Firefighters on Kincade Fire prepare for Red Flag weather conditions

Two firefighters were burned Sunday

8:09 a.m. PDT October 29, 2019

map kincade fire California wildfire
Map showing in red the perimeter of the Kincade Fire at 12:49 a.m. PDT October 29, 2019. The white line was the approximate perimeter about 24 hours before. Click to enlarge.

On Monday the Kincade Fire grew a relatively small amount, all of it on the east and southeast sides. CAL FIRE reports that the official size is 75,415 acres. (see map above)

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

The weather on Monday gave firefighters the opportunity to make significant progress on the fire. But on Tuesday and Wednesday much of California is under a Red Flag Warning for strong winds and low humidity, including the Kincade Fire area.

Below is the National Weather Service forecast for wind and humidity near the fire at Geyserville. The wind barbs point to the direction the wind will be from. After 2 p.m. Tuesday the prediction is for 14 to 16 mph sustained winds out of the northeast with gusts of 21 to 33 until 4 a.m. Wednesday. The humidity will reach into the single digits and there will be no clouds or chance of precipitation.

Weather forecast Geyserville
Weather forecast for the Geyserville area October 29-30, 2019.

CAL FIRE reports that 57 homes and 5 commercial structures have been destroyed.

Resources assigned to the fire include 549 engines, 42 water tenders, 27 helicopters, 86 hand crews, and 66 dozers for a total of 4,548 personnel.

Many fixed wing air tankers have been used on the fire. The 747 Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) has been activated as well as four DC-10 VLATs. These and other tankers, such as the C-130, 737, BAe-146, RJ85, P-3, and MD87 are being used on CAL FIRE and U.S. Forest Service contracts throughout California as fires erupt. There could be more if needed, but the Forest Service has not awarded the Call When Needed contracts for backup air tankers that was first advertised 517 days ago. The eight C-130 military Modular Airborne Fire Fighting System, MAFFS, could also be activated.


7:14 a.m. PDT October 28, 2019

Strong northeast winds that continued Sunday pushed the Kincade Fire to Highway 101 south of Healdsburg, California. The map below indicates that the fire may have been stopped before entering the city.

Two firefighters were burned yesterday. CAL FIRE spokesperson Jonathan Cox said one firefighter with serious burn injuries was airlifted to University of California Davis Medical Center.

Sunday afternoon CAL FIRE reported that the fire had burned 54,298 acres, but an overnight mapping flight found that number had increased to nearly 80,000 acres. Approximately 94 structures have been destroyed and 17 damaged.

Continue reading “Firefighters on Kincade Fire prepare for Red Flag weather conditions”

Seven-hour extraction of injured firefighters by helicopter at night

Lesson Learned: “Be willing to turn down an assignment if evacuation of an injured person is not possible in a timely manner.”

Coast Guard Helicopter
From the report.

After one of their helicopters used a hoist to extract two seriously injured firefighters on the Middle Fire in Northern California, the Coast Guard issued a press release that read in part:

…The helicopter crew approached the extraction zone and made a high-altitude, tree-top hoist from 240 feet, the helicopter’s maximum hoist range. The injured firefighters were flown to Weaverville airport and transferred to emergency medical services.

“This rescue was extremely challenging due to the proximity to an active fire, the high elevation and the rugged terrain,” said Lieutenant Commander Derek Schramel, the pilot in command of the mission. “I’m very proud of how our crew worked together with our fire service and law enforcement partners in Trinity County to save these two men.”

The press release failed to mention that the injured firefighters were rescued and then delivered to two medical helicopters at Weaverville more than seven hours after the Coast Guard received the request for the mission.

We wrote about the hoist rescue on September 9, 2019.

Crew member firefighter with broken femur.
From the Rapid Lesson Sharing document.

On September 6, 2019 two firefighters were seriously injured by a rolling rock while working at night on the Middle Fire on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest in Northern California. One firefighter was knocked unconscious for 30 seconds due to a head injury. The rock also hit his neck and shoulder. The other firefighter had a very serious broken femur causing his leg to be twisted about 180 degrees.

(Download the Rapid Lesson Sharing report; 1.6 MB)

During this night shift the only resource on the fire was one contract Type 2 Initial Attack crew. The Crew Boss was the Incident Commander on the fire and had been on the Dutch Creek Fire in 2008 when Andrew Palmer was injured by a falling tree and bled to death. Mr. Palmer remained at the site for two hours while EMTs and fellow firefighters struggled to settle on and carry through a workable plan.

And, on the Iron 44 fire in 2008 the IC had been on the helicopter flight immediately before the crash of the overweight helicopter that killed nine firefighters and flight crew personnel.

The IC was thinking about the delay in extraction and a too heavy helicopter when the Coast Guard helicopter arrived over their fire at 2340 and the pilot said the ship was too heavy to extract personnel at 4,500 feet and would have to loiter to burn off fuel.

After flying for 90 minutes the pilot said the helicopter was still too heavy and would have to return to base to reconfigure. The crew was told that  only one firefighter could be extracted, so they moved the firefighter with the head and shoulder injuries to a different location. When the helicopter was en route back, the pilot told the IC to prepare both patients for extraction—they could take both after all, so the crew carried the second firefighter back to the hoist site.

The helicopter was back on scene sometime after 0300. The two firefighters were extracted and delivered to two waiting medical helicopters at Weaverville at 0350. The patients were flown to “Mercy Hospital” (or Mercy Medical Center in Redding which is about 35 miles from Weaverville).

Here is the time line, according to the Rapid Lesson Sharing report:

2100 — Two firefighters hit by a rock
2107 — The IC requested extraction of the victims by helicopter with hoist
2117 — The Coast Guard was called to request a helicopter
2252 — The Coast Guard accepted the mission
2340 — Coast Guard MH-65 Dolphin helicopter arrives at the fire. Pilot says the ship is too heavy to hoist, orbits for 90 minutes to burn off fuel, then still too heavy, flies back to reconfigure.
0300 — (approximately, or later), Coast Guard helicopter is back on scene
0350 — Coast Guard helicopter extracts then delivers the two firefighters to two waiting medical helicopters at Weaverville. They were then flown to a hospital or medical center.

The firefighters were lucky that at least there was a Coast Guard helicopter available to take on the mission, even though the injury-to-hospital-time was over seven hours.

To be fair, conducting a hoist rescue at night far from the coast at 4,500 feet above sea level is not a primary mission for the Coast Guard. But fighting fire in every kind of imaginable condition is routine for wildland firefighters. The Coast Guard, judging from this incident, is not prepared that kind of mission, but it is not uncommon for the wildland fire agencies to have to extract injured firefighters at night in remote, rugged terrain.

The U.S. Forest Service does not have in-house capability to use a helicopter to extract injured firefighters at night. Some of their contract helicopters are approved for and have a helitack crew that can perform short-haul operations during daylight hours.

One of the lessons learned that was identified in the report is:

Be willing to turn down an assignment if evacuation of an injured person is not possible in a timely manner.

Below is video of the hoists, shot from the Coast Guard helicopter.


Our opinion:

The federal and state agencies with major wildland fire programs need to develop the day and night capability to extract injured firefighters within one hour. Failure to do so is firefighting malpractice.

Oklahoma firefighter suffered severe burns after becoming entrapped

The firefighter was operating a UTV when it became disabled

Oklahoma Map EntrapmentOn September 12, 2019 an Oklahoma firefighter operating a UTV became entrapped during the initial attack of a wildfire in the southeast part of the state 24 miles northeast of Antlers.   The Oklahoma Forestry Services released the following preliminary information about the incident.


“On September 12, 2019 during initial attack efforts on the Jack Creek Fire, an Oklahoma Forestry Services firefighter from the Southeast Area / Antlers District was involved in an entrapment and subsequent burnover while scouting control line opportunities. The fire was burning in steep, rugged terrain dominated by dense pine forest with occasional hardwood glades. The firefighter was operating a UTV scouting logging roads for access and suppression opportunities when the UTV became disabled. The firefighters escape route was compromised when fire behavior increased due to the fire making an uphill run in the flashy understory fuels and crown fire in the canopy fuels. The firefighter did not deploy his fire shelter.

“The dispatch office requested an ambulance at the time of the incident while Oklahoma Forestry Services and local fire department personnel located the firefighter. The firefighter was transported to ground ambulance then transferred to air ambulance taking the firefighter to a burn center. The firefighter remains at the burn center and is being treated for second and third degree burns on >30% of his body with the most intense burns to his face and hands.

“An Incident Review Team has been assembled.”


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

Coast Guard helicopter uses hoist for night rescue of injured firefighters

It happened September 6 in Northern California

Coast Guard Hoist Rescue firefighters
Screengrab from the video below.

On the night of September 6 a Coast Guard helicopter conducted a hoist rescue of two firefighters that had been injured by a rolling rock while battling the Middle Fire in Northern California on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Press release from the Coast Guard:


The Coast Guard rescued two injured firefighters from a ridge near Canyon Creek in the Trinity Alps Wilderness Area early Friday morning.

At 9:14 p.m. Thursday the U. S. Forest Service requested the Coast Guard’s assistance with the rescue of two injured firefighters. The firefighters had been hit by falling rocks and reportedly sustained serious head, back and leg injuries while working in steep terrain on the Middle Fire.

MH-65 Dolphin helicopter Coast Guard
An MH-65 Dolphin helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Humboldt Bay. (Coast Guard file photo by Chief Petty Officer Brandyn Hill)

Coast Guard Sector Humboldt Bay launched an MH-65D Dolphin helicopter crew who flew to the area and located the injured firefighters within 10 yards of the fire line in a clearing that the fire crew on scene had cut in the forest to allow for an extraction. The helicopter crew approached the extraction zone and made a high-altitude, tree-top hoist from 240 feet, the helicopter’s maximum hoist range.

The injured firefighters were flown to Weaverville airport and transferred to emergency medical services.

“This rescue was extremely challenging due to the proximity to an active fire, the high elevation and the rugged terrain,” said Lieutenant Commander Derek Schramel, the pilot in command of the mission. “I’m very proud of how our crew worked together with our fire service and law enforcement partners in Trinity County to save these two men.”

If you’re having trouble viewing the video, you can see it on YouTube.

Kymkemp.com reports that the two firefighters worked for GFP Enterprises, a company that provides contract fire crews. According to Paul Asher, spokesman for the company, “One had a broken femur [on his] right leg. The other one had an injury not as bad to the shoulder area.”

The Middle Fire started September 5 and was listed at 223 acres on September 8, one of 26 fires on the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

Our Opinion:

These two firefighters were lucky that the Coast Guard helicopter was available for a hoist rescue at night. Too often that is not the case. The federal and state agencies with major wildland fire programs need to develop this capability on their own, either by contracting for it or developing it in-house. Few U.S. Forest Service helicopters can fly at night and very few if any have hoists, although some can perform short-haul operations during daylight hours. CAL FIRE has installed hoists on all of their state-owned helicopters and the new Firehawks they are purchasing will also have hoists and most likely will have have night-flying capability. Kudos to CAL FIRE for setting the example.

A firefighter injured at night in a remote area during the day or night should not have to depend on luck. They deserve to have extraction services by air available within an hour.

The article was edited September 10, 2019 to include the fact that some U.S. Forest Service helicopters can perform short-haul operations during daylight hours.

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

Firefighter seriously injured on wildfire in Okanogan County, Washington

video Spring Coulee Fire Okanogan County, Washington
The Spring Coulee Fire in Okanogan County, Washington, September 1, 2019. Screenshot from video by Okanogan County Emergency Management.

A firefighter suffered serious burns September 1, 2019 while working on a 142-acre fire near Spring Coulee Road in Okanogan County, Washington.

The information below is from Okanogan County Emergency Management, September 3:


Christian Johnson, Assistant Chief of the Okanogan Volunteer Fire Department, has suffered serious injuries while on the Spring Coulee Fire. He has second and third degree burns over 60% of his body.

Christian is currently in a medically-induced coma at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. They are trying to stabilize him so they can proceed with skin graft surgery. He will be looking at a minimum of 2-3 months in the ICU.

Christian has served his country as a sergeant in the Army, and was deployed with the Washington State National Guard from November 2003- May 2005 in Baghdad. He retired after 22 years of service and has volunteered for the Okanogan Fire Department for 20 years.

Christian is a selfless man, who is always willing to help those in need, and never asks for anything in return. We are now asking for your help to make this long journey a little easier for him and his family. Any amount of donations are greatly appreciated and will go towards helping the family with travel, housing, food, etc.

If anyone would like to make a donation, they may use the GO FUND ME account or make a donation to: Christian Johnson Donation Account at North Cascades Bank, PO Box 672, Okanogan WA 98840.

Christian Johnson
Christian Johnson, Assistant Chief of the Okanogan Volunteer Fire Department. Go Fund Me.

Below: Video of the Spring Coulee Fire in Okanogan County, Washington, September 1, 2019. Okanogan County Emergency Management.

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

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.