A report has been released for what turned out to be a difficult and complex rescue after a water tender rolled 150-feet down a slope. It occurred August 18, 2018 on the Cougar Creek Fire outside of Leavenworth, Washington. The steepness and heavy vegetation slowed efforts to extract and transport the 300-pound truck driver but in spite of the challenges the person identified as “Robert” in the report arrived at a Life Flight helicopter about 2 hours and 20 minutes after the first 911 call.
A system of ropes was necessary in order for personnel to access the victim from the top side, but the report heaps a great deal of praise on a Type 2 hand crew that from a lower road…
“…cut a highway through the forest in a matter of minutes.” In fact, the [Division Supervisor] later recalled that the crew was so fast and so efficient that they cleared the path in front of the Medics who were arriving from the bottom. These Medics coming up from the bottom were able to maintain a “comfortable walking pace” behind the crew as they worked.
The timber canopy virtually eliminated the possibility of extraction by a helicopter with hoist or short haul capabilities. Plus, there was a three-hour ETA for the helicopter.
The 30 people on scene carried the victim in a Stokes basket down the steep slope to a waiting ambulance below, using a standard carry and caterpillar (or conveyor belt) system depending on the incline.
A section in the report section titled “Drills Work!” included this:
Last year, a Montana Incident Management Team put the Type 2 Crew (who cut the access line up to the accident site on this incident) through a drill that taught them how to use the caterpillar system and polished their cutting skills. This crew’s members said specifically that the reason they were so successful on this incident was because of this earlier drill that they had experienced in Montana.
NIFC produced a video about the management of a serious injury complicated by a helicopter incident that occurred on the Deer Park Fire on the Sawtooth National Forest in central Idaho in 2013. In the video, which can be seen in the Wildfire Today article about the incident, you can see a description of the conveyor belt technique for moving a stokes basket in rocky or steep terrain. It begins at 5:25 in the video.
I ran across this photo of a Soft Track Skidgeon, and since it is an interesting machine, I wanted to post it. It was on Flickr along with dozens of other photos from the Bureau of Land Management. That album also had pictures of BLM Crew 7 from Lakeview, comprised almost entirely of veterans, training soldiers from the Washington Army National Guard in 2014. This year the crew earned Interagency Hotshot Crew status.
In the video below, the National Guardsmen practice fire shelter deployment. It shows the Guardsmen running and then getting into the shelters. Video by Kevin Abel/BLM.
Above: A trailer loaded with a D-5 dozer rolled over on the Cougar Creek Fire in Idaho August 10, 2018. Incident Management Team photo.
(Updated at 8:55 a.m. PDT September 6, 2018)
A trailer loaded with a Caterpillar D-5H dozer rolled over while it was being relocated on the Cougar Creek Fire about 26 miles west of Chelan, Washington. A Peterbilt dump truck was pulling the triple-axle transport trailer as it travelled downhill on USFS Road 5700 near Pine Flats Campground.
About halfway down the grade the driver said the brakes failed on both the truck and the trailer. As the speed increased on the curvy one-lane road the driver attempted to slow down by driving off the edge of the road in soft dirt. After negotiating several curves the trailer climbed up a bank causing it to tip over onto its side. The truck and the trailer came to a stop on the road.
The report we saw did not indicate that the truck rolled over, but it had damage to the front end, bumper, headlights, and the rear trailer hitch. On the trailer the hitch was damaged and three tires were punctured. There was some damage to the dozer but the driver was not injured.
The preliminary report suggested to prevent similar accidents drivers should use lower gears and slower speeds when driving downhill to reduce overheating the brakes.
The accident occurred at 4:10 p.m. on August 10. We have an unconfirmed report that approximately 200 contractors and agency personnel were trapped due to the blocked road and had to remain without logistical support overnight at a drop point which did not qualify as a safety zone. When the Rapid Lesson Sharing team arrived the next day at least some of the personnel refused to speak to them about the incident.
(This article was revised to clarify that the incident occurred on the Cougar Creek Fire, rather than the Cougar Fire.)
Jerry Messinger sent us these photos of the Cougar Creek Fire six miles northwest of Glenwood, Washington. The fire has burned 9,400 acres and is being managed by Washington Interagency Incident Management Team #5 (WIIMT5), Incident Commander Dave Leitch.