Report released on burnover of firefighters on Silverado Fire

Two firefighters are still in critical condition in Orange County, California

Silverado Fire spot fires burnover firefighters injured

The two firefighters that suffered very serious injuries while battling the Silverado Fire are still in critical condition, on ventilators, and in induced comas. However, they have survived multiple surgeries and are improving, but they have a long and tough road ahead.

They are members of a 17-person Orange County Fire Authority (OCFA) hand crew that was assigned to the fire east of Irvine, California on October 26, 2020 when the fire burned over their location. In addition to the two firefighters still hospitalized, another suffered radiant heat injuries and other firefighters had superficial heat injuries.

The OCFA has released an Informational Summary Report, or Green Sheet, about the incident.

The burnover occurred at about noon during a Red Flag Warning for strong offshore winds, low humidity, and dry fuels. The weather conditions at the time were 60 degrees, 8 percent relative humidity, and winds out of the north-northeast at 16 mph with gusts to 42 mph. The fire was burning in grass and brush, with live fuel moistures for the chamise and sage at or below the critical levels.

Map, Silverado Fire burnover October 26, 2020
Map, Silverado Fire burnover October 26, 2020. OCFA.

Very briefly, the firefighters were along an indirect mid-slope dozer line with fire below and unburned vegetation on both sides. They were firing out below the  line, igniting with drip torches until the wind kept blowing out the flames on the wicks, so they switched to using fusees. Several spot fires occurred on the slope above the dozer line which were suppressed by the crew. Another spot fire which grew rapidly about 80 feet above the line was attacked by eight firefighters with hand tools and three engine crew members with a fire hose.

Shortly thereafter, a second rapidly spreading spot fire started below and upwind of the eleven firefighters. They escaped from the area as best they could back down to the dozer line.

Escape routes Silverado Fire

Five hand crew members were impacted by radiant and convective heat, reporting singed hair, eyebrows, and eyelashes while stumbling out of the way of the second spot fire’s path. The remaining three hand crew members, according to the report, “were impacted significantly”.

The two most seriously injured personnel were transported with paramedics in an engine and a hand crew vehicle to Orange County Global Medical Center, arriving at 12:32 p.m. and 12:57 p.m.

There was no mention in the report of fire shelters, either being carried or deployed by the firefighters. We have unconfirmed information that they had fire shelters but there wasn’t enough time to deploy them.

The Silverado Fire burned 12,466 acres and destroyed 5 structures.

In 2007 in Orange County 12 firefighters on the Santiago Fire were entrapped and deployed fire shelters, but there were no serious injuries.

Silverado Fire map, October 28, 2020.
Silverado Fire map, October 28, 2020.

Overwhelming support for two firefighters injured at Silverado Fire in Southern California

How you can help

ICP for Silverado & Blue Ridge Fires
Incident Command Post for the Silverado & Blue Ridge Fires Oct. 29, 2020, by OCFA.

The fire family at Orange County Fire Authority is overwhelmed by the outpouring of support that people in the community are demonstrating for the two injured firefighters. The department has received numerous requests to help the injured men.

The OCFA Hand Crew Firefighters suffered severe burns on Monday, October 26 while battling the Silverado Fire. They remain intubated in critical condition with second and third degree burns over 50-65% of their bodies. Out of respect of the wishes of both families, no additional details are currently being shared on the condition of their sons.

For those who wish to help, there are two ways to make a monetary donation to support the costs associated with the long healing process of these burn victims, and to support their families:

Wildland Firefighter Foundation. You can choose “yes” to dedicate the donation as a gift to someone, then, for example, you can specify the two firefighters critically injured at the Silverado Fire.

Fallen Firefighters Relief Fund. Created October 28, 2020 by Orange County Local 3631 as a fundraiser “in support of two firefighters critically injured while protecting our community battling the Silverado Fire.”

If you would like to send cards or letters to support the two men and their families, here is the address:

Attn: Injured OCFA Hand Crew Firefighters
1 Fire Authority Road
Irvine, CA 92602

Firefighters burned at Silverado Fire are still hospitalized

They have second and third-degree burns

Silverado Fire dozers
A dozer working on the Silverado Fire not far from the heel of the fire near Dripping Springs Loop, at 11:18 a.m. PDT Monday October 26, 2020. NBCLA.

The two firefighters on an Orange County hand crew that were seriously injured Monday on the Silverado Fire in Southern California, suffering second and third degree burns, are still in critical condition. Their names have not been released. The firefighters were intubated when they were admitted to the hospital, but they are still fighting, Orange County Fire Authority Chief Brian Finnessy said Wednesday morning.

On Monday when the Chief first announced the incident he said they had been gravely injured.

“They were working near what we call the heel of the fire, where the fire started,” the Chief said then. “We don’t have any information about what occurred. We have requested an accident review team from the state to come in and do the investigation… I was with them when their families arrived. We are giving them all the support we can, not only through our chaplain program, but we have a very comprehensive peer behavioral health program.”

Wednesday I asked the Chief if there was an address to which we could send cards or letters to the firefighters and their families.

“The families would be so grateful to receive cards or letters,” the Chief said. “They are just now realizing how the fire and aviation family comes together during times like this.”

Here is the address:

Attn: Injured OCFA Hand Crew Firefighters
1 Fire Authority Road
Irvine, CA 92602

Even though we don’t know their names, let’s flood them with kindness, cards, and letters.

UPDATE October 30, 2020:

For those who wish to help, there are two ways to make a monetary donation to support the costs associated with the long healing process of these burn victims, and to support their families:

Wildland Firefighter Foundation. You can choose “yes” to dedicate the donation as a gift to someone, then, for example, you can specify the two firefighters critically injured at the Silverado Fire.

Fallen Firefighters Relief Fund. Created October 28, 2020 by Orange County Local 3631 as a fundraiser “in support of two firefighters critically injured while protecting our community battling the Silverado Fire.”

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.

Two firefighters injured on the Gold Fire east of Redding, California

Two large fires, the Hog and Gold Fires, are burning east of Redding, California

UPDATED at 4:37 p.m. PDT July 22, 2020

The information Wildfire Today received from CAL FIRE about the injuries to the two firefighters that were entrapped on the Gold Fire was that they had been treated at the Mercy Medical Clinic in Redding and released. It turns out that is not correct concerning at least one of them, according to a post by a family member on Facebook and reporting by ABC7 KRCR News.

Doctors were concerned about Chief Paul Lemke of the Adin Fire District who had second degree burns on his face, neck, and arms and experienced swelling, said his daughter. This convinced the doctors to fly him to the UC Davis Burn Center. The burnover occurred Monday July 20 and Chief Lemke was released from the burn center Tuesday “due to COVID and dad’s insisting”, his daughter wrote on Facebook. He will continue treatment at his home.

(To see all articles on Wildfire Today about the Gold Fire including the most recent, CLICK HERE.)

Below is an excerpt from an article at KRCR:

The other injured firefighter Craig Senseney said they had to deploy their fire shelters to shield themselves from the flames.

“We had to deploy, but what really saved us is, in all honesty, was our engine 47-22,. ” Senseney said. “if it wasn’t for it, we would never have gotten to a point where we were able to deploy safely and survive what happened.”

Chief  Lemke is affiliated with a local fire district, but Federal wildland firefighters are required to be treated at a certified Burn Center if one of eight criteria is met. Two of them are, (1)second degree burns to the face, hands, foot, genitalia, perineum, or major joints; or (2) inhalation injury is suspected. More information is in Chapter 7, page 178 of the January, 2020 edition of the “Red Book”  (Interagency Standards for Fire and Fire Aviation Operations).

During my EMT training I got a tour of the Burn Center at University Hospital in San Diego and saw some of the patients, some of whom had been there for weeks. It made a lasting impression. I vowed that I would never make a decision as a firefighter that could lead to someone being admitted to a Burn Center. It is one of the worst injuries a person can suffer.

Originally published at 5 p.m. PDT July 21, 2020

map Gold Fire Hog Fire east of Redding California wildfires
Map showing the approximate locations of the Gold and Hog Fires in northeast California. Both are about 80 air miles from Redding.

Two firefighters were injured Monday afternoon while fighting the Gold Fire about 80 miles east-northeast of Redding, California. Alisha Herring, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, said they were flown to Mercy Medical Clinic in Redding where they were treated and released the same day. The type, severity, and mechanism of injury were not identified. “I’m sure more with regards to the injury will come out, I just don’t have much more information than that at this time,” Ms. Herring said.

The Gold Fire and another incident in the area, the Hog Fire, are both about 80 miles east of Redding in Lassen County. Coordination and dispatching were affected Monday by a fiber optic cable that burned in the Gold Fire, creating communication difficulties with the CAL FIRE and interagency command centers in Susanville.

The Hog Fire was mapped Monday night at 8,004 acres. It is on both sides of Highway 44 about five miles west of Susanville and has crossed Highway 36. Resources assigned to the Hog Fire Monday night included 21 hand crews, 19 fire engines, 24 dozers, and 21 water tenders for a total of 664 personnel, which is a decrease of 953 personnel in 24 hours.

The Gold Fire is 40 miles north of the Hog Fire five miles south of the community of Adin. It was reported at 12:26 PDT July 20 near Highway 139  and quickly spread for at least eight miles to the southeast. At 10:15 Tuesday morning CAL FIRE said it is the result of two fires burning together and had blackened 4,600 acres. Evacuations are in effect and the strategy is full suppression. The Gold Fire is burning on the Modoc National Forest and land protected by the state. Monday night the resources assigned included 2 hand crews, 5 helicopters, 17 fire engines, 6 dozers, and 5 water tenders for a total of 152 personnel.

These two large wildfires in one CAL FIRE unit are presenting challenges for the suppression organizations. A report filed by firefighters on the Gold Fire Monday night said, “Statewide shortages of resources and competition with other incidents in the state will continue to hamper suppression efforts. Upcoming predicted lightning in the area may add new initial attack incidents.”

“I have not heard that, no,”Ms. Herring said when asked about a possible shortage of resources. “We’re constantly moving resources up and down the state to fulfill any resource needs, so I haven’t heard that.”

Hog Fire Susanville California wildfire 4-09 p.m. July 21, 2020
Hog Fire, looking northeast from Hamilton Mountain at 4:09 p.m. July 21, 2020.

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.