Loyola University Prof uses Thirtymile fire as evidence women should not be firefighters

A professor at Loyola University New Orleans has written a ridiculous article published by Psychology Today that uses the tragic Thirtymile fire that killed four wildland firefighters in 2001 as evidence that women should not be firefighters and that the concept of national forests is evil and an example of “socialized land ownership”.

The Thirtymile fire, even before this idiot from Loyola spewed forth this garbage, can provoke a very emotional response from wildland firefigters. Not only did we lose four firefighters (see the names below which include two women), but for the first time a wildland firefighter was charged with felonies for the deaths of people on his crew.

The Cantwell-Hastings law that passed in 2002 was a knee-jerk reaction to these deaths. It requires that every fatality of a U.S. Forest Service employee on a fire be investigated by the Department of Agriculture’s Inspector General’s office, a group of people more comfortable investigating fraud of subsidies at chicken ranches than analyzing wildland fire behavior, tactics, and strategy. Their mission is to determine if anyone should be charged with a crime, not to help identify lessons learned or prevent future fatalities.

Ellreese Daniels, the crew boss of those four firefighters, had been initially charged with 11 felonies, including four counts of manslaughter. The charges were reduced to two counts of making false statements to which Mr. Daniels pleaded guilty on August 20, 2008. He was sentenced to three years of probation and 90 days of work release.

So the idiot Loyola prof digs into these wounds which still seem fresh to firefighters and says women have no place on the fireline:

Nowadays, with our modern dispensations, we place females in the front lines. This is no less than an abomination. Females are far more precious than males. It is not for nothing that farmers keep a few bulls and hundreds of cows. It is due to patriarchy that we owe our very existence as a species. Imagine if our cave men ancestors had sent their women out to hunt and face the lions and tigers when they came a-calling, instead of throwing themselves at these enemies, sacrificing themselves so that mankind could persist.

Spoken like a cave man.

He goes on to say that fewer firefighters would die if we had no public ownership of lands:

When a forest fire consumes private timber, there are individuals who feel it in their bank accounts; this is not the case with socialized land holdings. This means that the incentives are greater, by how much is an empirical matter, for profit making individuals to take greater precautions regarding their property than is true for their public counterparts. If we have learned anything from the fall of the Soviet economic system – and this is a highly debatable point – it is that things work better under private ownership. These four young people will have not died totally in vain if we use their deaths as a rallying cry for privatization of the forest. Perhaps if we succeed in this effort, other lives will be saved.

Thirtymile fire memorial
Thirtymile fire memorial

The four firefighters killed on the Thirtymile fire were:

Tom L. Craven, 30, Ellensburg, WA;
Karen L. Fitzpatrick, 18, Yakima, WA;
Devin A. Weaver, 21, Yakima, WA;
Jessica L. Johnson, 19, Yakima, WA.

A memorial page for the firefighters can be found here. May they rest in peace.

Kinked fire hose and improper procedures delayed rescue of IndyCar driver from burning race car

Simona de Silvestro fire
The nozzleman wonders why the hose is not charging as Simona de Silvestro sits in the burning race car.

Last weekend, on June 5, Simona de Silvestro crashed her IndyCar into the wall during the race at Texas Motor Speedway. The car caught on fire, fueled by five gallons of leaking oil. I watched on live television, and after the car came to a stop, she remained in the car as intense flames enveloped the right side of the car. The safety team got there very quickly, but the four-person crew was not able to get any water on the fire for what seemed like a very long time. They pulled a hose right away, but then the nozzleman stood there for far too long with a limp hose. They never got any water out of that hose until after de Silvestro had been extricated.

A report by officials of the Izod IndyCar Series concluded that the safety crew first on scene did not follow established standard operating procedures (SOP) for extinguishing the fire and protecting the driver. De Silvestro sat in the burning car for about 32 seconds after the crew arrived before they were able to extract her from the still burning car. Thanks to her fire-resistant gear, she only suffered minor burns to a finger and is racing again this weekend at Iowa Speedway. Two of the rescuers were burned on their faces while pulling her out of the car, including Mike Yates, IndyCar’s safety manger. Yes, IndyCar’s SAFETY MANAGER was part of this fiasco.

Every firefighter has experienced kinked hoses and probably once or twice has not followed SOPs when working a fire. But thankfully those mistakes are usually not visible to millions on live television.

A kinked hose was part of the problem in this case. The safety crews’ trucks have a front-mounted water discharge that points to the side of the vehicle, so that when the hose was extended straight forward towards the burning car the hose bent 90-degrees at the discharge and kinked, resulting in no water at the nozzle. And the crew was not able to figure this out and un-kink the hose.

The second problem was that the number one crewperson was supposed to knock down the fire with a pressurized water (PW) fire extinguisher in order to protect the driver as much as possible until another crewperson could pull the quick lay from the front of the truck. But instead, he pulled the hose and got it kinked.

The third issue was that the person that finally grabbed a PW, struggled with it as if he had never used one, resulting in still further delays in getting water on the fire.

Here is the time-line, in seconds, taken from the video (UPDATE: the original video was removed from YouTube. We replaced it with another one below, so the exact time line no longer applies, however the relative times are still valid):

  • 8–fire first seen on De Silvestro’s car in the video
  • 29–the car slides to a stop
  • 35–the first safety team truck arrives on scene
  • 48–the hose is fully extended, a crewperson is holding the nozzle
  • 61–the first water is applied, from a PW
  • 67–De Silvestro is extracted from the still burning car
  • 70–water is first applied from a hose, from the second-arriving truck

The video is below.

In the IndyCar series, fires that last more than a few seconds are rare, thanks to fuel cell technology. But in de Silvestro’s crash, the oil cooler on the right side of the car was compromised, spilling the 5 gallons of oil into the sidepod rather than onto the track, fueling the fire. The last time a fire hose was used on a crash was when Ryan Briscoe crashed in 2005 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joilet, Ill.

Simona de Silvestro burned hand
Simona de Silvestro's burned hand after crashing in Texas, June 5. Photo: Brandon Wade

Some writers who cover IndyCar have used the term “Keystone Cops” when referring to the actions of the safety crew. If my engine crew had made mistakes like this on a vehicle fire, I would have had them drilling all day, every day until they could do it blindfolded. A person has to wonder how often the IndyCar safety crew drilled on using their equipment to extinguish an intense fire. From appearances, little to none. IndyCar drivers–you thought they had your back. You were wrong.

Thankfully all the injuries this time were relatively minor, but it could have been a lot worse. A LOT worse.

Supposedly the hose on the truck had been tested earlier in the weekend, so all of the problems appear to be human error.

Before today’s race in Iowa, a modification was made to the trucks so that the front discharge now points toward the front, rather than to the side. This should reduce the chance of a kink at the discharge… unless the fire is to the side of the truck. (You can’t completely idiot-proof fire apparatus.) In addition, the SOP for dealing with a fire has been redistributed to all safety crew members.

Brian Barnhart, the president of IndyCar’s competition division, said no disciplinary action will be taken. About the crew, he said: “They are beating themselves up pretty bad. (But) clearly we stumbled on this one.”

My friend Howard Rayon who passed away last October, used to work on the safety crews for the CART (aka CHAMP) racing series, which merged with the IndyCar series in 2008. Howard raced Formula Fords as a young man, and was a firefighter all his life, retiring as a Deputy Chief with the Santee Fire Department in southern California. I am sure that if the safety crew had been upholding the high, professional standards set by Howard, Ms. de Silvestro’s incident would have had a better outcome.

Colorado: Barbecue grill in pickup may have started fire

Apparently two fires on Wednesday along highway 82 in Snowmass Canyon, Colorado were started from burning embers blowing out of a barbecue grill in the back of a pickup traveling upvalley on the highway. A trucker reported that he saw a blue Ford pickup with a smoking grill in the back. Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Brad Gibson is thinking the embers from the grill started the fires. 

Gibson was quoted as saying:

Don’t put a burning barbecue grill in the back of a pickup truck and drive up the highway.

That’s always good advice.

As long as we have idiots like that pickup truck driver, there will always be a need for fire departments. And speaking of idiots, this is the 4th time we have assigned the tag “idiot”  on Wildfire Today.



Thanks Dick

Representative Darrell Issa is against benefits for 9/11 workers

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We have a new use for one of our post labels. Used only once before for Glenn Beck of CNN, now the post label “idiot” is awarded to Representative Darrell Issa of San Diego. He made a series of stupid statements about the 9/11 attacks, minimized the health effects on the rescuers and workers, and argued against extending benefits to the people that are still hugely affected by the incident.

Many firefighters are still suffering from the long term effects of working in the contaminated Ground Zero area.

An excerpt from the New York Daily News:

The California congressman who called the Sept. 11 attacks “simply” a plane crash ran for cover Wednesday under a barrage of ridicule from fellow Republicans, first responders and victims’ families.

San Diego GOP Rep. Darrell Issa was under siege for suggesting the federal government had already done enough to help New York cope with “a fire” that “simply was an aircraft” hitting the World Trade Center.

“That is a pretty distorted view of things,” said Frank Fraone, a Menlo Park, Calif., fire chief who led a 67-man crew at Ground Zero. “Whether they’re a couple of planes or a couple of missiles, they still did the same damage.”

“New York was attacked by Al Qaeda. It doesn’t have to be attacked by Congress,” added Long Island Rep. Pete King, a Republican.

“I’m really surprised by Darrell Issa,” King added. “It showed such a cavalier dismissal of what happened to New York. It’s wrong and inexcusable.”

Lorie Van Aucken, who lost her husband, Kenneth, in the attacks, slammed Issa’s “cruel and heartless” comments.

“It’s really discouraging. People stepped up and did the right thing. They sacrificed themselves and now a lot of people are getting really horrible illnesses,” she added.

Under pressure from all sides, the Golden State pol – who got rich selling car alarms after getting busted for car theft as a teen – pulled a partial U-turn. He issued a statement but cowered from the press.

“I continue to support federal assistance for the victims of the 9/11 terrorist attacks,” he said.

But he didn’t retract his wacked-out rhetoric claiming the feds “just threw” buckets of cash at New York for an attack “that had no dirty bomb in it, it had no chemical munitions in it.”

He went on: “I have to ask … why the firefighters who went there and everybody in the city of New York needs to come to the federal government for the dollars versus this being primarily a state consideration.”

Arson Threat Against Sierra Club Members

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An idiot who has a computer and knows how to use it has posted on his blog the suggestion that…

“If you know a Sierra Club member, please feel free to set their home on fire.”

I hesitate to post about this, because it is probably, like the “Forest Jihad” threat, just the rantings of a crazed lunatic who did not receive enough attention from his mother, so he gets it by posting on the Internet.

But, you’ll probably hear about this anyway, so….. The Missoulian has the whole story.

Years ago I was a card-carrying member of the Sierra Club. But when they began going over the top with their policies, such as demanding that there be no timber harvesting on National Forests, I left the organization. Watchdog organizations serve a purpose, but they are most effective when they present a reasoned, logical, and practical point of view. The arson threat is of course absurd, and I wish no ill-will towards the Sierra Club.

(Thanks to Dick Mangan for the tip.)

Glenn Beck: "…people who hate America… are losing their homes in a forest fire today."

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Harris fire Mount MiguelYou may have heard of Glenn Beck. He appears on CNN Headline News and also has a nationally-syndicated radio show. I rarely agree with anything he says, but I just found out that on his October 22 radio show, while the Witch Creek, Harris, and other fires were burning in southern California, he said:

“I think there is a handful of people who hate America. Unfortunately for them, a lot of them are losing their homes in a forest fire today.”

Both fires started in eastern San Diego county and were pushed by strong Santa Ana winds into the outskirts of San Diego. In the Harris and Witch Creek fires, a total of 1,246 homes burned, 7 people were killed, and a CalFire engine crew was entrapped and seriously burned.

Beck contradicted himself several times, but his rationale is that since California is predominantly a Democratic state, and since he believes that Democrats “hate America”, that the homes of people who hate America were burning. Of course Beck is an idiot, but to say this while over 1,000 homes are burning and 500,000 residents are being evacuated is the height of irresponsibility, insensitivity, and stupidity.

According to Media Matters, Beck has also said

“it took me about a year to start hating the 9-11 victims’ families” and referred to Hurricane Katrina survivors as “scumbags”

(photo is of the Harris Fire burning on Mount San Miguel east of San Diego, October 23, 2007; from Wikipedia)