How two engine crews installed a 16,000-foot hose lay

On the Dixie Fire

Two engine crews dozer install 16,000 feet hose Dixie Fire
Two engine crews and a dozer install 16,000 feet of hose on the Dixie Fire. CAL FIRE photo.

The hardest part of installing long hose lays in rugged terrain is hauling the hose, and it is usually uphill. When the plans called for 16,000 feet of hose to be installed on the Dixie Fire it just took two engine crews and some ingenuity to get it done. They enlisted the help of dozer E2085 from Paula and sons Earthwork.

The CAL FIRE crews were Lassen Modoc engines E2271 and E2251.

Two engine crews dozer install 16,000 feet hose Dixie Fire
Two engine crews and a dozer install 16,000 feet of hose on the Dixie Fire. CAL FIRE photo.
Two engine crews dozer install 16,000 feet hose Dixie Fire
Two engine crews and a dozer install 16,000 feet of hose on the Dixie Fire. CAL FIRE photo.
Two engine crews dozer install 16,000 feet hose Dixie Fire
Two engine crews and a dozer install 16,000 feet of hose on the Dixie Fire. CAL FIRE photo.

One day in the not too distant future it will become routine to haul hose with drones.

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Dixie Fire, including the most recent, click here.

Two firefighters at California fires died, one from COVID, the other from unspecified illness

Updated at 8:53 a.m. PDT Sept. 5, 2021

US Army soldiers fire training
Active duty US Army soldiers receive fire training before assisting at the Dixie Fire Sept. 1, 2021. About 200 soldiers have been activated to assist with wildfires in California. InciWeb.

Two firefighters assigned to wildfires in California have died.

One of two emails sent to employees on the Stanislaus National Forest about the fatality of one of their employee/retirees said he “passed away earlier this week due to complications of COVID-19 while assigned to the French Fire near Kernville, CA. He had been hospitalized in Bakersfield.”

The person’s name has not been released by the Stanislaus, but at least three sources confirm it was Allen Johnson.

Allen Johnson
Allen Johnson. USFS.

Allen was a Forest Service retiree and was working as an Administratively Determined (AD) employee on the French Fire. The email to the forest’s staff said it’s very early in the process, but “Tentative plans for honoring Allen include a Dignified Transport of remains followed by a Memorial Service. To the best of our current knowledge, Allen’s dignified transport and Memorial Service will occur on or after September 26.”

California Interagency Incident Management Team 14 posted on Facebook Sept. 1, 2021, “Our team, the firefighting community, and the world lost a great friend, mentor, teacher and comrade last night. Retired South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team IC and Liaison Officer Allen Johnson passed away from complications related to COVID 19.”

So in the absence of official information from the US Forest Service about this line of duty death, it appears from the post by his incident management team that Allen died August 31, 2021.

Saturday night NBC Bay Area reported another fatality — a US Forest Service firefighter assigned to the Dixie Fire near Susanville, California.

A spokesperson for the U.S. Forest Service told NBC Bay Area Saturday that the firefighter, an employee with the Lassen National Forest died from an illness. The official added that the firefighter’s death was not related to the fire. No other details have been released at this time.

The official information from CAL FIRE about the Dixie Fire confirms there was a first responder fatality from an illness on September 2.

UPDATE at 11:08 a.m. PDT Sept. 6, 2021: NEWS4 reported today that the US Forest Service said the firefighter that died who had been assigned to the Dixie Fire was Marcus Pacheco, an assistant fire engine operator for the Lassen NF with 30 years of fire experience. He passed away Sept. 2 from what the USFS is calling an "unspecified illness". Late at night on September 5 the Lassen National Forest created a post on Facebook announcing the two fatalities and confirming the names.

The Dixie Fire has burned more than 889,000 acres near Susanville, California and is still actively spreading.

The 25,000-acre French Fire is west of Kernville, California.

Last week a strike team of five engines with 16 firefighters on the Caldor Fire near Lake Tahoe was quarantined for two weeks due to one of their members testing positive for COVID. There have been other reports of firefighters and crews sidelined, quarantined, or sickened, but specifics are hard to come by.

Two weeks ago Wildfire Today asked the five federal land management agencies for the number of their firefighters that have tested positive for COVID or had to quarantine after exposure. All five refused to release any information on the topic and would not explain their reasoning for keeping it secret. On September 2 we asked the US Forest Service again for the numbers of their firefighters who have tested positive for COVID, were hospitalized, or died. We are still waiting for the answers.

We send out our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of the two firefighters who passed away while on duty.

(Edited to include the names of the firefighters.)

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to people who passed along this information.

Dixie Fire makes another advance toward Highway 395

The fire was mapped Wednesday night at 859,000 acres

8:55 a.m. PDT Sept. 2, 2021

Map of the southeast side of the Dixie Fire, 3-D map at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1, 2021
Map of the southeast side of the Dixie Fire, 3-D map looking northwest at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1, 2021, showing the escarpment above Highway 395. The blue areas are previous fires.

The southeast side of the Dixie Fire grew substantially to the northeast Wednesday pushed by 10 mph winds gusting up to 20 mph while the relative humidity was in the single digits. During a 7:30 mapping flight Wednesday night it was 2 miles west of Highway 395, threatening to cross the road again. There is already a 5 mile-long fire scar where it reached the highway a few weeks ago, crossing it in several places near Honey Lake south of Buntingville.

The fire is approaching the edge of the escarpment where the terrain drops rapidly 2,500 feet down to Highway 395, seen on the 3-D map above. Firefighting on that steep slope would be very difficult.

Dixie Fire map, southeast side, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1, 2021
Dixie Fire map, southeast side, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1, 2021

“It’s almost to the escarpment now,” said CAL FIRE Operations Section Chief Tony Brownell. “We’ve moved a lot of engines and personnel around, we are down around 395, concentrating on structure protection. So when it does come off that hill we are going to be there to catch it and keep it out of structures the best we can.”

To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Dixie Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.

The fire has also reached the north edge of Lake Davis eight miles north of Portola which is on Highway 70.

The extreme fire behavior witnessed Wednesday is predicted to continue due to persistent winds and dry fuel conditions — near red flag warning criteria. The forecast for Thursday is for 7 to 13 mph winds out of the west-southwest gusting late in the afternoon up to 21 mph with the relative humidity in the teens.

Dixie Fire map, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1, 2021.
Dixie Fire map, 7:30 p.m. Sept. 1, 2021. The blue areas are previous fires.

On the northeast side, which is still active about a mile south of Highway 44, approximately half of Lassen Volcanic National Park has burned.

The fire was mapped Wednesday night at 859,000 acres. At least 696 residences and 586 other structures have been confirmed as destroyed. Suppression costs have reached $432 million since it started near a PG&E power line July 14. Wednesday evening 4,039 personnel were committed to the incident.

The number of residences destroyed in Dixie Fire increases to 690

Posted on Categories WildfireTags ,

139 commercial buildings have been destroyed

12:45 p.m. PDT August 26, 2021

Dixie Fire map
Dixie Fire map, northwest section. The fire was mapped by a fixed wing aircraft at 8 p.m. Aug. 25, 2021. The red areas had extreme heat during the flight.

The Dixie Fire near Susanville, California has burned 747,091 acres and has run up fire suppression costs of more than $365 million. At last count 690 residences and 139 commercial buildings had been destroyed. A map is available showing which structures have been surveyed for damages.

There are two areas on the fire that had large concentrations of heat when the fire was mapped Wednesday night. One was the northeast section south of Highway 44, 6 miles southeast of Old Station. After burning much of the east side of Lassen Volcanic National Park the fire ran an additional three miles north. During the 8 p.m. mapping flight Wednesday night it was a mile south of Highway 44. The fire is still very active in the center of the park and outside its northeast corner.

Dixie Fire map
Dixie Fire map, southeast section. The fire was mapped by a fixed wing aircraft at 8 p.m. Aug. 25, 2021. The red areas had extreme heat during the flight.

The other very active area on the Dixie fire is east of Taylorsville and around the Genesee Valley. Wednesday night hotshot crews continued to work the fire down off Mt. Jura to the valley bottom to secure Taylorsville. No spots have occurred. On Thursday resources will focus on holding this line. Crews have been actively engaged in structure protection in the Genesee Valley near Ward Creek and Little Grizzly Creek as the Peel Ridge spot fire backed down into the valley. They will continue this work Thursday.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Dixie Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.)

The Dixie Fire burned into the footprint of the 2019 Walker Fire, spreading for approximately a quarter of a mile inside, along 10 miles of Walker’s western perimeter.

On Thursday firefighters will construct direct and indirect line to secure fire lines in the Westwood area, which they expect will require a heavy resource presence.

Temperatures Thursday are expected to increase while winds from the north and northwest decrease to six mph out of the west-southwest. The relative humidity will be in the low 20s with very little cloud cover.

Dixie Fire vicinity map
Dixie Fire vicinity map, 8 p.m. Aug. 25, 2021.

Dixie Fire grows by another 7,000 acres

725,000 acres have burned near Susanville, CA

Updated at 2:21 p.m. PDT August 23, 2021

Dixie Fire map
Dixie Fire map. The black line was the perimeter mapped by a fixed wing aircraft at 8:00 p.m. PDT August 22, 2021. The red dots represent heat detected by a satellite at 3:51 a.m. PDT August 23, 2021. The dark red areas had extreme heat during the mapping flight.

The Dixie Fire was mapped Sunday evening at 725,821 acres after growing by about 4,000 acres in the previous 24 hours.

CAL FIRE has a list of changes in evacuation orders.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Dixie Fire, including the most recent, click HERE.)

Below is an update from the Incident Management Team on Monday:

“The eastern edge of the fire line towards Janesville area remains secure with crews on the ground continuing the mop up hot spots around the structures in Milford. On the southern edge above Antelope Lake, resources continue to work the fire’s edge to tie it into the Lake.

“In Genesee Valley, resources continue to mop up around structures. Firefighters are engaging the fire that has made its way down to the road as they continue to catch any spots or slops to secure it at the road. There are two spot fires on the south end of Genesee Valley. One is below the Grizzly Spot and will burn into it, the other has been contained in the creek. Today crews will work to minimize any spread moving towards homes.”

2:40 p.m. PDT August 22, 2021

Dixie Fire vicinity map, August 22, 2021
Dixie Fire vicinity map, August 22, 2021

The Dixie Fire in northern California near Susanville and Chester is still very active in five areas after having grown to 721,000 acres.

Working clockwise, starting on the east side:

  • West of Honey Lake and Highway 395. The spot fire that started five miles in front of the main fire and ran to the highway burning about 20,000 acres, is active on its southeast side not far from the highway and near Antelope Lake. Near Milford (see the map below) the fire crossed the line Saturday and winds quickly drove the fire toward structures. Crews, equipment, and engines were in place to protect the community and minimize impacts. Assessments are ongoing. On Sunday firefighters will continue to reinforce the lines and work to minimize any additional spread toward Milford. Other very active areas:
  • Wilcox Valley, and the area east of Taylorsville is very active and spreading.
  • Northeast of Mountain Meadows Reservoir near Hamilton Mountain Road south of Highway 36.
  • Northwest perimeter in Lassen Volcanic National Park.
  • West side near Mill Creek, Fire Mountain, and Highway 36.

On Sunday firefighters expect the fire to impact the west end of the Genesee Valley toward Taylorsville, threatening many structures along Genesee Valley road.

A much milder weather pattern is expected Sunday and into the middle of next week. A very weak area of low pressure will remain off the west coast through mid-week, keeping a light southwest flow over the incident with near normal temperatures and humidity values. Moderate overnight humidity recoveries may provide opportunities for line construction and firing operations.

Continue reading “Dixie Fire grows by another 7,000 acres”

Examples of COVID outbreaks among wildland firefighters

From firefighters to an Area Command Team

firefighter Dixie Fire California
A firefighter and another person at Diamond Mtn. Rod on the Dixie Fire. Photo by Luanne Baumann. Posted August 11, 2021.

Over the last few days we ran across a number of examples of COVID outbreaks among wildland firefighters.

Dixie Fire

In an August 20 article, the Redding Record Searchlight, a Northern California newspaper, reported that CAL FIRE said there have been 14 positive cases at the Dixie Fire’s West Zone fire camp.

The positive cases include five from one crew, two from the same dozer, two from the same water tender and five “random cases,” the agency said. “These personnel were immediately released from the incident.”

Two of the cases led to hospitalizations, with one individual now in San Diego, who Cal Fire said is “doing well.” A second person, now in Redding, is “showing improvements,” the agency said.

The information below came from the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center.

Area Command, October 2020

In October of last year while working on the August Complex of fires, 9 of the 14 members of an Area Command Team that were working out of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest Supervisor’s Office in Redding tested positive. The first case was discovered after the team had been released and they were all in travel status followed by days off. That made it difficult to contact everyone. Some family members of individuals who tested positive also became infected. Given these unintended outcomes, a Facilitated Learning Analysis was initiated to develop lessons learned that could be shared with the wildland fire community.

The next four all occurred in California this year:

Hotshot crew, May

Four days after the crew began their season, one person tested positive. The crew Superintendent and Forest took immediate action to identify close contacts; 19 employees were identified. Of the 19, 7 were fully vaccinated (and returned to work immediately) and 12 were placed into quarantine (some at home and some in hotels).

Fuels module, May

On May 14th a fuels module member developed COVID-like symptoms; the person received a positive COVID test on May 16th. Contact tracing identified 10 close contacts (7 other fuels crew members and 3 additional employees who worked in the building). All of the close contacts were encouraged to get tested for COVID-19 and advised to quarantine (although 4 had been vaccinated, it was not used in the decision). One unvaccinated individual lived in barracks and moved to a hotel on the 16th. A second individual (the supervisor of the module) tested positive on May 17th.

Two additional cases were confirmed later that week (4 total in the cluster); none of the vaccinated employees tested positive or showed any symptoms. At the time of the review (June 2), one of the sick employees had returned to the office and others were teleworking. One of the four individuals was contacted by county public health, two were contacted by state public health, the fourth individual was never contacted by any public health department.

The four vaccinated employees did not get sick while four of the seven unvaccinated employees ultimately tested positive

Hotshot crew, July

An Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) finished a 14-day assignment with 18 crewmembers and arrived home June 22, 2021 (the IHC had 2 additional crewmembers who returned early and were not exposed); no employees were aware of exposure or had symptoms. The IHC was off duty on June 23-24, 2021 for mandatory rest.

On June 24th a crewmember developed a fever and took the initiative to get a COVID test immediately; the test returned a positive result the same day. Contact tracing found that the 17 other crewmembers were close contacts within 48-hours prior to the onset of symptoms. All of the close contacts were other IHC crewmembers (during travel home) and no other personnel were identified.

Of the 18 crewmembers who returned from assignment on June 22nd, 3 were fully vaccinated and returned to work on June 25th. The remaining employees (15) have not returned to work; the sick employee was put into isolation and the remaining close contacts on the crew were told to self-quarantine for 14-days by unit leaders. The 2 crewmembers who returned early (1 vaccinated) were not impacted.

None of the vaccinated employees got sick while 6 of the unvaccinated employees have tested positive.

Engine crew plus others, July

On July 6, 2021, the local county public health contacted the Forest Service regarding an employee who had been exposed to a confirmed case of COVID-19. The employee had no symptoms and received negative test results (rapid test and PCR test). Public health advised the employee to quarantine for 10 days.

No other FS employees were involved in this exposure since they were considered a secondary contact because the employee was exposed outside of work.

The employee in quarantine impacted the availability of a fire engine during high fire danger, therefore an employee from a different station began working on the engine on July 6, 2021.

On July 7, 2021, the employee covering for the engine (from the other station) developed COVID-like symptoms and tested positive for COVID-19 on the same day.

This cluster involves 12 employees, with only 1 vaccinated and one who was in quarantine and not exposed. By July 12, 6 of the unvaccinated employees tested positive for COVID -19. All unvaccinated employees (10) were placed into quarantine. One employee chose to stay in a hotel and all others remained at their residences.

The vaccinated employee did not get sick while 6 of 11 unvaccinated employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Lessons to be learned?

While the Delta variant, which began spreading widely in the United States in July, changed how easily it is to become infected even among those who are vaccinated, it is still true that a vaccination greatly reduces a person’s chance of severe infection, hospitalization, and death.

Here are the final paragraphs from an excellent, detailed article published August 18, 2021 at Healthline:

Vaccines are highly effective even if they’re not perfect

The COVID-19 vaccines were developed to stop developing severe forms of the disease that can lead to hospitalization and death. In that aspect, they have been extremely successful even if the vaccines are not 100 percent effective.

While it is true that some partially and fully vaccinated people have developed COVID-19, breakthrough infections should not be a concern for most of the population. Doctors, however, do still recommend people exercise caution in areas with low vaccination rates and high transmission.

Vaccines also greatly reduce the likelihood of mild and symptomatic infections as well as prevent death and hospitalization.

Kullar noted that the Delta variant is both more contagious and transmissible, and those who are harboring the Delta variant can carry as much as a 1,200 times higher viral load than the original strain.

“Given all of this information, it is important for everyone not only to get fully vaccinated but also follow infection prevention measures, such as wearing a face mask in the public, physically distancing from others, and avoiding large crowds until we round the turn of this surge.”