UPDATE at 11:35 a.m. MT, June 7, 2012: A ninth firefighter has unfortunately died. (Reported by Chuck Bushey of the IAWF and by the Russian media company ITAR-TASS from a Rosleskhoz Federal Forestry Agency source.)
Russian authorities announced on June 7 that eight smokejumpers were entrapped and killed in a wildfire in southern Siberia. The eight jumpers were part of a team of 14 that parachuted into the fire. The other six managed to escape from unexpected fire behavior thought to be caused by a wind shift. One was admitted to a hospital with serious burn injuries.
The BBC reported that authorities have opened a criminal negligence investigation into the incident.
The Country Fire Authority (CFA) in the Australian state of Victoria is leasing five air tankers and one “bird dog” aircraft from a Canadian company for the down under summer fire season. Two CV-580 air tankers, three single engine Air Tractor 802’s, and a Turbo Commander 690 bird dog are being provided by Conair in what the CFA is considering a trial of the larger air tankers.
The CV-580 has been used in Canada for a decade, but this is believed to be the first time they have seen action in Australia. The aircraft can carry up to 2,100 U.S. gallons and has a top speed of 310 mph.
A group of Canadian pilots and mechanics flew across the Pacific with the planes in early December, stopping to refuel at several islands along the way. The aircraft will be based at Avalon, Victoria (map) for the fire season.
The Canadian air tankers will join the three Erickson Air-Crane helicopters, Elvis, Elsie, and Marty, which are also leased for the next several months.
This video shows the CFA testing the CV-580’s at the Avalon Airfield in early February, 2011.
The video below, posted on YouTube in 2007, shows CV-580’s in action, dropping on numerous fires in British Columbia.
In what we called the “Siege of ’08”, four CV-580’s were sent from Canada to assist with the hundreds of wildfires that were started by a massive lighting barrage in northern California.
While we’re on the subject of air tankers, the richard-seaman.com web site has dozens of excellent photos of mostly amphibious aircraft that were taken at an air show in 2006, the Gidroaviasalon (“hydro-aviation exhibition”) held at the Beriev test center near Gelendzhik on the Russian Black Sea. Here is a very impressive photo of the two Russian-made amphibious air tankers flying in formation. The upper one is the Be-200, and the other is the A-42 Albatross. The site also has several other photos of these two air tankers operating at the air show.
At Wildfire Today we try to keep track of the line of duty deaths (LODD) of firefighters working on wildland fires. The past year, 2010, again produced a lengthy list of firefighters who passed away while doing their job. We make no claim that it is a complete or official tally. If you are aware of any that we missed, let us know. Some of the dates are approximate and may be the date of the report of the fatality. The last three incidents are gray areas, in that the victims were not all firefighters, or were not necessarily actively involved in fire suppression at the time of the incident. They were included because they were very significant incidents.
At the end of the list is a report from the U.S. Fire Administration providing their statistics on the number of LODDs for 2010.
January 11. Australia. A firefighter was killed and four others were injured when their fire truck rolled over while they were responding to a grass fire at Lake Mokoan near Benalla in northeast Victoria, Australia. (map)
April 11. Kansas. A firefighter was overcome by smoke and died while working on a fire west of Peru.
April 24. New Brunswick, Canada. A pilot from Grand Falls, with Forest Protection Ltd., was conducting a practice flight in a water bomber when the plane crashed shortly after taking off from the airport.
June 23. Washington. The chief of the Franklin Fire District 4 in Basin City, Washington, was killed when a snow cat that had been converted to a fire apparatus rolled about 100 feet down a hill while he was working on a vegetation fire.
July 30. Russia. Wildfires in Russia killed at least 25 people including 2 firefighters, and destroyed over 1,000 homes. Some reports say three firefighters died in the fires.
July 31. Canada. An air tanker crashed while working on a fire in British Columbia. The Convair 580, operated by Conair, went down in central B.C. The two pilots were killed.
August 2. Arkansas. A firefighter was operating an Arkansas Forestry Commission 2002 International tractor trailer, and was en route to check on the status of an earlier fire. The tractor trailer load reportedly shifted causing the vehicle to cross the roadway center line, go into a ditch and then overturn.
August 11. Portugal. Civil protection officials said a female firefighter died, one fireman was badly burned and their team had to be evacuated when they found themselves surrounded by flames after a sudden change in the direction of the wind in Gondomar region. On Monday, a fireman was killed and another seriously injured when their truck fell into a burning ravine in the mountainous Sao Pedro do Sul area.
August 13. Spain. Two firefighters were been killed in wildfires. The blazes hit near the village of Fornelos de Montes in the country’s northwestern Galicia region, close to the border with Portugal, where several forest fires are still raging.
September 21. Spain. A 46-year old firefighter died while extinguishing a wildfire in Senes.
September 24. Ohio. A firefighter was killed when a pressurized tank failed and he was struck by debris.
September 24. Virginia. A firefighter collapsed and later died while working on a fire in New Church, Virginia off Route 13.
November 16. South Carolina. A firefighter was suppressing a grass fire in the median of Interstate 20 when a van rear-ended a sedan as they approached the fire scene. The sedan was pushed into two parked fire trucks causing them to crash into a firefighter, causing his death.
November 23. California. One inmate was killed and 12 were injured when their crew carrier vehicle was involved in a head-on accident. Three of the injured were in critical condition. The elderly driver of the other vehicle was also killed. As far as we know the inmate crew was not assigned to a fire at the time of the crash.
December 5. China. A massive wildfire in Tibet’s Sichuan province killed 22 people, including Chinese soldiers during a rescue operation. Of the 22 killed, 15 were soldiers, two were workers with the grassland administration, and five others were local civilians.
December 6. Israel. At least one of the 43 government employees that were killed in the Carmel Mountain fire in Israel was a police officer. The Police Chief in Haifa (Israel) died in the Line of Duty from her burn injuries after 4 days of hospitalization. She was the first ever woman police chief there, and was gravely injured in the Carmel forest fire, while driving along with the bus full of Prison Service cadets that burned and killed the cadets as well.
Below is the The U.S. Fire Administration’s report of the on-duty firefighter fatalities in 2010. Click on FullScreen to see a larger version.
Vote on the most significant wildland fire stories of 2010
As we documented earlier this month, the 2010 wildland fire season, when measured by the acres burned in the 49 states outside Alaska, was the slowest since 2004. But in spite of that, there has been significant news about wildland fire. In fact, we posted over 670 articles this year.
Continuing that tradition, below we have listed the top stories of 2010. The line of duty fatalities are not listed unless there was an unusual spin-off story associated with the fatality. Below the list, there is a poll where YOU can let us know which stories you feel are the most significant of 2010.
Top wildfire stories of 2010
Jan. 8: The National Park Service released the report on the August, 2009 Big Meadow escaped prescribed fire in Yosemite National Park. The fire blackened 7,425 acres before being controlled by 1,300 firefighters at a cost over $15 million. It became the eighth largest fire in California in 2009.
Aug. 26: In spite of weather forecasts that would have alarmed most fire managers, the Helena National Forest in Montana ignited the Davis prescribed fire during a near record heat wave. The fire escaped and burned 2,800 acres. The report was released in November. The Forest Supervisor said the report did not point out “something clearly that we did wrong, done incorrectly or that we’re going to make big changes on”.
Sep. 6: The Fourmile Canyon fire burned 6,200 acres and 169 homes a few miles west of Boulder, Colorado. The fire was devastating to local fire districts within the burned perimeter in several ways, including the facts that a firefighter’s burn pile escaped and started the fire, the homes of 12 firefighters burned, and one fire station and an engine inside it burned.
Sep. 21: The Commander of the Utah Army National Guard assumed responsibility and apologized for the Machine Gun fire that burned 4,346 acres and three homes near Herriman, Utah. The fire started during target practice with a machine gun at a National Guard base.
Oct. 13: The US Forest Service’s response to the 2009 Station fire is criticized, and Congress holds hearing in Pasadena, CA about the management of the fire, which burned 160,000 acres near Los Angeles.
Dec. 7: NTSB holds a meeting about the helicopter crash on the Iron Complex fire in northern California in which nine firefighters and crew members died. Much of the blame was attributed to falsified helicopter performance documents supplied by Carson Helicopters when they applied for a contract with the U.S. Forest Service. Carson and the surviving co-pilot dispute that conclusion.
Honorable mention stories (not exactly top stories, but interesting; they are not part of the poll).
May 11:NWCG outlaws the use of some terms, including “appropriate management response” and “wildland fire use”.
Jun. 20: It was not a wildland fire, but every firefighter can relate to some of the problems encountered when a kinked fire hose and improper procedures delayed the rescue of IndyCar driver Simona de Silvestro from her burning race car which crashed at Texas Motor Speedway.
Feel free to leave a comment (or “response”) explaining your choices, or to discuss other news items that did not make the list.
We just found out about this incident that occurred in Portugal. From Wikinews:
The Russian Beriev 200 [air tanker] leased to the Portuguese Government suffered an accident last Thursday (July 6, 2006) afternoon, after one of its engines was damaged.
The accident occurred after a refueling operation at the dam of Aguieira, near Santa Comba Dão. As the aerial firefighting aircraft took off at the end of the refueling maneuver in the water – designated as ‘scooping’ – its “left wing hit the top of the trees and the aircraft suffered some damage” to its fuselage, said Colonel Anacleto dos Santos, director of the Cabinet of Prevention and Investigation of Accidents with Aircraft (GPIAA), to the Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manhã.
While hitting the top of the trees, leaves and some wood entered the left engine, which didn’t blow up, but that had to be turned off and the pilot was forced to release fuel for safety reasons. The release of the fuel started small wildfires across the area, reaching some houses, which were quickly extinguished by firefighters and helitack units of the GNR’s Intervention, Protection and Rescue Group. The airplane was able to do an emergency landing at the Monte Real Air Base, where it’s currently operating from, thanks to the flight experience of one of the Russian pilots. When contacted by the Lusa news agency, National Service of Firefighters and Civil Protection, vice-president Lieutenant-Colonel Joaquim Leitão explained that the repairs will be made by the aircraft company and that all the parts necessary to repair the damages will have to come from Russia, by which the solution for the problem will take “some days”.