Little Tujunga Hotshots spotted in Tennessee

Little Tujunga Hotshots eastern Tennessee
Little Tujunga Hotshots in eastern Tennessee. Screenshot from WJHL video.

The Little Tujunga Hotshots are about 2,000 miles away from their southern California home on the Angeles National Forest. The crew is staged on the Cherokee National Forest in eastern Tennessee due to the high wildland fire danger in the area.

Dolly Parton’s foundation gives $200,000 to fire departments affected by 2016 Gatlinburg wildfires

Dolly Parton donation fire departments
L to R: Pete Kilman, Marvin Rolen, Tim Baker, John Satterfield, Heidi Satterfield, Dolly Parton, Joe Fields, Stephen Walley, Chris Young, Tony Patty, John Linsenbigler. Photo: Curtis Hilbun.

About 48 hours after the Chimney Tops 2 Fire spread from Great Smoky Mountains National Park into Gatlinburg, Tennessee November 28, 2016 burning 2,400 structures and 17,000 acres, country music artist Dolly Parton established the My People Fund.

In the weeks and months that followed, the fund provided $1,000 each month for six months to Sevier County families whose homes were uninhabitable or were completely destroyed in that fire and a few others that burned at the same. Any family that lost their primary residence (renters and homeowners) due to the wildfires in the county were eligible. Thanks to a tremendous outpouring of donations, the final distribution checks were $5,000 per family.

As if that were not enough, Ms. Parton continued with the generosity on March 16, 2019 when she met with the Fire Chiefs of the fire departments in Sevier County. In recognition of their roles in fighting the fires of 2016, the My People Fund donated the remaining dollars in the account — $20,000 to each volunteer fire department and $40,000 to their area training center.

Mom dies after saving son from falling tree in National Park

Falling trees caused 18 fatalities of wildland firefighters between 1990 and 2014 but it’s not supposed to happen to visitors in National Parks.

While a family was hiking on a trail in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee on December 27 part of a tree fell killing the mother, Laila Jiwani, a 42-year-old pediatrician from Plano, Texas and injuring her 6-year-old son.

Below is an excerpt from an article at Knox News:

Her husband, Taufiq Jiwani, said Jiwani died “immediately upon the severity of the impact.”

The couple was hiking in the park with their three sons. One of the sons, Jibran, was also injured by the tree, which broke his leg in two places and caused “superficial head injuries,” according to the post.

Jibran, 6, was airlifted to the UT Medical Center with non-life threatening injuries, according to Litterst. He underwent surgery and was scheduled to be discharged on Saturday, according to the Facebook post.

“Doctors said that Laila saved Jibran’s life by taking the brunt of the impact,” Taufiq Jiwani wrote on Facebook.

Our sincere condolences go out to the Jiwani family.

And firefighters … be careful out there.

Dudley Fire Buffalo Gap SD
A hazardous tree on the Dudley Fire in Buffalo Gap, SD, March 3, 2016.

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.

Looking back at the fatal wildfire that burned into Gatlinburg

14 people were killed and 2,500 structures were damaged or destroyed.

Above: Chimney Tops 2 Fire at 9:37 p.m. November 28, 2016 after it had burned into Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Screenshot from the Knox News video.

(Originally published at 11:04 a.m. MST November 23, 2017)

As the one year anniversary of the deadly Chimney Tops 2 Fire approaches, Knox News will be publishing a series of articles about the fire that burned into Gatlinburg, Tennessee on November 28, 2016 killing 14 people, forcing 14,000 to evacuate, destroying or damaging 2,500 structures, and blackening 17,000 acres. Part 1 appeared yesterday along with the video below that includes interviews with first responders and residents, 911 recordings, and dash cam imagery of the fire in Gatlinburg.

Among other issues that came to light about how the fire was managed, the video has an example related to the evacuation. At 7:12 p.m. on November 28 the Gatlinburg Fire Department Captain that was the commander at the time of the firefighting forces working the wildfire in the city, recommended that the single siren, intended to be used for flood warnings, be activated to notify residents and tourists to evacuate. It was not done. Twice more he made the recommendation, at 7:15 and 7:50, but the 911 recordings did not detect a reply. At 8:20 p.m. the Fire Chief ordered a complete evacuation of the city and at 8:30 the siren was activated.

The article has quotes from a piece that we wrote on June 13, 2016 about the decisions made by Great Smoky Mountains National Park personnel during the first five days while the fire was much smaller.

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

Report released about wildfire that burned into Gatllinburg

Gatlinburg fire reportOn August 31 the National Park Service released the long anticipated report (12 Mb file) about the wildfire that burned from Great Smoky Mountains National Park into the city of Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Five days after it started on November 23, 2016, the Chimney Tops 2 Fire spread into the eastern Tennessee city killing 14 people, forcing 14,000 to evacuate, destroying or damaging 2,400 structures, and blackening 17,000 acres.

The strategy used to manage the fire was controversial because very little direct action was taken to suppress the fire during those first five days until a predicted wind event caused it to spread very rapidly out of the park and into the city.

The report was presented to the public during a live Facebook feed which you can see below.

One of the first speakers was Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke who reminded the audience that he served in combat and then mentioned some recommendations:

  • The National Park Service should be more proactive about removing “dead and dying timber”;
  • The dozer lines built during the suppression of the fire could be put to good use, possibly as bike paths;
  • The interoperability of communications systems needs to be improved so that firefighters from different divisions within the NPS and also between other agencies can more easily communicate during an emergency.

Joe Stutler, qualified as a Type 1 Incident Commander and Area Commander, positions at the pinnacle of the incident management structure, read a lengthy statement that included what he and his team of investigators deemed to be the pertinent facts of the fire and the investigation.

Gatlinburg fire report Joe Stutler
Joe Stutler presents information in the report about the Chimney Tops 2 Fire that burned into Gatlinburg, Tennessee.
Mr. Stutler began by saying the report was intended to not place blame on anyone, and would “avoid should have, could have, and would have, statements that frankly inhibit sensemaking and also inhibit continuing to learn from the event.”

Describing the actions taken or not taken on the fire, he said, “the review team found no evidence of negligence of anyone at the park. They did the very best they could when it came to their duty. They did the very best they could based on what was loaded in their hard drive”, he said as he pointed to his head.

Chimney Tops 2 Fire August 27, 2016
Chimney Tops 2 Fire November 27, 2016. Photo by Brett Bevill.
“Never in the history of this park or even in the surrounding area”, Mr. Stutler said, “had anyone seen the combination of severe drought, fire on the landscape, and an extreme wind event” occurring at the same time.

Combined with a wildland/urban interface, it was the “perfect storm”, he explained. The review team concluded that the fire management officials did not see the potential for the low-frequency, high-risk event.

The report made recommendations, including:

  • Revise the park’s fire management plan to reflect more aggressive strategies and tactics during extreme fire weather conditions.
  • Expand communications capacity to allow interoperability with responders outside the federal system.
  • The Fire Management Officer should be supervised by a single individual, not two.
  • Since no Red Flag Warnings were issued around the time of the fire, evaluate current Red Flag Warning and advisory criteria to reflect conditions experienced during the 2016 fire season.
  • The National Park Service leadership should embrace and institute change to create wildland fire management organizations that have the capacity and resilience to meet the realities of this “new normal” fire behavior.
  • Institute formal fire management officer and agency administrator mentoring and/or development programs.