Crew on North Complex in California overrun by fire deploys fire shelters

And, an update on the shelter deployment at the Dolan Fire

Map of the North Complex, Claremont & Bear Fires
Map of the North Complex, Claremont & Bear Fires 11:12 a.m. PDT Sept 11, 2020.

A firefighting hand crew was overrun by the fire they were fighting September 9 and had to deploy their fire shelters. It happened on the Claremont/Bear Fire, two merged blazes that are part of the North Complex.

The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection explained that the fire  became unpredictable due to erratic weather and dry fuel conditions. The agency said the personnel were “virtually unharmed except for two minor injuries.” The incident is under review.

Fire Shelter Test
Fire Shelter Tests in Canada, June, 2015.

Fire shelters are small foldable pup tent-like fire resistant devices that a wildland firefighter can unfold and climb into if there is no option for escaping from an approaching inferno. The shelters can resist radiant heat, and if the person inside can seal the edges under their body, convective heat as well, but there are limits. Many firefighters have used the devices successfully, but others have been killed inside them.

The North Complex has burned 252,534 acres east of Oroville, California. Approximately 1,000 structures have been destroyed and 10 civilians have been killed. Resources assigned include 73 hand crews, 18 helicopters, 254 fire engines, 76 dozers, and 98 water tenders for a total of 3,108 personnel.

On September 5, three firefighters on the Bridger Foothills Fire northeast of Bozeman, Montana were forced to deploy and take refuge in their fire shelters when their safety became compromised by the proximity of the blaze, fire officials said.

September 8 on the Dolan Fire south of Big Sur, California, another crew of firefighters was entrapped and deployed their fire shelters. Updated information from the U.S. Forest Service is slightly different from what was originally released shortly after the incident. Andrew Madsen, an information officer for the fire, explained that of the 14 that were entrapped, three were flown to Community Regional Hospital in Fresno. One was initially in critical condition and the other two were in serious condition. As of today, September 11, the two that were serious have been released, and the critically injured individual is much better and is expected to be released in a day or two. Mr. Madsen said some of the other 11 members of the crew had “smoke inhalation” issues, but were evaluated at the scene and are OK. The crew was attempting to protect the Forest Service’s Nacimiento Fire station as the blaze approached.

Nacimiento Station
Nacimiento Station, satellite photo, September 7, 2018.

Update: September 20, 2020:

North Complex burnover
North Complex burnover

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.

15 firefighters on Dolan Fire became entrapped by the fire and deployed fire shelters

One injury is critical and another is serious, the U.S. Forest Service reported

September 8, 2020  |  5:05 p.m. PDT

Map of the Dolan Fire
Map of the Dolan Fire. The red line was the perimeter at 2 a.m. PDT September 8, 2020. The white line was the perimeter about 26 hours earlier. Red shading represents intense heat when the fire was mapped.

Fifteen firefighters attempting to prevent a structure from burning in a California wildfire were entrapped and overrun by the fire, the U.S. Forest Service announced today.

Two firefighters were injured, one critically and the other seriously, the release said. Both patients were transported by Life Flight to Community Regional Hospital in Fresno.

(Update September 11, 2020: New information from the U.S. Forest Service is slightly different from what was originally released shortly after the incident. Those new details are in an article published Sept. 11 about another crew that had to deploy fire shelters.)

It occurred at the Dolan Fire at about 8:31 a.m., September 8, 26 air miles southeast of Big Sur.

The firefighters deployed the fire shelters they carry for this type of situation.

The Forest Service said the incident occurred while the personnel were defending the Nacimiento Station from the approaching fire.

The release from the Forest Service implied more than two of the 15 personnel may have been injured to some degree. Here is an excerpt:

A shelter deployment involving fifteen firefighters from the Dolan Fire occurred approximately at 0831 on Tuesday, Sept 8, 2020, in the vicinity of Nacimiento Station. These dedicated firefighters received injuries including burns and smoke inhalation while defending the Nacimiento Station on Dolan Fire on the Los Padres National Forest in California. Nacimiento Station was destroyed.

When a fixed wing aircraft mapped the Dolan Fire at 2 a.m. PDT September 8 about six hours before the incident, the fire was 74,591 acres, more than twice the size mapped the previous night when it was 36,213 acres. The heat sensing equipment detected intense heat at the fire’s edge at 2 a.m., 0.7 miles northwest of Nacimiento Station.

Fire shelters are small foldable pup tent-like fire resistant devices that a wildland firefighter can unfold and climb into if there is no option for escaping from an approaching inferno. Many firefighters have used the devices successfully, but others have been killed inside them.

Three days before, on September 5, three firefighters on the Bridger Foothills Fire northeast of Bozeman, Montana were forced to deploy and take refuge in their fire shelters when their safety became compromised by the proximity of the blaze, fire officials said.

Nacimiento Station
Nacimiento Station, satellite photo, September 7, 2018.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Al and Tom.

Firefighters deploy fire shelters on a wildfire near Bozeman, Montana

Bridger Foothills Fire

September 6, 2020 | 2:03 p.m. MDT

Bridger Foothills Fire map
Bridger Foothills Fire, map current at 9:26 p.m. MDT Sept 5, 2020.

Three firefighters on the Bridger Foothills Fire northeast of Bozeman, Montana were forced to deploy and take refuge in their fire shelters September 5 when their safety became compromised by the proximity of the fire, fire officials said Sunday. After the danger passed they moved to a safety zone and were later treated at Bozeman Health for “smoke inhalation and heat exhaustion” and then released. They are otherwise in good condition and will be rejoining their families as soon as possible.

Fire shelters are small foldable pup tent-like fire resistant devices that a wildland firefighter can unfold and climb into if there is no option for escaping from an approaching inferno. Many firefighters have used the devices successfully, but others have been killed inside them.

The Bridger Foothills Fire is three miles northeast of the intersection of Highway 86 (Bridger Drive) and Interstate 90. Since it was reported September 4 it has burned 7,000 acres, including an unknown number of structures. It exhibited extreme fire behavior Saturday when the passage of a cold front brought sustained winds of 10-20 mph with gusts to 30 mph. A Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered.

Resources assigned, according to the incident management team, include 6 helicopters, 4 hand crews, plus engines, smokejumpers, and dozers. Sunday’s National Situation Report said there were a total of 99 personnel assigned (but 23 hand crews, which does not make any sense).

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Al.

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”

Additional evacuations ordered for Kincade Fire

While rescuing two civilians a firefighter used a fire shelter as a shield

Above: Looking east at 4:40 p.m. October 25 the camera at Geyser Peak photographed a large flare up on the Kincade Fire.

UPDATED at 7:37 p.m. PDT October 26, 2019

New evacuation orders and warnings have been issued for the Kincade Fire. Details are at the Sonoma County web site. Winds gusting to over 60 mph hour are in the forecast for the Kincade Fire area after 11 p.m. Saturday. This is a very serious situation and anyone in the identified areas needs to leave.

One of the more active areas on the fire Saturday was on the east side near Pine Flat Road, the same general location as the flareup Friday.

Saturday afternoon officials said 31 homes and 46 other structures have been destroyed.

Four Very Large Air Tankers were working the Kincade Fire Saturday afternoon preparing for the very strong wind later tonight: Tankers 910, 911, 914, and 944 — three DC-10s and the 747. Several other air tankers and helicopters were also engaged.

Below is the National Weather Service forecast for wind in the Kincade Fire area. The wind barbs point to the direction the wind will be from, in this case, after 7 p.m. north-northeast or northeast through Monday morning. The upper line represents wind gusts.

Wind Forecast Kincade Fire
Wind forecast, Kincade Fire Area, beginning Saturday October 26. Click to enlarge.

7:45 a.m. PDT October 26, 2019

Friday afternoon the Kincade Fire east of Geyserville, California consumed about 4,000 more acres as winds that shifted 180 degrees, twice, pushed it in various directions. At the Healdsburg Hills North weather station the wind in the morning was from the north until 11 a.m. when it became out of the south at 7 to 15 mph gusting at 10 to 24 mph. Then between 5 and 6:30 p.m. it made a slow direction change to north at 12 to 15 gusting at 15 to 26. This resulted in the fire spreading on the north and east sides. As of Saturday morning it has burned 25,455 acres.

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

New evacuation orders were issued overnight. The map maintained by the Sonoma County Sheriff’s office can be accessed here.

CAL FIRE confirmed that a firefighter and two civilians were transported to a hospital by ground ambulance to be evaluated after an incident within the incident. At approximately 6:20 p.m. Friday a firefighter was helping get two civilians to safety who were attempting to evacuate as the fire activity intensified. The firefighter deployed his fire shelter to shield them from the fire. All injuries appear to be non-life threatening.

Map Kincade Fire
Map of the Kincade Fire showing the perimeter at 11:17 p.m. October 25, 2019.

The light wind predicted for Saturday is not expected to be a major factor on the fire, but beginning at 11 p.m. it will increase through the rest of the night to 33 mph gusting out of the northeast at 60. It should decrease on Sunday afternoon to 17 mph with gusts around 30.

The Healdsburg Hills North weather station is operated by Pacific Gas and Electric and judging from the coordinates appears to be mounted on a high voltage transmission tower. That location on the east side of the fire (see map) was burned over Friday afternoon between 6:20 and 6:30 p.m. Within a 20-minute period the recorded temperature increased from 80 to 114 degrees, then by 7:30 p.m. it was back to 80 degrees.

Weather observations Kincade Fire
Weather observations at the Healdsburg Hills North weather station October 25, 2018 as the site was burned over by the Kincade Fire.

CAL FIRE reports that 79 structures have been destroyed.

Resources assigned to the Kincade Fire include 53 hand crews, 179 engines, 24 water tenders, 24 dozers, and 10 helicopters for a total of 2,090 personnel.

Engine burned over on Country Fire east of Auburn, California

Injuries to two firefighters were described as minor

Country Fire Cool, California
Screenshot from KCRA video of the Country Fire east of Cool, California September 3, 2019.

(UPDATED at 1:09 p.m. PDT September 5, 2019)

On September 4 the Garden Valley Fire Protection District released a statement confirming that the burnover incident on the Country Fire involved one of their engines and two of their firefighters.

Here is an excerpt:

The two firefighters were transported to UC Davis Medical Center with minor injuries and released later the same day. The fire engine sustained major damage.

In an article on CBS 13 about the burnover, they quoted a radio transmission,“We have a burn over with shelters deployed. On that also would like one medivac helicopter.”

The same day the Fire District issued that statement, they also reported that the result of a recent election will require them to lay off three of their six firefighters. As the changes are phased in the staffing will be reduced from two firefighters to one, and 66 percent of the time that one firefighter will be a qualified paramedic.


(Originally published at 7:40 a.m. PDT September 4, 2019)

An engine was burned over and two firefighters were injured while battling the Country Fire in Northern California Tuesday, seven air miles east of Auburn. CBS 13 quoted a radio transmission,“We have a burn over with shelters deployed. On that also would like one medivac helicopter.”

Tuesday night CAL FIRE said two firefighters had minor injuries on the fire.

Steve Large, a reporter for CBS 13, said CAL FIRE is launching a “Serious Accident Investigation”.

map Country Fire Cool, California
Map showing the location of the Country Fire east of Cool, California September 3, 2019. Google Earth.

The spread of the fire was stopped after it burned 85 acres. There is a media report that three outbuildings, but no homes, were destroyed.

Country Fire Cool, California
Screenshot from KCRA video of the Country Fire east of Cool, California September 3, 2019.

737 air tanker Country Fire Cool, California
Air Tanker 137, a B-737. Screenshot from KCRA video of the Country Fire east of Cool, California September 3, 2019.

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