Report released for Spring Coulee Fire fatality in Washington

An Assistant Fire Chief died in an entrapment. The fire burned 107 acres in 2019 near Okanogan, Washington.

Grand Coulee Fire LODD Washington
This is presumably the engine involved in the burnover. Photo from the report.

A facilitated learning analysis has been released for a burnover and entrapment on the Spring Coulee Fire September 1, 2019 near Okanogan, Washington. A month after suffering burns over 60 percent of his body, Assistant Fire Chief Christian Dean Johnson, 55, passed away in a hospital as a result of his injuries.

The events unfolded quickly on September 1. After being reported at about 1600 the Incident Commander sized it up nine minutes later at five to ten acres spreading rapidly in grass and brush.

Wearing his turnout pants, Assistant Chief Johnson loaded into B341 (a 2012 Ford F450 Type 6 Brush Truck) and stowed his turnout jacket on the back of the truck between the cab and a rear-mounted storage compartment. At 1615 the Chief arrived at the fire with another firefighter. Eleven minutes later a MAYDAY was called for the entrapment.

Grand Coulee Fire LODD Washington

Upon arrival Chief Johnson and the firefighter, identified as the “external firefighter” in the report, began a mobile attack, with the Chief driving the truck and the firefighter operating a nozzle. They were working along an old cat trail from an earlier fire, identified as “Old Fireline” on the aerial photo. Grand Coulee Fire LODD Washington

After a few minutes the wind direction shifted from blowing parallel with the cat line, generally south, to southeasterly and aligned with the small swale shown on the aerial photo. This pushed the fire rapidly toward the road and the two firefighters. The Chief yelled at the other firefighter to drop the hose and move.

From the report:

The exterior firefighter didn’t open the passenger door; fire was immediately at his back and had caught the passenger mirror on fire. He ran around to the driver’s side of B341 and climbed on the outside of the truck again. As fire moved under B341, Assistant Chief Johnson attempted to drive B341 away from the area. After traveling five or six feet, B341 “lurched” and then became immobilized. With flames rolling up the exterior firefighter’s legs, visible on the passenger side of the vehicle itself, under the truck and in front of them, both the exterior firefighter and Assistant Chief Johnson exited the vehicle to escape the fire. Assistant Chief Johnson and the exterior firefighter ran toward the old cat trail at slightly different angles. In Assistant Chief Johnson’s path, hidden by vegetation, lay a substantial field of rocks and metal debris (Figure 9). While it is impossible to know for certain, it is thought Assistant Chief Johnson may have become entangled in the debris and was overtaken by fire.

Grand Coulee Fire LODD Washington
Rocks and debris in the area of the burnover. Note that what is seen in this photo would have been obscured by vegetation prior to the fire. Photo from the report.

The exterior firefighter, with fire surrounding him—and at times reaching up between his legs—was able to escape the advancing fire. The exterior firefighter and the fire reached the road at approximately the same instant.

As it was starved of fuel, the roaring and crackling of the fire quieted and the exterior firefighter from B341 immediately turned around to head back into the black and reestablish contact with Assistant Chief Johnson. The firefighter located Assistant Chief Johnson approximately 150 feet from the exterior of B341. The MAYDAY was called at 1626.

[…]

Just before 1655, the surface winds shifted to a south-southwesterly direction. This pushed a “finger” of fire north of the structures on the eastern flank and increased fire behavior in the area. At approximately 1655, the engine on the eastern flank requested air support as “we are trapped here” and they needed water to continue effective structure protection. A helicopter in the area had already spotted the flare-up and was able to deliver water within seconds of the radio call. At least one additional water drop was completed by a [single engine air tanker].

The report does not specify exactly where the first burnover occurred, but there are clues that it was near the “Swale.”

During the burnover the Chief was not wearing his turnout jacket, which after the incident was still stowed behind the truck’s cab. The report concluded that the lack of personal protective equipment above the waist contributed to the severity of his injuries.

The external firefighter was quoted as saying, “The only reason I am alive is because I had all this [structural] gear on. Without that I wouldn’t have even made it back to the truck.”

The investigation found a low oxygen code recorded in the truck’s electronic system. There was no time associated with the code, so it can’t be determined if it occurred while the vehicle was surrounded by fire or if it was the cause or symptom of the truck being immobilized.

There have been a number of incidents in which firefighting vehicles stalled in very dense smoke.

Personnel involved in the Spring Coulee Fire highlighted six core lessons. These lessons are focused on communications, training, medical pre-positioning and medical evacuation coordination, vehicles, access, and personal protective equipment.

The Epilog is from the report:

Grand Coulee Fire LODD Washington
Christian Johnson. Photo from the report.

“Christian Johnson, 55, of Okanogan, Washington passed away Wednesday, October 2, 2019 from injuries sustained in the Spring Coulee Fire south of Okanogan. Christian was born in 1963 in Salem, Oregon, to James and Margaret Johnson. He grew up in Salem, graduating from South Salem High School in 1982. Christian began college at Oregon State University, but felt he had a larger calling and joined the Army. Christian served from 1983-1986 in the 82nd Airborne Division where he achieved the rank of Sergeant. After being honorably discharged, Christian continued his duty by joining the Oregon Army National Guard. He then returned to college and graduated from Chemeketa Community College in Salem in 1988 with an A.A. in Building Inspection Technology. Christian accepted a position as a building inspector in Washington for Okanogan County and later transferred as building official and permit administrator to the cities of Oroville, Tonasket, and Okanogan. He also transferred to the Washington National Guard where, along with his Charlie Company of the 1-161 Infantry Regiment, he deployed to Iraq. Christian served from November 2003–April 2005. Upon returning home, Christian retired from the National Guard after a total of 22 years of service. In Okanogan, Christian found another call to duty and in May of 1999, he joined the Okanogan Fire Department where he served as the Assistant Fire Chief and Secretary of the Okanogan Volunteer Fire Department Association.”

May Chief Johnson rest in peace.

Five firefighters in Australia entrapped, with three suffering burns

Two of them were airlifted to a hospital

map fires Australia December 19
The red dots represent heat detected on bushfires by a satellite at 1740Z December 19, 2019. NASA.

In addition to the rollover of a fire truck on December 19 in New South Wales that killed two firefighters and injured three, in a separate incident the same day five firefighters were entrapped by fire, injuring three firefighters. Two males, age 36 and 56, were airlifted to a hospital after suffering face, airway, and other burns.

“Given the serious potential for airway burns, the advice is… they’ll be intubated,” said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons

A third person, a 28-year-old female, was transported by ground ambulance after suffering smoke inhalation and less severe burns.

Both incidents occurred on the Green Wattle Creek Bushfire in the Lake Burragorang area. The fire is more than 176,000 hectares (435,000 acres) in size and is out of control.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Karl. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Report released on the entrapment of firefighter and two civilians on Kincade Fire

The three people shared one fire shelter as the fire burned around them

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, CAL FIRE, has released a Green Sheet, or preliminary report, on the October 25, 2019 entrapment of one firefighter and two civilians. It occurred on the Kincade fire northeast of Geyserville, California about 43 hours after the fire started.

In mid-afternoon a Division Supervisor was scouting his division and searching for firefighters who he had been told were not wearing their Nomex wildland fire jackets. He turned his SUV off Pine Flat Road onto Circle 8 Lane, an unpaved road that reaches a dead end 1.5 air miles from Pine Flat Road.

map Kincade Fire entrapment deployment
3-D map showing the approximate location of the entrapment of three people on the Kincade Fire, October 25, 2019.

Later, seeing that the fire intensity had increased and crossed the road behind him, he realized that he was in imminent danger and decided to ride it out near an old cabin. A dozer operator had already cleared a line around the structure as as well as a line from the road downhill to the drainage.

Below is an excerpt from the Green Sheet as well as more maps, photos, and a video. The Division Supervisor is identified as “DIVS1”.

Continue reading “Report released on the entrapment of firefighter and two civilians on Kincade Fire”

Firefighter injured last month passes away in hospital

Christian Johnson, 55, was severely burned on the Spring Coulee Fire in Washington

Christian Johnson
Christian Johnson, Assistant Chief of the Okanogan Volunteer Fire Department.

A firefighter who received second and third degree burns over 60 percent of his body September 1, 2019 while battling the Spring Coulee Fire in Okanogan County, Washington passed away yesterday, October 2, 2019. Christian Dean Johnson, 55, of Okanogan was surrounded by his wife Pam, family, and friends at Harborview Medical Center.

From the GoFundMe page that was created September 3:

Christian has served his country as a sergeant in the Us Army, and was deployed with the Washington State National Guard from November 2003-May 2005 in Baghdad. He retired after 22 years of service and has volunteered for the Okanogan Fire Department for 20 years.

Christian is a selfless man, who is always willing to help those in need, and never ask for anything in return. We are now asking for your help to make this long journey a little easier for him and his family. Any amount of donations are greatly appreciated and will go towards helping his wife (Pam Johnson) with travel, housing, food, etc.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Christian’s family and friends. May he rest in peace.

Oklahoma firefighter suffered severe burns after becoming entrapped

The firefighter was operating a UTV when it became disabled

Oklahoma Map EntrapmentOn September 12, 2019 an Oklahoma firefighter operating a UTV became entrapped during the initial attack of a wildfire in the southeast part of the state 24 miles northeast of Antlers.   The Oklahoma Forestry Services released the following preliminary information about the incident.


“On September 12, 2019 during initial attack efforts on the Jack Creek Fire, an Oklahoma Forestry Services firefighter from the Southeast Area / Antlers District was involved in an entrapment and subsequent burnover while scouting control line opportunities. The fire was burning in steep, rugged terrain dominated by dense pine forest with occasional hardwood glades. The firefighter was operating a UTV scouting logging roads for access and suppression opportunities when the UTV became disabled. The firefighters escape route was compromised when fire behavior increased due to the fire making an uphill run in the flashy understory fuels and crown fire in the canopy fuels. The firefighter did not deploy his fire shelter.

“The dispatch office requested an ambulance at the time of the incident while Oklahoma Forestry Services and local fire department personnel located the firefighter. The firefighter was transported to ground ambulance then transferred to air ambulance taking the firefighter to a burn center. The firefighter remains at the burn center and is being treated for second and third degree burns on >30% of his body with the most intense burns to his face and hands.

“An Incident Review Team has been assembled.”


Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Matt. Typos or errors, report them HERE.

Firefighter seriously injured on wildfire in Okanogan County, Washington

video Spring Coulee Fire Okanogan County, Washington
The Spring Coulee Fire in Okanogan County, Washington, September 1, 2019. Screenshot from video by Okanogan County Emergency Management.

A firefighter suffered serious burns September 1, 2019 while working on a 142-acre fire near Spring Coulee Road in Okanogan County, Washington.

The information below is from Okanogan County Emergency Management, September 3:


Christian Johnson, Assistant Chief of the Okanogan Volunteer Fire Department, has suffered serious injuries while on the Spring Coulee Fire. He has second and third degree burns over 60% of his body.

Christian is currently in a medically-induced coma at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. They are trying to stabilize him so they can proceed with skin graft surgery. He will be looking at a minimum of 2-3 months in the ICU.

Christian has served his country as a sergeant in the Army, and was deployed with the Washington State National Guard from November 2003- May 2005 in Baghdad. He retired after 22 years of service and has volunteered for the Okanogan Fire Department for 20 years.

Christian is a selfless man, who is always willing to help those in need, and never asks for anything in return. We are now asking for your help to make this long journey a little easier for him and his family. Any amount of donations are greatly appreciated and will go towards helping the family with travel, housing, food, etc.

If anyone would like to make a donation, they may use the GO FUND ME account or make a donation to: Christian Johnson Donation Account at North Cascades Bank, PO Box 672, Okanogan WA 98840.

Christian Johnson
Christian Johnson, Assistant Chief of the Okanogan Volunteer Fire Department. Go Fund Me.

Below: Video of the Spring Coulee Fire in Okanogan County, Washington, September 1, 2019. Okanogan County Emergency Management.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom. Typos or errors, report them HERE.