72-hour report on Beaver Fire shelter deployment

Beaver Fire deployment
The Division Supervisor’s truck is seen in the foreground just before the fire shelters were deployed. The photo is from the report.

A 72-Hour Report has been released for the incident on the Beaver Fire in which three people took refuge from a wildfire inside their fire shelters. The near miss occurred August 11 at 5:30 p.m. on the Klamath National Forest in northern California, approximately 15 miles northwest of Yreka. We first wrote about it on August 12. Below is the Incident Summary from the report:

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“At approximately 1730 on August, 11, a Division Supervisor, contract dozer and a Heavy Equipment Boss deployed their fire shelters on the Beaver Fire on the Klamath National Forest in northern California (U.S. Forest Service Incident CA-KNF-005497). The individuals involved were improving line on the far western edge of the fire, approximately 2 miles from the fire front. Fuels in the area consisted of a pine overstory and manzanita surface fuels. Extreme to exceptional drought, at the highest levels on the Drought Monitor system, existed over nearly all of northern California.

As indirect dozer line construction progressed downslope, outflow from a thunderstorm which had already tracked through the area, caused a dramatic and large scale pulse in fire behavior. As fire activity increased, the Division Supervisor drove down to the Heavy Equipment Boss and Dozer Operator to check their status. The dozer operator was in the process of constructing a predetermined safety zone. The fire quickly traveled a significant distance through heavy timber, impacting the indirect dozer line, requiring the three firefighters to deploy fire shelters to survive the heat blast and ember shower. The contract dozer operator received non-life threatening burn injuries, but was referred to a burn center for further evaluation.

PROPERTY DAMAGE: The DIVS pickup truck parked at the deployment site received heat damage and the bed and back seat caught fire. The Division Supervisor and Heavy Equipment Boss were able to put the fire out with two fire extinguishers. The Dozer received minor damage from a small fire which started behind the seat in the open cab.

Based on the nature of this incident, the Pacific Southwest Region will be utilizing the Facilitated Learning Analysis (FLA) process to maximize learning opportunities and better manage future incidents.”

Last batch of photos from the Beaver Fire

Previously we posted some photos we took at the Beaver Fire northwest of Yreka, California, here and here. Below is the last batch.

Beaver Fire Beaver Fire

Beaver Fire
The combination of smoke, clouds, and the sun disappearing behind a ridge, produced an interesting sunset.

Retired Forest Service employee’s house is saved in Beaver Fire, but outbuildings burn

Beaver Fire
Beth Strickland’s house is surrounded by fire near the ridge on the left side of this picture. The black smoke in that area may be vehicles and outbuildings burning.

After working for the Six Rivers National Forest for 29 years, Beth Maplesden Strickland is familiar with wildfire. Her last job with the U.S. Forest Service was serving as a public affairs officer, frequently having to explain fire management to reporters and local residents.

Now evacuated from her home on Buckhorn Ridge near Klamath River, California, she is reduced to watching the fire from a turnout on Highway 96. Thanks to the fuel mitigation they accomplished around the house where the family has lived since 1909, firefighters were able to keep the home from burning. However several outbuildings and vehicles were consumed. As we watched the fire, which was still burning in and around the property, occasional black puffs of smoke would appear and loud pops or small explosions could be heard, indicating that man-made materials were on fire. A former CAL FIRE firefighter was still in the area near the house and has been giving her updates over a radio, so she knew that as of Tuesday afternoon, anyway, that the house was still standing.

We asked Ms. Strickland if we could take her picture, but she declined, saying she’s been “sleeping in dumpsters” for the last four days. (We are pretty sure she was joking about that.) It was hard for her to take her eyes off the fire as it continued to burn around her home that she has lived in since four months after she was born in Yreka. Knowing that the landscape around the property is going to be almost unrecognizable now, she said, “I don’t know if I can go back”.

California: Beaver Fire

On Tuesday we were at the Beaver Fire northwest of Yreka, California, watching it move down and across slopes above the Klamath River. Below are some photos we took. Over the next two days we will post more.

Beaver Fire

The Beaver Fire has already reached Highway 96 in several places along a 12 to 14 mile stretch of the road. On Tuesday it was backing, primarily, down the hill in the vicinity of the Klamath River School, and east of the school. Generally it was moving fairly slowly while we were there, with one to three trees succumbing to flames at a time, or torching as firefighters call it.

Firefighters are protecting structures up in the woods away from the road as best they can. Helicopters were assisting ground-based firefighters by dropping water from the river and fire retardant from a portable retardant plant. At Fire Aviation you can see photos of a Sikorsky Air-Crane reloading with retardant. During the three hours we were at the south end of the fire we did not see any air tankers.

The last size estimate from the Incident Management Team was a couple of days ago when it was mapped at about 28,000 acres. Clouds at night have interfered with the ability of the airborne infrared mapping crew to accurately provide a fire perimeter and current acreage. The Team is calling it 30 percent contained.

Beaver Fire
Water was being pumped from the Klamath River to an overhead fill pipe for refilling water tenders.
Beaver Fire
Sleeping quarters for firefighters at the Klamath River School.
strike team of engines getting briefed.
A strike team of engines being briefed.
Beaver Fire
The hillside across from the Klamath River School.
free haircuts firefighters
Free haircuts in Yreka, CA for firefighters. I didn’t ask if tanning was also free.

Updated; Fire shelters deployed on the Beaver Fire

beaver fire convection column
Don Hall sent us this picture of a convection column over the Beaver fire, saying it was taken at about the same time the three firefighters were entrapped.

(Updated at 7:15 p.m. August 12, 2014)

The three firefighters who were entrapped and deployed fire shelters were removed from the fireline and transported to a hospital in Yreka, California Monday evening, according to Corey Wilford, a spokesperson for the Incident Management Team (IMT). He said all three were treated for symptoms of smoke inhalation and one of them had second degree burns on his lower leg. After treatment, they were all released from the hospital.

The area that the IMT had previously described as a “safety zone”, did not meet the definition, in that fire shelters were required. On the other hand, the three firefighters had previously observed the area and remembered that it could serve as a “deployment site”, meaning that firefighters could likely survive being burned over at that location, but they would need to deploy fire shelters.

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(Originally published at 8:44 a.m. PDT, August 12, 2014)

Three firefighters were entrapped by advancing flames Monday afternoon on the Beaver Fire in northern California, approximately 15 miles northwest of Yreka.

The incident occurred at 5:30 p.m. as a rapid wind shift affected the fire. All three firefighters deployed their fire shelters in a predetermined safety zone. They were evaluated on scene and no serious injuries were reported.

All firefighters on the fire were actively withdrawing as a thunderstorm approached. The weather system east of the Beaver Fire produced 30 to 35 mph outflow winds that changed direction rapidly and caused extreme fire behavior. With the increase in wind speed, flame lengths extended into the canopy of the trees, causing a sustained crown run which aligned with the exposed west slope on Buckhorn Ridge.

Beaver Fire, 8-11-2014
Beaver Fire, 8-11-2014. The California/Oregon border is the white line just north of the fire.

The lightning-caused Beaver Fire was discovered on June 30 and has blackened 28,000 acres. It is burning in a very remote area and could be a long-duration event. The Incident Management Team is calling it 30 percent contained.

The fire area is under a Red Flag Warning on Tuesday.