Firefighter killed, one injured in South Australia

They were working on the Coles Fire northwest of Coonawarra

Map Coles Fire
Map showing the location of heat detected on the Coles Fire at 1605 UTC Jan. 20, 2022 in South Australia.

One firefighter working on the Coles Fire in South Australia has been killed and another hospitalized, the state’s Country Fire Service announced on Friday. The agency said “they were involved in a falling tree incident.”

In a news release the Country Fire Services said, “Family and other personnel have been informed and are being offered support at this time. The seriously injured CFS member has been taken to hospital for further treatment. The safety and wellbeing of our people is our highest priority and our thoughts are with our CFS family at this time.”

From The Guardian:

One firefighter has died and another has been seriously injured after a tree collapsed on a fire truck battling an out-of-control bushfire in South Australia’s south-east.

The incident occurred at the firefront at Coles, near Lucindale, where the blaze was running uncontrolled through bluegum plantations, scrub and grassland, a spokeswoman for the state’s Country Fire Service said.

The Coles Fire, first reported January 19, has burned 3,835 ha (9,476 a) about 28 km (17 miles) west-northwest of Coonawarra in southeast South Australia.

Data from the U.S. National Interagency Fire Center in 2016 showed that in the United States hazardous trees was the fifth leading cause of wildland firefighter fatalities, behind medical, aircraft accidents, vehicle accidents, and entrapments.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and co-workers of the two firefighters.

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

County Sheriff’s office completed a report on the Gales Fire fatality

A contract firefighter was killed by a falling tree in Oregon, August 23, 2021

3-D Map, fatality, Gales Fire
3-D Map, fatality, Gales Fire Aug. 23, 2021.

A report completed by the Lane County Sheriff’s office concluded that Frumencio Ruiz Carapia was killed by a falling tree while working on the Gale Fire on the Willamette National Forest in Oregon, August 23, 2021. The incident occurred about 34 air miles east-southeast of Eugene.

Mr. Carapia, 56 years old, was employed by GE Forestry, a company based in Central Point, which is near Medford, Oregon. Originally from Mexico, he had worked for more than 25 years with GE. Mr. Carapia is survived by his four adult children, a grandson, and was looking forward to the birth of a granddaughter.

Vicinity map, Gales Fire Fatality
Vicinity map, Gales Fire Fatality, Aug. 23, 2021.

The crew was putting in a cold line on the edge of the fire. The Sheriff determined that a green tree snapped and slid down the slope striking Mr. Carapia. He suffered numerous very serious injuries and was deceased before he could be extricated from under the four-foot diameter tree.

Map, Gales Fire Fatality, Aug. 23, 2021
Map, Gales Fire Fatality, Aug. 23, 2021.The burned area is shown in brown. The white line is the fire edge.

Below are excepts from the Sheriff’s report, written in the first person by the responding officer:

“I made contact with the on scene command and was provided a name for the involved individual who was identified as Frumencio Ruiz Carapia. I was further advised the death was witnessed by the crew boss who was identified as Armando Tovar. I made contact with Tovar who stated his crew was putting in a “cold line” which was explained to be a fire line along the edge of the fire. Tovar stated the crew was in a steep creek drainage when he heard and observed a large tree snap above the crew. Tovar started calling on the radio for the crew to get out of the area. Tovar stated he observed the tree which he called a “green tree” snap and fall down the creek drainage and slide towards Ruiz Carapia, striking him. When asked if there was any chainsaw use going on in the area he stated there was none and they were only digging a fire line. The deceased was located under the tree and a call for help was placed on the radio.”

Fatality Gales Fire
The tree that fell during the Gales Fire, killing Frumencio Ruiz Carapia, Aug. 23, 2021. Lane County Sheriff’s office photo.

“I went with a crew down to where the deceased was located. The area is a steep creek drainage with old growth trees. I observed approximately 3 snags above the location where the deceased was located. The snags were burning near the base and as well as several feet up the trees. I was advised by fire personnel the trees were immediate hazards to the safety of the crew however because of the terrain and where we needed to go they were unable to cut them down. I was advised we needed to hastily work the scene and remove the deceased to get out of danger. I took a few photos of the scene and the deceased.”

“I maintained an observation of the deceased as he was removed from under the tree. I observed the tree to be approximately 75 feet long and about 4 feet in diameter. The tree appeared to have broken off from its base and fell down the creek drainage along the north side of the creek drainage before coming to rest in the creek bottom.”

Frumencio Ruiz Carapia
Frumencio Ruiz Carapia

The report did not include photos of the base of the tree.

The Gales Fire, managed as part of the Middle Fork Complex, ultimately burned more than 29,000 acres.

Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex, OR
Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex of fires, OR, Aug. 16, 2021, InciWeb.

Wildfire Today’s first report about this line of duty death.

Firefighter killed while working on Oregon fire identified

Frumencio Ruiz Carapia
Frumencio Ruiz Carapia

The firefighter who died Monday while working on a wildfire southeast of Eugene, Oregon has been identified as 56-year old Frumencio Ruiz Carapia of Medford.

Mr. Carapia was working on the Gales Fire when he was struck by a falling tree, according to a news release Tuesday from Lane County Sheriff’s Sgt. Tom Speldrich.

Despite immediate efforts by those around him, Ruiz Carapia died at the scene, the news release said. No other injuries were reported.

The 14,000-acre Gales Fire is part of the Middle Fork Complex of fires. Personnel across the complex shared a moment of silence Tuesday morning in his memory.

Mr. Carapia was a member of a contract Type 2 Initial Attack hand crew. Two other firefighters who were injured were treated at the scene.

“The wildland firefighting community and our partners mourn this loss,” said Incident Commander Brian Gales of Northwest 13 Incident Management Team. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Gales Fire map

A preliminary investigation showed the accident wasn’t the result of any tree cutting but that the tree unexpectedly snapped and fell to the ground, according to the sheriff’s office.

After his death Monday first responders formed a procession in the firefighter’s honor as his body, wrapped in an American flag, was wheeled past them before being prepared for transport back home.

Friends of Ruiz Carapia have established a GoFundMe page to support his wife and children.

U.S. Senator Ron Wyden put out a statement regarding Ruiz Carapia’s death on Tuesday evening:

“A sad reminder about the dangers that firefighters face to protect all of us here in Oregon. My deepest condolences to the family, friends and loved ones of Mr. Carapia.”

We send out our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of Mr. Carapia.

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

Analysis of 53 firefighter injuries during tree falling operations

Tree felling injuries
This “word cloud” was generated using the injury descriptors from the 53 incidents included in the analysis. The size of a word indicates its relative frequency. (From the report)

The report on the tree falling incident in which Captain Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Hotshots was killed in 2018 recommended that an analysis of tree falling accidents be conducted “to assist in setting priority actions to reduce similar incidents.”

Captain Hughes died when a 105-foot tall Ponderosa Pine fell in an unexpected direction on the Ferguson Fire on the Sierra National Forest near Yosemite National Park in California.

A Tree Falling Accident Analysis was completed by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center at the request of the the U.S. Forest Service and the National Park Service. Their study compares 53 incidents from 2004 to 2019 in which firefighters were injured or killed in the process of falling trees.

Anyone involved in tree falling should read the entire 17-page report, but here are some of their findings:

  • 53% of the time the tree fell in the intended direction.
  • 28% of the time, the tree impacted another tree during its fall—including 2 of the 8 fatalities.
  • 19% of the time, the top broke out and came back—including 2 of the 8 fatalities.
  • Of all the reports that included recommendations, 21% recommended enhancing training related to tree conditions (like rot) and species-specific traits.
  • 19% of the time, the sawyer was working on a hung-up tree— including two of the eight fatalities.
  • 51% of the time, the incident involved a direct helmet strike.
  • Of the reports that include recommendations, 24% recommended research and development related to wildland fire helmets.
  • 42% of the time, the person struck was not cutting—including in 5 of the 8 fatalities.
  • 24% of the reports recommended somehow improving safe work distance and compliance.
  • 40% of the time, the person struck was in the traditional escape route—including in 5 of the 8 fatalities.
  • 79% of the reports recommended improving risk assessment.
  • 13% of the time, the tree strike happened during training— including in 2 of the 8 fatalities.
  • 26% of the reports recommended improving faller training.
  • 21% of the reports recommended enhancing training related to tree conditions (like rot) and species-specific traits.

Report released for tree strike fatality on the 2018 Ferguson Fire

Captain Brian Hughes
Captain Brian Hughes. Photo courtesy of Brad Torchia.

The National Park Service has released the Serious Accident Investigation Factual Report for the accident in which Captain Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Hotshots was killed last year. Captain Hughes died when a 105-foot tall Ponderosa Pine fell in an unexpected direction during a hazardous tree felling operation. It happened July 29, 2018 on the Ferguson Fire on the Sierra National Forest near Yosemite National Park in California.

Captain Hughes, number two in the chain of command on the crew, was in charge of the crew at the time since the Superintendent was at the Ferguson Fire Helibase at Mariposa Airport.

You can download the Factual Report and the Corrective Action Plan. Below are excerpts from both.

Excerpt from the Executive Summary:

…Brian returned to California in 2015 and became a captain of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshot Crew. As a captain, Brian was a trusted leader and mentor who led by example, inspiring others to train hard and develop their skills. His crew looked up to him and loved him as a brother.

The Ferguson Fire was reported July 13.


The Arrowhead Hotshots arrived on scene July 16, having spent the previous month and a half working prescribed and wildland fires ranging from one to ten days long. The crew spent the next eight days working alongside other highly experienced hotshot crews to build and prepare a fire containment line for burnout operations designed to burn away the available fuel in a given area and keep the original fire from spreading.

By July 28, the day before the accident, the Ferguson Fire had grown to 53,657 acres and was burning across multiple jurisdictional boundaries. Hughes and IHC-1 Squad Leader were working along the edge of a spot fire on steep, rocky terrain in Division G and identified several hazard snags—dead trees that posed falling and fire risks. One stood out: a 57-inch wide, 105-foot tall ponderosa pine burning approximately 10 feet below its top and producing a steady stream of embers. With winds expected the next day, they agreed the snag posed a significant risk to keeping the fire contained and agreed it needed to come down.

The Arrowhead Hotshots lead sawyer started cutting the tree down on the morning of July 29 with help from Hughes, who temporarily stepped in for the sawyer’s less-experienced swamper. The rest of the crew staged in an area safely uphill.

Hughes and the sawyer intended for the tree to fall uphill into an opening between trees. Instead, the tree fell downhill, hitting the ground approximately 145 degrees from the intended lay. It grazed another standing dead snag as it fell and then rolled and/or bounced farther downhill, coming to rest against other snags and brush.

Hughes and the sawyer had discussed the felling operation in detail. Warnings were issued prior to cutting. They also identified two escape routes in case something went wrong.

As the tree began to fall, the sawyer saw which direction it was going and instinctively ran directly downhill, escaping injury.

Hughes however, had moved about 20 feet downhill before the tree fell and then ran into the primary escape route as the tree started falling and was fatally struck. He was found lying underneath the tree in a space between it and the ground.

Efforts to save Hughes’ life were made on scene by the sawyer, fellow firefighters, and paramedics on the ground and in the air. Despite these efforts, Hughes was pronounced dead as he was being flown to the Mariposa Helibase.

Excerpts (Actions) from the Corrective Action Plan: (The full plan includes responsible parties and due dates)

  • Propose to NWCG that beginning in Fiscal Year 19 the Hazard Tree and Tree Felling Subcommittee (HTTFSC) conduct an evaluation of the “Forest Service Chainsaw, Crosscut Saw and Axe Training-Developing a Thinking Sawyer” course for applicability within the interagency community as an updated NWCG S-212, Wildfire Chain Saws, course. Based on the evaluation NWCG could adopt the course as is or with modifications for S-212 and individual agencies could adopt and use as appropriate.
  • Propose to NWCG that beginning in Fiscal Year 19 the Hazard Tree and Tree Felling Subcommittee conduct an evaluation and gap analysis of tree falling options, felling procedures, training and current best practices and update applicable supervisory operations position training and position task books as appropriate, i.e. Single Resource Boss, Strike Team and Task Force Leader, and Division Supervisor.
  • Propose to NWCG the development of an Advanced Wildland Fire Chain Saws training course beginning in Fiscal Year 19 unless need negated by adoption of “Forest Service Chainsaw, Crosscut Saw, and Axe Training-Developing a Thinking Sawyer” course on interagency basis.
  • Propose to NWCG a Fiscal Year 19 review and revision, if necessary, to FAL3, FAL2, and FAL1 competency and currency evaluation processes managed by NWCG.
  • Propose USDA Forest Service National Technology and Development, in collaboration with the Western States Division of the National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), conduct a study on effects of acute and cumulative fatigue on wildland firefighters and Incident Management personnel to include fatigue mitigation recommendations.
  • Complete assessment of effects of fatigue, stress, and sleep management on wildland firefighters and incident management personnel to include methods to prepare for and mitigate the effects of fatigue, cumulative stress, and traumatic stress.
  • Propose all wildland fire tree and chainsaw related accident reports since 2004 be reviewed, associated recommendations evaluated for redundancy or conflict, and the current implementation status of recommendations to assist in setting priority actions to reduce similar incidents.
  • Evaluate how changing environmental conditions, such as extensive tree mortality in the west, and more extreme wildfires, are being factored into procedural practices and implementation of wildland fire policy, strategies, and tactics by agency administrators and Incident Management Teams.
  • Assess and consider adoption of USDA, Forest Service Risk Informed Trade Off Analysis process incorporating geographically specific information on topography, fuels, and expected weather to inform decision makers during initial response and extended attack of wildfires.

Worker clearing road in Butte Fire scar killed by rolling log

Butte Fire
The Butte Fire at 6:09 p.m. on September 10, as seen from above Jackson, CA, looking southeast. Photo by Matthew Rhodes.

A Calaveras County employee working on a brush clearing project along a road in the scar from the Butte Fire was killed Monday March 18 by a rolling tree or log. County Public Works personnel were working with a CAL FIRE Conservation Camp crew inside the perimeter of the fire that burned 71,000 acres south of Jackson, California in September, 2015.

Kevin Raggio, Calaveras County Coroner, identified the man as 57-year-old Ansel John Bowman.

A very brief “Blue Sheet”preliminary report released by CAL FIRE said the county employee “was hit by a previously downed tree and suffered fatal injuries”. He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The Butte Fire destroyed 233 residences and 175 outbuildings, and may have caused the deaths of two civilians.