In order to deal with an increasing number of wildfires that were starting along Interstate 84 southeast of Boise, Idaho the Bureau of Land Management worked with local cooperators to establish a fuel modification program along the highway.
Their first action, from 2007 to 2012, was to reduce the existing vegetation by mowing, constructing fuel breaks, and establishing perennial grasses to reduce invasive annuals in the right of way adjacent to the interstate. It is a small sample size but during this period there was little significant change in the annual acres burned, average fire size, or the number of fires.
During the next seven years, from 2013 to 2019, the treatment strategy also included reestablishment of the gravel apron along the edge of the pavement surface to a minimum of 12 feet. The implementation required years of adaptive management and hard work, but the effort is producing results: average fire size for the last seven years has been reduced 95 percent even though traffic flow increased by more than 30 percent.
The Bureau of Land Management has provided more information about the crash of a single engine air tanker:
“On Tuesday, Sept. 22, 2020, at approximately 7 p.m. MDT, a Single Engine Air Tanker with one pilot on board was involved in a fatal accident during initial attack operations on the Schill Fire, located approximately 2 miles southeast of Emmett.
“The pilot, Ricky Fulton, perished. The aircraft, T-857, was owned by Aero S.E.A.T. Incorporated and was on an on-call contract with BLM Fire and Aviation at the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise. Firefighters on the scene rendered medical aid to the pilot and called for Life Flight, but the pilot did not survive his injuries.
“The 30-acre Schill Fire started at approximately 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 22 in grass and brush in steep terrain. It was contained at approximately 10 p.m. on Tuesday. The cause of the Schill Fire is under investigation.”
Originally published September 23, 2020 | 8:58 a.m. MDT
The Bureau of Land Management announced that the pilot of a single engine air tanker (SEAT) was killed Tuesday evening September 22 while working on a wildfire near Emmett, Idaho. The agency said more information will be released following family notifications.
KTVB reported the accident occurred near Pearl Road about two miles southeast of Emmett. The fire started around 4:30 p.m. and grew to 25 acres as two SEATs and one helicopter assisted firefighters on the ground. According to the Gem County Sheriff’s Office, the air tanker was dropping retardant when it went down.
#BLMBOD and multiple cooperators are fighting the #SchillFire near Emmett, Idaho. 25+ acres. No closures or structures threatened. Estimated containment at 10 pm tonight. Estimated control at 6 pm tomorrow. pic.twitter.com/BJaXT6KABa
This is the sixth firefighting pilot and the third SEAT pilot to be killed in the United States this year. In addition, three members of the crew of a C-130 from the U.S. died when their air tanker crashed January 23, 2020 while fighting a bushfire in New South Wales, Australia.
Our sincere condolences go out to the pilot’s family, friends, and co-workers.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Steve, and Tom.
And unrelated, a firefighter died in a vehicle accident while commuting home
Four members of firefighter’s family killed in structure fire
The wife and three children of a wildland firefighter were killed in Washington while he was deployed on a wildfire.
Marcaria Garcia-Martinez, 32, her daughters Luz Garcia-Martinez, 17, and Michelle Garcia-Martinez, 6, and son Luis Garcia-Martinez, 15, died in the early morning blaze on August 27. They had just moved and were spending their first night in the single-wide trailer in Benton City, Washington. When sheriff deputies and firefighters arrived the home was almost completely consumed. The radiant heat from the fire was so intense that a nearby trailer also ignited, but deputies were able to rescue the residents of that home. Firefighters put out the fire and found the family members’ bodies while searching the trailer.
Raul Garcia-Santos, Garcia-Martinez’s husband and the children’s father, was assigned to the Palmer Fire in north-central Washington which has burned about 18,000 acres four miles south of the Canadian border. The fire has not been updated on InciWeb since September 30.
Firefighter dies in vehicle accident while commuting home
A firefighter on the Helena Hotshot crew was killed in a vehicle accident in Idaho while commuting home after a fire assignment.
From the U. S. Forest Service, Caribou-Targhee National Forest September 3, 2020:
“Sara Madsen was an incredible person with a vivacious personality and a love for the outdoors. She began working in natural resources in our very own Teton Valley as a Youth Conservation Corp member, later moving into the fire program where she served as a crewmember on the Caribou-Targhee National Forest’s Centennial Type 2 Initial Attack Hand Crew from 2017 to 2019. 2020 was her first year as part of the Helena Hot Shot crew with the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest. Our firefighting community is heartbroken over this tragic loss and our condolences go out to Sara’s family, friends and coworkers.”
The Idaho State Police released the following information:
“On September 2, 2020, at approximately 12:21 a.m., Idaho State Police investigated a single-vehicle crash on SH32 near milepost 25 south of Ashton, in Fremont County.
Sara Madsen, 24, of Tetonia, was driving eastbound on SH32 in a 1999 Ford Ranger when her vehicle went off the right shoulder of the roadway and overturned.
Madsen was not wearing a seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. She succumbed to her injuries at the scene. Next of kin has been notified.”
Rest in peace, Sara Madsen, and the family of Raul Garcia-Santos.
Ms. Veseth was killed by a falling tree while working on a fire in Idaho
Eight years ago today, in 2012, Anne Veseth was killed while working on the Steep Corner Fire 56 miles northeast of Orofino, Idaho. The fire was on private property and was being managed by the Clearwater‐Potlatch Timber Protective Association (CPTPA). Ms. Veseth, in her second season working as a firefighter for the U.S. Forest Service, was killed when she was struck by a falling 150-foot fire-weakened green cedar tree. The tree fell on its own and was 13 inches in diameter where it struck her.
Three Alaska wildland firefighting crews traveled to the Lower 48 states on Friday to assist with wildfire suppression efforts in the western United States.
The three crews – the BLM Alaska Fire Service Midnight Sun Hotshots, Chena Hotshots, and the Alaska Division of Forestry White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew – boarded an airliner at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks Friday morning. The aircraft came up to Alaska from the National Interagency Coordination Center in Boise, Idaho Thursday to transport the crews to Boise, where they will be quickly assigned to one of a multitude of wildfires burning in the western U.S.
“It’s always sad leaving Alaska but it will be good to get down there,” Iris Sager, crew superintendent for the Chena hotshot crew, said.
Alaska’s fire season was slowed by abundant and widespread rainfall the past five weeks that has dampened wildfire danger across the state. Because of this, Alaska’s wildland fire agencies have made many resources available to assist with the national firefighting effort while keeping adequate firefighters and aircraft in Alaska to handle any fire activity here.
The mobilization of firefighting resources to the Lower 48 is an annual tradition, similar to Alaska importing firefighters and aircraft from the Lower 48 to assist with wildfires here. Firefighters from Alaska travel to the Lower 48 almost every year to help other agencies battle wildfires after the Alaska fire season winds down, usually in mid- to late-July.
The three crews that departed Alaska on Friday totaled 62 firefighters and will add to the 60 other Alaska firefighting personnel that are already working in the Lower 48. One other crew – the Division of Forestry’s Pioneer Peak Hotshots – flew south last week and is working on the Cedar Fire in Nevada.
In addition, 13 Alaska Smokejumpers are in the Lower 48 working, as well as multiple other personnel filling positions such as dispatchers, heavy equipment managers, engine bosses and division supervisors.
Three more Division of Forestry crews – the Gannett Glacier, Tanana Chiefs, and Yukon Type 2 initial attack crews – are scheduled to fly to the Lower 48 early next week.
Given the fact that Alaska’s wildland fire season has been very slow this season and crews have been relegated to working on fuels reduction projects and other project work the past several weeks, firefighters welcomed the opportunity to head south to work on actual fires.
“We’ve spent less than 20 days on fires this summer,” White Mountain crew superintendent Owen Smith said as he waited to board Friday’s flight. “Everybody is ready for an assignment.”
As of Friday, a total of 309 fires had burned an estimated 178,025 acres in Alaska this summer, which is well below the approximately 650,000 acres that burns in a typical fire season.
Barring any major drying event in Alaska over the next month or two, crews will likely remain in the Lower 48 until fire season in the western U.S. dies down, which isn’t typically until September or October.
Firefighters wore facemasks as they lined up to board the plane on Friday at Fort Wainwright. BLM Alaska Fire Service workers, also wearing facemasks, handed each firefighter a bagged lunch as they boarded the flight to Boise.
While the increase in COVID-19 cases in Alaska and across the U.S. is a concern, it’s something the crews and other Alaska firefighting personnel have been dealing with since the season started in April. Agencies and crews have COVID protocols in place to help prevent the spread of the virus and each crew was traveling with at least three days of personal protective equipment such as facemasks and hand sanitizer.
“I think it would be harder if any of us had families and didn’t live by ourselves,” Smith said in reference to mobilizing to the Lower 48 during the pandemic. “It definitely makes it interesting.”
Returning personnel will follow Alaska state and local health mandates addressing testing and quarantining upon return from their Lower 48 assignments. In some cases, personnel will spend days off in the Lower 48 instead of returning to Alaska in between fire assignments.
On Monday the U.S. Forest Service advertised numerous permanent firefighter job openings in the agency’s Region 1, Montana, North Dakota, and northern Idaho. Some of the notices say “Job Corps graduates of fire certified programs are encouraged to apply,” which is interesting in that students at USFS Job Corps centers have been sent home due to COVID-19. A massive recruitment beginning just as the wildland fire season starts is unusual.
Some of the announcements are only open for a very brief time.
The information below dated April 27, 2020 was copied from the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest Facebook page:
OPEN TODAY ON USAJOBS!🔥🌄
Region 1 Summer Fire Hire PERMANENT Jobs