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.
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.
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
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.”
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.
In addition to the rollover of a fire truck on December 19 in New South Wales that killed two firefighters and injured three, in a separate incident the same day five firefighters were entrapped by fire, injuring three firefighters. Two males, age 36 and 56, were airlifted to a hospital after suffering face, airway, and other burns.
“Given the serious potential for airway burns, the advice is… they’ll be intubated,” said New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons
A third person, a 28-year-old female, was transported by ground ambulance after suffering smoke inhalation and less severe burns.
Both incidents occurred on the Green Wattle Creek Bushfire in the Lake Burragorang area. The fire is more than 176,000 hectares (435,000 acres) in size and is out of control.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Karl. Typos or errors, report them 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.
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.
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.