Helicopter crash, with injuries, starts fire, and rescuers are burned over

In addition to the personnel injured in the helicopter crash, two rescuers became victims

helicopter crash site
An overview of the crash site and the extraction point for the three victims. Photo from the report.

A report has been released for a helicopter crash in a very remote area of Nevada that started a fire, injured two passengers, and resulted in rescuers being burned over. It happened August 18, 2018 about 10 miles north of Battle Mountain.

One of the passengers called 911 on a cell phone at 1357:

We just got into a helicopter crash…three occupants, all of us are alive and managed to get out…started a big fire, fire is burning all around us right now…one of the guys hit his head pretty hard…you’re gonna have to get a helicopter, it’s the only way to get in here.

Adding to the complexity was the fact that several different agencies and organizations had various responsibilities: Lander County Dispatch, Battle Mountain Volunteer Fire Department, local EMS services, a medical helicopter, Elko Interagency Dispatch Center, and Central Nevada Interagency Dispatch Center.

As might be expected the complex communication chain between the victims and the actual emergency responders created some difficulties, including a delay in extracting the three personnel.

The Facilitated Learning Analysis does not speculate what caused the crash of the helicopter that was transporting two biologists on a chukar survey, but it started a fire, which was named Sheep Creek. The biologists and the pilot self-extracted, one of them with what appeared to be a serious head injury, and they all hiked up a steep slope to a flat bench where they awaited a helicopter. About two hours after the 911 call the three were evacuated from the scene by a firefighting helicopter that was on scene, and possibly also a medical helicopter. The report is not clear about this.

helicopter crash site
A closer view of the crash site. Photo from the report.

Meanwhile a volunteer fire department Type 4 engine that had responded in a search and rescue mode toward the crash site found that the condition of the road they were traveling on deteriorated from a 2-track road to a 4×4 trail, and finally ended. At that point the fire was closing in on their location. The rookie firefighter and the Fire Chief got out, and leaving their wildland fire personal protective gear in the truck, began to spray water around the vehicle.

From the report:

Within seconds, the fire was all around Pumper- 2. Both individuals were caught outside of the vehicle while trying to spray water. Neither had on their personal protective equipment (PPE) when the burnover occurred. The Chief stated, “We were in a rescue mission, so we had no PPE on.”

During the burnover, the firefighter jumped off the back of Pumper-2, started to run around the vehicle and then took refuge under Pumper-2. “I was burning and screaming and hunkered down underneath behind the rear tires.” After the burnover, the Chief yelled for the firefighter, whom he could not see anywhere. He eventually located the firefighter under Pumper-2.

After sustaining significant burns, both the Chief and firefighter got back into the vehicle, with the Chief driving, continuing down drainage. The fire was behind them as they continued driving through the black towards the bottom of the drainage. Pumper-2 drove through the bottom of the drainage over the rough terrain until getting stuck. Both individuals got out of the vehicle and proceeded to hike up the steep ridge until they got on top of the ridge to establish communications.

At 1646, Lander County Dispatch received a 911 call from the firefighter, who said he and the Chief had been burned. “We need help.” Dispatch was asking questions to establish a location, but the cell phone was breaking up. The firefighter said, “We might need a helicopter because we are on the ridge…in the black…wearing a red shirt and just uphill right of the engine.”

Suppression resources were actively engaged on the wildland fire during the burnover of the Pumper-2. The Incident Commander of the wildland fire was unaware that Pumper-2 was on the fire until well after the burnover occurred. The dispatch centers did not know the location of Pumper-2.

At 1745 the injured firefighters were located and extracted by the air medical and suppression helicopters to awaiting ground medical resources at Battle Mountain Airport. At about 1900, fixed-wing aircraft flew the injured firefighters to the University of Utah Burn Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The FLA points out a number of organizational and human issues that are worthy of consideration. One topic that was not thoroughly addressed in the report was the dispatchers and firefighting personnel at times did not know the exact location of the crash site or the victims, and were not aware that the engine was responding or it’s location following the injuries to the two firefighters.

Even when, eventually, the location of emergency responders will be able to be tracked on an incident, biologists and volunteer firefighters will probably be some of the last personnel to employ this capability on a routine basis.

Martin Fire grows to almost 400,000 acres

Above: screenshot from the video of the Martin Fire.

(UPDATED at 8:58 a.m. MDT July 9, 2018)

A new map of the rapidly growing Martin Fire in Northern Nevada reveals that it has exploded to 399,429 acres, according to the Incident Management Team. During an overnight fixed wing mapping flight some areas of light vegetation burned and then cooled, again making it difficult to fill in some of the holes where no heat was detected by the sensors.

The Martin Fire is 57 miles long, west to east.

map martin fire nevada
Map showing heat detected on the Martin Fire. The most current data was collected at 1 a.m. MDT July 9, 2018.
DC-10 drop retardant Martin Fire
A DC-10 makes a retardant drop on the Martin Fire. Photo uploaded to InciWeb June 6, 2018.

(UPDATED at 6:30 a.m. MDT July 9, 2018)

The incident management team has posted an updated map of the Martin Fire on InciWeb.


(UPDATED  at 6:50 p.m. MDT July 8, 2018)

According to satellite data acquired at 1:54 p.m. MDT Sunday the Martin Fire in Northern Nevada was extremely active at that time. It may have progressed over 20 miles during the previous 24 hours, reaching a total length of approximately 54 miles, west to east. At 1:54 p.m. it was 13 miles west of highway 11/226. Our very, very unofficial guestimate of the size at that time was about 380,000 acres. This is difficult to determine, because much of the vegetation that is burning is light, and can burn and then cool before the next infrared-sensing satellite overflight, occurring about every 12 hours. Our guess involved assuming some of the “unburned” holes had actually burned, but were undetectable by the satellite.

The map below shows approximately the same area as the one farther down dated July 7.

Martin Fire, July 7, 2018
Martin Fire, July 7, 2018.

(UPDATED at 2:21 MDT July 8, 2018)

InciWeb is saying the Martin Fire has burned 164,000 acres but this map puts it at over 239,000 acres.


(Originally published at 1:45 p.m MDT July 8, 2018)

The robotic cameras operated by the Nevada Seismological Lab  have scored again, capturing some great time-lapse video of the Martin Fire in Northern Nevada as pyrocumulus clouds are being created. The video was shot from 6 to 7 p.m. on July 7, 2018.

The Martin Fire has burned 164,000 acres according to InciWeb, and on Saturday it spread from Humboldt County into Elko County.

Martin Fire map Fire perimeter produced by the Incident Management Team. Text notations by Wildfire Today.

Satellite view of four wildfires in Idaho and Nevada

Above: Smoke from the Roosters Comb Fire was captured in a photo by the (non-operational) GOES-16 satellite at 7:30 p.m. MDT July 10, 2017.

(Originally published at 7:20 a.m. MDT July 11, 2017)

Four wildfires in northeast Nevada and southern Idaho are large enough that satellites are able, in some cases, to see the smoke and the blackened burned areas. These photos were taken late in the afternoon on Monday July 10.

The one putting up the most smoke Monday was the Roosters Comb Fire which as of Monday evening had burned approximately 25,000 acres in Nevada 17 miles northeast of Battle Mountain. It was reported at 9 p.m. Sunday July 9. The fire is spreading rapidly through grass, sagebrush, and pinyon-juniper.

smoke Roosters Comb fire Nevada Idaho
Four wildfires in Nevada and Idaho were photographed by a satellite Monday afternoon, July 10, 2017.

Farther to the east in Nevada is the Tabor Flats Fire 27 miles northeast of Elko close to Interstate 80. The reported size of this fire is also 25,000 acres. The fire behavior in the tall grass is described as “extreme, running, flanking, wind driven runs”.

In Idaho the Loveridge Fire has burned over 38,000 acres 18 miles south of Mountain Home. It was shown as contained in the Tuesday morning national situation report. The heat detected by the satellite in that area (shown as red dots) could either be from the Loveridge Fire or a new fire in the same area.

The Antelope Fire at Shoshone, Idaho just south of Interstate 84 has covered 29,500 acres. It is exhibiting extreme fire behavior with wind-driven runs.

Four wildfires in Reno area have burned about 115,000 acres

Limerick Fire
The Limerick Fire, 94 miles northeast of Reno. Photo posted to Inciweb July 5, 2017.

(Originally published at 10:09 a.m. MDT July 6, 2017)

Four large wildfires in the Reno/Sparks, Nevada area have burned a total of about 115,000 acres since the first ones started July 3.  Brook Chadwick’s Type 2 incident management team will be assuming command of the Earthstone, Truckee, and Winnemucca Ranch Fires.

Map four large wildfires Reno, Nevada
Map showing the four large wildfires in the Reno, Nevada Area, July 6, 2017. The red, yellow, and brown dots represent heat detected by a satellite. The red dots are the most recent. Click to enlarge.
wildfires Reno, Nevada area
Four large wildfires in the Reno, Nevada area. NIFC Situation Report July 6, 2017.

Earthstone Fire, 26,785 acres, just northeast of Reno/Sparks.

Information from Inciweb current as of about 8 p.m. MDT July 5, 2017:

“The Sierra Front Type 3 Incident Management Team assumed control of operations [presumably on Wednesday] and brought in additional resources, including two fire engine strike teams, to allow the releasing of some local fire crews to return to their home districts. A Type 2 Incident Management Team remains scheduled to assume command of the incident on Thursday morning.

Three additional fixed wing aircraft, including one Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT), made retardant drops today. Two Super Scooper air craft, requested from Alaska, are still on order and may arrive as early as Friday, bringing the total number of aircraft on the incident to 18.

Currently, there is no immediate threat to structures; however, residents of the Wadsworth area are encouraged to remain vigilant for the possibility of evacuation and complete their preparations as the head of the fire is now about 10 miles west of the town. Impacts to I-80 are expected in the vicinity of the USA Parkway within the next 24 hours.”

Truckee Fire, 70,546 acres, 28 miles northeast of Reno. Not much information is available, but it is exhibiting extreme fire behavior as it burns in brush and short grass in above normal temperatures and single-digit humidities.

Winnemucca Ranch Fire, 3,000 acres 8 miles north-northeast of Reno. Five structures have been destroyed on this fire and another 175 are threatened. Numerous animals and livestock have been evacuated along rural roads. The fire managers identified competition for firefighting resources as a problem.

Limerick Fire, 14,656 acres 94 miles northeast of Reno and 15 miles northeast of Lovelock. Two outbuildings have burned.

Information from Inciweb current as of about 9:40 a.m. MDT July 6, 2017:

“Firefighters stayed on the fire last night and were able to hold the fire line at the ridge to the south of Wright’s Canyon. Snow is still in the higher elevations and greener grass has helped keep the fire on the ridgetop.

Potential fire weather is predicted for the weekend and a structure protection group has been established as a contingency for active fire behavior.

Crews completed burn outs in the southeast corner of the fire yesterday and were able to connect containment lines to the dozer line near Golden Gate Hill. Crews will continue to secure fire line and begin mop up in the area near Couer Rochester Mine. Fire crews will continue to put in containment line on the eastern side of the fire working their way north.

Limerick Road is open to firefighter and mine traffic only.”

The maps below are forecasts for wildfire smoke at 5 p.m. MDT on Thursday.

wildfire smoke forecast
A forecast for wildfire smoke in the Pacific Southwest at 5 p.m. MDT July 6, 2017.

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wildfire smoke map
A forecast for wildfire smoke in the United States at 5 p.m. MDT July 6, 2017.