Oregon firefighter dies after returning from a fire

20-year-old Eric Aarseth passed away Monday, September 3, 2018.

Below is an excerpt from an article at KEZI.com posted September 3, 2018:


Springfield, Ore. — A Eugene wildland firefighter has died after he suffered irreversible brain damage after contracting pneumonia, which became septic.

The family of 20-year-old Eric Aarseth tells ABC News just a day after he came home last Monday [August 27] he was found unconscious in his apartment. Eric was taken to PeaceHealth Riverbend Hospital in Springfield. Eric’s family said they’ve made the difficult choice to take him off life support.

Kellie Mathews, a spokesperson for Miller Timber services, tells KEZI 9 Eric passed away Monday afternoon [September 3, 2018].

Eric worked for Miller Timber Service. Mathews said this was Eric’s first year as a firefighter and he battled the Garner Complex Fire in southern Oregon and the Horns Mountain Fire in Washington.

“We’re heartbroken for the family and friends of our firefighter, Eric Aarseth,” said Lee Miller, President of Miller Timber Services in a statement. “It’s devastating to lose any member of our team and Eric seemed to have found his passion and purpose on the fire line.”

“We take our responsibility to our firefighters seriously and I’m confident we did our best for Eric,” Miller said. “In order to ensure we continue to take good care of our employees, we plan to review our training and support materials, fire line resources, and protocols.”

(end of excerpt)


We send our sincere condolences to the friends, family, and co-workers of Mr. Aarseth.

Two water tender rollovers

One was on the Miles Fire in Oregon and the other was on the Ferguson Fire in California

Two water tenders rolled over while working on wildfires in California and Oregon earlier this month. According to the very brief Rapid Lesson Sharing reports filed with the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center, there were no serious injuries. No assumptions were made about the cause of either accident, and road conditions were not mentioned as being an issue.

The first occurred on the Ferguson Fire in California August 10, 2018. The brief report can be downloaded here.

water tender rollover Ferguson Fire California
August 10, 2018 rollover of a water tender on the Ferguson Fire in California. Photo from Rapid Lesson Sharing report.

The other rollover occurred two days later on August 12 on the Miles Fire in Oregon. (brief report)

water tender rollover Miles Fire Oregon
August 12, 2018 rollover of a water tender on the Miles Fire in Oregon. Photo from Rapid Lesson Sharing report.

This is one of 51 articles we have written on Wildfire Today about rollovers of vehicles on wildland fires. They occur far too often.

It is not always possible to point to a single cause of many of these sometimes fatal accidents. But challenges facing drivers of emergency vehicles on wildland fires include visibility due to smoke or dust, long hours leading to fatigue, low standard or inadequately maintained roads, distractions, skills needed to drive a large heavy vehicle, top-heavy vehicles, weights exceeding manufacturer’s GVW rating, and shifting of weight caused by partial loads of water in the tank.

Of the 440 fatalities on wildland fires from 1990 through 2014, 22 percent were related to vehicle accidents.

The Rapid Lesson Sharing report for the accident on the Miles Fire reached this conclusion:

Statistics show that the biggest risk to firefighters today is the mundane task of driving to and from the worksite. Often, the function of driving is accompanied by fatigue from the day’s events and thoughts of what is yet to come.

Water Tender operators are asked to drive large, heavy vehicles in variable conditions repeatedly for multiple operational shifts. Just like line firefighters, these professional drivers must fight fatigue and complacency from the beginning of an assignment to its end.

Watson Creek Fire spreads to within 6 miles of Paisley, Oregon

The fire has burned 32,104 acres

Above: Watson Creek Fire, August 19, 2018. Photo by Barry Shullanberger

(Originally published at 2:45 p.m. PDT August 21, 2018)

During the six days the Watson Creek Fire has been spreading through the Fremont-Winema National Forest in south-central Oregon it has burned 32,104 acres 6 miles southwest of Paisley. On Tuesday it was active along most of the perimeter, but grew substantially on the west and southeast sides.

Among the locations on the fire being worked on by firefighters Tuesday were the north flank, Slide Lake, and the 3360 and 3315 Roads around Hadley Butte. Firefighters are facing challenges of hazardous trees, snags, dead and down lodgepole pine, and difficult terrain.

3-D Map Watson Creek Fire
3-D map of the Watson Creek Fire, looking southwest, showing the perimeter (the red line) at 2:15 a.m. PDT August 21. The red shaded area represents intense heat at that time. Click to enlarge.

A thunderstorm Monday night generated a few lightning strikes east of the fire area. Rain with the storm over the fire aided firefighting efforts overnight. The temperature Tuesday will be milder with 20 to 30 percent relative humidity. Winds should be out of the north to northeast with afternoon gusts up to 15 mph with variable wind direction.

The evacuation order for the Lakeview Estates neighborhood just north of Campbell and Deadhorse Lakes in the Fremont-Winema National Forest is still in effect Tuesday.

Resources assigned to the fire include 15 hand crews, 34 fire engines, and 5 helicopters, for a total of 556 personnel.

Map Watson Creek Fire
Map of the Watson Creek Fire showing the perimeter (the red line) at 2:15 a.m. PDT August 21. The red shaded area represents intense heat at that time. Click to enlarge.

Fires grow in Oregon and Northern California

Above: This natural-color satellite image was collected on July 18, 2018. Actively burning areas, detected by thermal bands, are outlined in red. NASA image courtesy NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center Earth Science Data and Information System (ESDIS) project.

By Lynn Jenner, NASA

In Oregon there are 15 large ongoing fires and 231,278 acres have been burned as of August 20, 2018. The satellite image above shows several of the larger fires in both Oregon as well as California. California has 10 large fires including the two largest to date, the Ferguson fire and the Mendocino Complex. California has seen 716,276 acres burned this year.

In Oregon, the Taylor Creek and Klondike Fires are burning in the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. Both fires were started by lightning on July 15. These two fires were split into zones on Saturday, Aug. 18. The fires are now referred to as “Taylor Creek and Klondike East Fires,” managed by the Alaska Incident Management Team and the “Klondike West Fire” which is managed by California Interagency Incident Management Team 4. California Interagency was called in to continue with the aggressive fight to fully suppress the fire. That will allow the Alaska Incident Management Team to focus its effort on controlling the southeast corner of the fire that is directly threatening the communities of Selma and Cave Junction. As of the morning of Aug. 20, the Taylor Creek Fire is estimated 52,588 acres and is 79 percent contained. The Klondike Fire is estimated at 72,074 acres and is 28 percent contained.

The Miles Fire is the new name for the fire previously named the Sugar Pine. The Miles Fire and Sugar Pine fire have merged. On Sunday July 15, lightning started hundreds of fires across Southwest Oregon. The Miles fire has currently affected 47,015 and is 38% contained at present. Today some instability will swing into the area with the threat of some isolated showers or a thunderstorm. Continued smoke in the valleys will moderate daytime temperatures but will also continue to affect air quality for local communities.

The Watson Creek fire is currently burning on the Paisley Ranger District of the Fremont-Winema National Forest. It was discovered Wednesday, August 15 at 2:15 p.m. The fire is currently burning in heavy fuels, primarily dead and down lodge pole pine. This fire has burned 25,778 acres. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

In California, right on the Oregon/California line between Happy Camp, CA and Cave Junction, OR is the Natchez fire which has been burning since lightning struck on July 15, 2018. The 697 personnel assigned to the incident are working to implement suppression actions that will most effectively and safely limit fire growth. Currently 20,275 acres have burned and the fire is 70% contained. Fire area closures are in place on the Rogue River-Siskiyou and Klamath National Forests.

The Stone fire began on August 15 with a lightning strike. The current fire size 22,610 acres. Weather concerns for this fire include extremely dry conditions and low humidity. The fire was active last night and fire crews made great progress along the fire edge to control the fire spread and provide structure defense.

Update on Southwest Oregon fires

Here is a VERY brief update on the wildfires burning in Southwest Oregon.

On the map above the red dots are the most recent, representing heat detected by a satellite at 3:31 a.m. PDT July 28, 2018.

The area around Bend and Medford is under a Red Flag Warning Saturday for low relative humidity, gusty winds, and unstable atmospheric conditions.

Red Flag Warning
Red Flag Warning, July 28, 2018.
Red Flag Warning
Red Flag Warning, July 28, 2018.

Fires in Southwest Oregon were very active Sunday

Above: The map of Southwest Oregon shows heat on wildfires detected within the last week. The red dots are the most current.

(Originally published at 10 a.m. PDT July 23, 2018)

Firefighters in Southwest Oregon are still battling wildfires ignited by the lighting storms that passed across the state a week ago. The good news is they got a reprieve Sunday when additional lightning that was predicted didn’t show up.

Here is a brief summary of the fire situation in Oregon prepared by the Northwest Coordination Center Monday morning:

The warming and drying trend in Oregon will continue [Monday]. This trend is moving north into Washington. Smoke covered the Southwest Oregon fires through the morning [Sunday] and cleared out by early afternoon. As the smoke cleared, large fires in Southwest Oregon exhibited more active growth through the afternoon and into the evening.

Four Incident Management Teams are prepositioned in the Geographic Area and ready for assignments if needed: NW Team 7 (Knerr), NW Team 8 (Johnson), NW Team 10 (Lawson), and PNW Team 2 (Schulte).

The Garner Complex consists of six fires east of Cave Junction. Together they have burned over 11,000 acres. Sunday 50 Oregon National Guard personnel arrived to staff ten road blocks around the clock.

The 1,200-acre Timber Crater 6 Fire in Crater Lake National Park is one of several fires ignited by lightning in and around the Park July 15. On Monday the Incident Management Team described their situation:

With the number of new fires in the Northwest this week, firefighting resources are strained. However, the Timber Crater 6 Fire is being aggressively managed for full suppression, commensurate with values at risk and the overriding objective of public and firefighter safety.