Report issued on one of the devastating fires near Athens, Greece

Greece wildfire July 2018

A report has been issued about one of the wildfires that recently burned into populated areas in Greece (covered by Wildfire Today here). The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens distributed the document in their Newsletter of Environmental, Disaster, and Crisis Management Strategies.

The fire started July 23, 2018 near the community of Kallitehnoupolis on Penteli Mountain, approximately 20km (12 miles) northeast of Athens and 5.6 km (3.5 miles) west of the Aegean Sea. With the extreme weather conditions it spread quickly east to Kallitechnoulopis, Neos Voutzas, Rafina, and reached Mati where it finally stopped at the coast.

The Fire Service responded, sending 60 personnel in  24 vehicles, 2 ground forces teams, 3 Canadair scooping air tankers, and a helicopter.

Pushed by strong winds out of the west the fire ran 5.6 km (3.5 miles) in about 90 minutes, moving through a densely populated area frequented by tourists.

From the report:

The aftermath is tragic. The fire burned approximately 1,276 ha (3,153 acres), estimated from satellite data. Within the area, there are approximately 1,220 totally destroyed buildings (according to official inspections) and 305 burned vehicles. The days following the event, the authorities recovered at least 91 bodies from the scene (updated July 31, 2018 at 11.00am). Several missing persons were reported and tens of injured (approximately 200 at some point) were transferred to nearby hospitals.

The wind speeds recorded by a network of weather stations were the highest seen during the summer months in the last eight years, with gusts of 100 to 120 km/hour (62 to 74 mph).

The rapid spread of the fire and with little effective notification, the residents and tourists in the communities in its path and the densely populated city of Mati had little chance to escape. The report said, “The population had almost zero time between risk awareness and reaction decision”.

Greece wildfire July 2018Many got in their vehicles and drove away from the blaze toward the coast. They encountered urban planning, or the lack of it, that included narrow streets, numerous dead ends, elongated blocks without the possibility of lateral escape, and the absence of areas that could serve as safety zones. The visiting tourists who were often not very familiar with the layout of the streets were at a particular disadvantage. The low visibility due to the smoke was another challenge. Continue reading “Report issued on one of the devastating fires near Athens, Greece”

Report released for entrapments on Horse Park Fire

Above: photo from the report.

Additional information has been released about the entrapments that occurred on the Horse Park Fire May 27 in a remote area of Southwest Colorado. Earlier we posted two videos that were shot when firefighters hurriedly retreated as the fire advanced, plus information from a “72-hour report”.

Now a 56-page Facilitated Learning Analysis and a 12-minute video are available that break down the incident in even more detail.

To very briefly summarize what happened, while scouting a road for a potential burnout operation, a hotshot crew superintendent and foreman encounter a wall of flames and attempt to retreat. Their truck becomes stuck, forcing them to flee on foot, narrowly escaping the rapidly advancing fire front. Just as they reach safety, they learn that their crew lookout is missing. After nearly 40 agonizing minutes, the lead plane pilot locates her after she ignited an escape fire. It is a compelling story, which is pretty well summed up in this video.

The 56-page report only has one recommendation:Recommendation horse park fire

More information released about near miss on Horse Park Fire

Above: The truck that became stuck as the driver attempted to turn it around. The report describes it as “fire damaged”. Photo from the report.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management have released more details about the near miss that occurred on the Horse Park Fire May 27 in a remote area of Southwest Colorado. The report disclosed that in addition to the two firefighters that had to flee from a stuck truck, a lookout in another location also fled on foot and ignited an escape fire at a potential fire shelter deployment site as the fire approached. According to the information released there were no injuries.

Below is the narrative from the “72 Hour Preliminary Report”:


“Two crew members were scouting a road for a potential burnout operation when their truck became stuck. They were unable to free the truck before the fire began to overtake them. The crewmembers made the decision to abandon the truck and take their gear with them. They fled back down the road and away from the fire. One crew member ran ahead and made it safely back to the other vehicles. The other crew member dropped his pack, keeping his fire shelter and radio with him. An additional crew member came up the road on a UTV to help him escape. The pair drove to the parking area where the other crew members were waiting in the vehicles.

“Meanwhile, the crew lookout was forced to flee from the lookout position by the same advance of the fire. Given the fire behavior, the lookout did not feel it was possible to outpace the fire and make it back to the vehicles, so instead moved down and away from the fire. The lookout dropped their pack, but kept the fire shelter, a tool, and radio. At some point during the escape, the lookout realized that the antennae was no longer attached to the radio and there was no way to communicate with the crew or other resources. After moving a considerable distance down a drainage, the lookout found a grassy spot that appeared suitable to deploy a shelter, and began lighting the fuels in the area. Before deployment was necessary, aerial resources located the lookout, who was picked up and flown back to the parking area to rejoin the crew.

“There were no injuries as a result of this incident. An Interagency FLA team, is in place and reviewing the incident.”

firefighter's burned pack Horse Park Fire
A firefighter’s burned pack. Photo from the report.

Videos recorded during the incident show firefighters hurriedly moving to safety while a radio conversation can be heard referring to the firefighters who escaped and the vehicle that was damaged.

All articles on Wildfire Today about the Horse Park Fire.

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

After action report completed for last year’s wildfires near Hutchinson, Kansas

Above: Wildfires detected by a satellite March 7, 2017 in the Hutchinson, KS and Enid, OK area. NASA.

Reno County in Kansas has completed an after action report (AAR) regarding the wildfires that occurred in March, 2017. One of the largest blazes was north of Hutchinson, which is about 40 air miles northwest of Wichita. While those fires were active, hundreds of thousands of acres were also burning around the Texas/Oklahoma panhandle/Kansas border area.

Before we get into the AAR, one thing to keep in mind about Kansas, which we covered April 2, 2017, is that according to the Wichita Eagle:

The state’s forest service is the smallest and lowest funded of any in the country – which puts people and property in danger. Consider the difference in resources and responses between Kansas and Oklahoma:
–The Kansas Forest Service budget in 2016 was about $3 million, with $1 million dedicated to fire service; Oklahoma’s budget was $15 million, with $8 million for fire service.
–The Kansas Forest Service has three trucks and four employees dedicated to firefighting and fire prevention; Oklahoma has 47 fire engines, 47 bulldozers and 84 firefighters.

The AAR was compiled by Deputy Fire Chief Doug Hanen, with the assistance of Emergency Management Director Adam Weishaar and Sheriff Randy Henderson. The 30-page report concluded that generally the work performed on the fires by numerous agencies was positive and commendable, but there was room for improvement.

Here are some of the highlights of the review:

  • There is a need for smaller fire apparatus that can get into areas not accessible by 6-by-6 military surplus engines.
  • A Polaris side-by-side UTV  holding 75 gallons was very useful for mop up, especially in wet areas. They hope to obtain at least one more.
  • On days with a Red Flag Warning, they will now immediately dispatch at least three brush engines.
  • In order to help manage the span of control, the Hutchinson Fire Department will organize resources into Task Forces comprised of three brush engines, one water tender, and a Task Force Leader.
  • The firefighters in Reno County for the last two years have increasingly used backfire and burnout tactics, and more engines are carrying drip torches.
  • The Hutchinson Fire Department became the first fully-paid department in Kansas to have all of their firefighters red carded. This will enable them to send resources out of the state, for example, to Colorado or California.
  • The Kansas State Incident Management Team provided assistance for a day, but they “seemed overwhelmed by a moving event,” were “inexperienced…in essential positions”, and lacked accountability. At the end of the day the Team left. The state has since reorganized the program, placing teams under the Kansas Department of Emergency Management enabling them to respond nationwide instead of just in Kansas.
  • Toward the end of the fire siege a Type 2 Incident Management Team was called in. The difference between that team and the previous State Team was “night and day”. Local officials learned a lot from the Type 2 Team, especially how to re-populate areas following an evacuation and in dealing with victims following an incident.
  • There are opportunities for better and more timely communication and coordination with the public and the media.
  • The report suggests better guidelines for managing length of first responders’ shifts on wildfires and their rehabilitation in order to reduce exhaustion.

After Action Review of the Chimney Tops 2 Fire

Chimney Tops 2 fire AAR report

An After Action Review has been released for the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that spread from Great Smoky Mountains National Park into the city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee a little over a year ago killing 14 people, forcing 14,000 to evacuate, destroying or damaging 2,500 structures, and burning 17,000 acres. The AAR, completed by ABS Group, was commissioned by Gatlinburg and Sevier County.

You can download the large pdf file (2.8 MB) HERE.

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

Engine rollover on Hauser Road

There were two minor injuries among the three-person crew

Above: photo from the report.

(Originally published at 4:40 p.m. November 27, 2017)

An engine carrying three wildland firefighters slid off a muddy road September 12, 2017 and rolled over two-and-a-half times when they were returning from a smoke check. Considering the violent accident, the injuries were minor — a laceration on one person and a broken rib on another.

The report released by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center does not specify where the the rollover occurred, except that the crew was returning to Montrose, Colorado, an investigator came from Grand Junction, and it also mentioned a couple of landmarks, if true, that are known only to locals, such as Hauser Road.

The truck was a U.S. Forest Service Ford F-550 configured as a Type 6 engine which sustained major damage. The roof partially collapsed, crushing some of the side windows:

…the crew barely had enough room to crawl out the opening with metal scraping against their backs and stomachs.

The damage to the truck and the injuries to the firefighters might have been worse if the truck had not had the “Rear Cab Protection Rack (headache rack)”, a structure behind the cab. But apparently it did not have a full cab roll bar. (UPDATE November 30, 2017: the report lists the headache rack under “What went well”, but does not elaborate. These structures are designed to hold lights and to prevent cargo from sliding forward through the rear window, but should not be expected to provide serious protection during a rollover. We added the next photo that was included in the report, which offered no caption or explanation. It is unknown if it shows the engine involved in the rollover.)

Headache Rack
Headache rack, intended to provide a location to install lights, and to prevent cargo from sliding forward through the rear window.
fire engine accident rollover colorado
Photo from the report.

Below is an excerpt from the report; it begins as the truck was sliding on the muddy road:

Engine 36’s passenger-side front wheel slid toward the edge. Everyone braced for the expected bump into the lip of the road. However nothing was there to slow the engine’s slide to the right and the front wheel went off the road, followed by the rest of Engine 36.

The engine violently rolled two-and-a-half times down the embankment, gaining speed with each rotation. “When will this end!” the Engine Captain thought to himself as glass shattered, metal crumpled and screeched, and the world spun end over end.

Engine 36 came to rest on its roof, braced against large trunks of oak brush. Everything in the cab came to a stop. A muffled and intermittently eerie buzzing came from the horn. Water hissed. As the crew steadied themselves, calling out to check the status of each other, a loud “pop” from the roof was heard.

As they felt the vehicle’s cab start to give a little bit, the decision was made to exit as quickly as possible. The curtain airbags were still partially inflated. Captain 36 had to deflate them with his personal knife. Exiting out the passenger side window, the crew barely had enough room to crawl out the opening with metal scraping against their backs and stomachs.

There has been an epidemic of wildland fire engine rollovers. This is the 48th article on Wildfire Today tagged “rollover”.

We still stand behind what we wrote in a 2015 article about the many firefighter fatalities from rollovers:

The wildland fire agencies should fund research conducted by engineers to determine how to prevent the passenger compartments in their fire engines from collapsing in accidents.