. During one of the water drop sequences, while in the vicinity of the drop point, the BK117’s main rotor blade tip contacted the trailing edge of the AS350B’s vertical fin above the tail rotor arc, resulting in slight damage to the latter.

Although there were no injuries, “the outcome could have been more serious”, the ATSB points out. One of the accidents involving firefighting aircraft in New South Wales during the 2009 fire season resulted in the loss of a life.

In its investigation of the BK117 and AS350B collision, the ATSB found that there were no published procedures for pilots to follow to ensure separation from other aircraft when there was no air attack supervisor present.

Rather, the system relied on the airmanship and experience of pilots to mutually arrange separation. The ATSB determined that neither pilot in that incident was aware of the position of the other helicopter as they approached the drop point.

Thanks Shane