There have been at least two vehicle accidents involving firefighters working on two of the Idaho megafires we reported on Thursday. Both of them involved single vehicles which through driver error left the road surface and went down an embankment. There were no reports of extremely serious injuries, however the driver on the Mustang Complex was transported to a hospital.
On that fire a Strike Team Leader was following his strike team of engines on a very dusty dirt road and lost visibility in the dust. His vehicle left the road and rolled over, ending up against a tree. From the Facilitated Learning Analysis:
…He doesn’t remember much else after a brief moment of panic. He recalls being pulled out of his pickup with people telling him he had rolled his vehicle and then he can remember being in the ambulance as he was transported to the hospital.
On the Trinity Ridge Fire a Line Safety Officer suddenly became very sleepy, possibly as a result of taking some over the counter medication for “the crud” before going to sleep the night before. He planned to pull into a campground just ahead to rest or sleep, but didn’t make it that far. His vehicle left the road and went down the embankment a few feet and impacted some trees. More information is in the Facilitated Learning Analysis.
We wish both of these firefighters a speedy recovery.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection has released a preliminary accident report, a “Green Sheet”, for an accident on the Pond fire in the northern part of the state, June 14, 2012 in Mendocino County. The dozer was privately owned and there were no injuries to the operator.
The fire occurred in an area of steep slopes, heavy fuels in a Wildland Urban Interface/Intermix setting. The fire was spotting in areas due to winds, steep slopes and receptive fuel beds.
As the dozer operator took action along the road, he observed the fire had extended below the road at a bend. The operator attempted to flank the fire and tie a dozer line in between the two road segments. The operator stated the visibility was very poor due to heavy smoke lying down in the area. The operator stated as he began to climb uphill to tie the line in, the slopes became very steep. Due to the steepness of the slope, the operator made three unsuccessful attempts to connect the line to the upper portion of the road.
On his third attempt to connect the line, the operator encountered a log in his path. As the operator attempted to move the log, his dozer slid perpendicular to the slope, reducing the dozer maneuverability. The operator then stated he attempted to make his way off the slope. As he moved down the slope, he encountered a soft spot of soil which caused him to slide a short distance downhill (approximately 10 feet). The operator stated the slide caused his downhill tracks to settle on a loose root wad mass. The operator said as he began to move the dozer the root wad mass acted like a fulcrum and flipped the dozer onto its side/top. The operator said he shut the dozer off and waited to ensure the dozer was done moving. Once he was confident it wasn’t moving any further, he released his seat belt and exited the dozer without any further incident.
The equipment operator self extricated himself from the dozer and did not complain of any injuries.
The dozer has a bent grab handle on the right side of the cab. No other cosmetic damage was noted. The extent of the mechanical damage has yet to be determined.
The Bureau of Indian Affairs has identified the firefighter that was killed in Friday’s vehicle accident as Engine Boss Anthony Polk, 31, of Yuma, Arizona.
We extend out sincere condolences to Mr. Polk’s family, friends, coworkers, and the BIA.
UPDATE at 9:29 a.m. MT, June 9, 2012
The incident management team has released some additional information about the fatal accident on Friday in which one firefighter was killed. The deceased was an employee of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and was one of three firefighters on a Type 6 engine when it rolled over. The firefighter was pronounced dead at the scene while the driver and another passenger were transported to the Sells hospital and later released. The accident happened on Federal Route 19, near milepost 22.
They expect to release the firefighter’s name later Saturday morning.
A firefighter working on a fire in Arizona was killed Friday morning in a vehicle accident. An engine crew that was driving to their assignment on the Montezuma fire was involved in a rollover. The accident occurred at 8:30 a.m. a spokesperson for the fire told Wildfire Today. One firefighter was killed and two suffered minor injuries. No other details are available at this time.
The Montezuma fire has burned about 1,700 acres in the Baboquivari Mountain Range on Tribal land 20 miles southeast of Sells, Arizona and is being managed by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. It is in steep terrain with heavy brush, making it difficult for crews to directly suppress the fire. According to a report from the scene, helicopters and fixed wing aircraft have been the only means of suppression.
Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of the firefighters involved.
The Red Flag Warning for Tuesday proved not to be a false alarm, as early season wildfires burned yesterday in Montana, Colorado, and South Dakota.
These two photos are of a fire that burned approximately 300 acres in Larimer County, Colorado (map) near Fort Collins. A relative humidity of 9% and winds gusting up to 25 mph challenged firefighters who successfully protected homes in the area.
In Montana, a firefighter was injured Wednesday morning when a water tender rolled over at 7:45 a.m. on Ryan Dam Road near Great Falls. The firefighter was transported to a hospital by helicopter. The extent of the injuries was not immediately known. The now contained fire, which started Tuesday afternoon, burned about 7,000 acres but stalled at the Missouri River. Reports are that strong winds broke a power pole, starting the fire. Another firefighter was treated at a hospital for smoke inhalation.
On Tuesday, winds gusting up to 50 mph created dust storms, snapped power poles, and pushed several fires in the north-central and south-central parts of Montana.
A fire in Blaine and Hill counties between Havre (map) and Chinook, Montana burned between 5,000 and 7,000 acres before it was contained by the firefighters on the 40 engines that responded.
Another fire north of Great Falls forced the evacuation of approximately 200 people, and smoke from the fire contributed to two multiple car accidents on U.S. Highway 87 which involved a total of 11 vehicles.
Here is an excerpt from an article in the Great Falls Tribune:
James Tilman, a FedEx Ground driver who runs a route to Havre and back each day, came through the area at its worst.
He said the wind was blowing so fiercely that it nearly tipped over his delivery vehicle.
He pulled over when a Montana Highway Patrol vehicle came through with its lights flashing.
He said he saw a vehicle that had its front end crushed in up to the windshield and a pickup out in the field. He also saw another wreck on the other side of the road.
While he was pulled over, a car slowed down and was rear-ended by another vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed, according to Tilman. That created a domino effect involving multiple vehicles, he said.
The Mountain fire near Elk Mountain west of Custer started at 6:15 p.m. on Tuesday and burned about 30 acres of private land. The fire is contained and is being mopped up by three engines today, according to Beth Hermanson, spokesperson for the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression.
The Skyline fire east of Custer off Highway 16a burned 1/4 acre and destroyed a shed.
A third fire fire southwest of Interior burned about 20 acres. According to the Rapid City Journal it started from an escaped controlled burn on private land.
In the South Dakota Black Hills a single-engine air tanker, an air attack platform, and a National Guard Blackhawk helicopter are available during this period of high fire danger. Thanks go out to LM, Christian, and Al
Three firefighters from the Farmington (Utah) Fire Department were injured Wednesday night when their 22,000-pound military surplus vehicle rolled 70 feet down an embankment during what the department said was driver training. According to the Salt Lake Tribune, one firefighter was flown to a hospital and remained there Thursday with head injuries. The other two were transported by ground ambulance. One of them was released from the hospital Thursday morning.
The fire department, which is north of Salt Lake City, Utah (map) had just acquired the truck and planned to convert it into a water tender to be used on wildfires. At 9 p.m. the three firefighters were training to drive the truck in conditions they might find on a fire, and were on an unimproved narrow road. The driver failed to negotiate a tight turn and the truck went off the road, rolling three or four times as it tumbled down an embankment, ending up on it’s side. Two of the firefighters were ejected, in spite of wearing seat belts, which were the old lap belt style without shoulder restraints.
Nine U. S. Forest Service firefighters were injured when their crew carrier crashed in southern California Monday night. Nathan Judy, a USFS public information officer, said seven were taken to area hospitals, treated, then released. Two had to be extricated from the truck and were flown to USC University Hospital in Los Angeles. Judy said they were being held for observation with injuries that were not life-threatening.
According to NBC in Los Angeles he accident happened at about 9:30 p.m. PT as the crew was returning from working on a brush clearance project in the Littlerock area of the Antelope Valley near Palmdale.
The Associated Press reported that authorities said the driver of the crew carrier swerved to avoid hitting a dog and lost control. The truck rolled over a 15-foot an embankment, landing on its side.