Report released for a firefighter fatality in Texas

Occurred on a wildfire in March, 2018

Texas LODD firefighter 2018 map
The initial firefighting operations with Grass 5-1 and Grass 5-2. The green
arrows indicate the direction of travel for the brush trucks. The red arrow is the
direction the fire is traveling. The time is approximately 1124 hours. (NIOSH)

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) has released a report about a 68-year old firefighter that died from burn injuries while fighting a grass fire in Texas last year.

“Firefighter A” was one of three firefighters on a Brush Truck, Grass 5-1, that was initial attacking a grass fire on March 10, 2018 that was burning in two to three foot high Little Bluestem grass. He was riding on an open side step behind the cab when he fell off and was overrun by the fire. The firefighter was flown to a burn center but passed away March 23, 2018.

Below is an excerpt from the report:


“Grass 5-1 began attacking the fire from the burned “black” area. Grass 5-1 was attempting to extinguish the fire in the tree line and fence line while moving north. A bulldozer was operating north of Grass 5-1. A citizen was operating a private bulldozer independent of the fire department operations. The bulldozer was attempting to cut a fire break in the very northern part of the property ahead of the fire.

“Grass 5-2 arrived on scene at 1121 hours. Another fire fighter from Fire Station 5 had responded in his POV to the scene. He got in the cab of Grass 5-2 at the tank dam. Grass 5-2 went east in the field towards the fence line. The grass fire was near the POV owned by Fire Fighter “B” on Grass 5-1. Grass 5-2 extinguished the fire around the POV and moved north towards Grass 5-1.

“Grass 5-1 reached the head of the fire and lost sight of the bulldozer. The driver/operator of Grass 5-1 attempted to turn around and the wind shifted, causing the smoke to obscure his vision. The driver/operator inadvertently turned into the unburned grass. The driver/operator described the grass as two to three feet tall. The time was approximately 1124 hours.

“The wind shift caused the fire to head directly toward Grass 5-1. Grass 5-1 Fire Fighter “B” advised the driver/operator to stop because they were dragging the “red line” (booster line). Fire Fighter “A” and Fire Fighter “B” exited the vehicle to retrieve the hoseline. The driver/operator told them to “forget the line” and get back in the truck. Fire Fighter “B” entered the right side (passenger) side step and Fire Fighter “A” got back on Grass 5-1 on the side step behind the driver. Fire Fighter “A” had a portion of the red line over his shoulder. When the driver accelerated to exit the area, Fire Fighter “A” was pulled from the apparatus by the red line that remained on the ground due to the gate not being properly latched. Fire Fighter “B” started pounding on the cab of Grass 5-1 to get the driver/operator to stop the apparatus. Grass 5-1 traveled approximately 35 – 45 feet before the driver/operator stopped the apparatus. The time was approximately 1127 hours.

“When Fire Fighter “A” fell off of Grass 5-1, he fell into a hole about 6 – 12 inches deep and was overrun by the fire. The driver/operator and Fire Fighter “B” found Fire Fighter “A” in the fire and suffering from burns to his face, arms and hands, chest, and legs. They helped Fire Fighter “A” into the cab of Grass 5-1 with assistance from the two fire fighters on Grass 5-2. The driver/operator of Grass 5-1 advised the County Dispatch Center of a “man down”. Once Fire Fighter “A” was in the cab of Grass 5-1, the driver/operator drove Grass 5-1 to the command post, which was located near Tanker 5. Fire Fighter “B” was riding the right step position behind the cab of Grass 5-1. The time was approximately 1129 hours. At 1131 hours, the County Dispatch Center dispatched a county medic unit (Medic 2) to the scene for an injured fire fighter.”


Texas LODD firefighter 2018 side step
The side step position on Grass 5-1 showing the gate latching
mechanism and the short hoselines on each sided of the apparatus
(NIOSH Photo.)

Instead of wearing the fire resistant brush gear or turnout gear he had been issued, Firefighter A was wearing jeans, a tee shirt, and tennis shoes.

Contributing factors and key recommendations from the report:

Contributing Factors

  • Lack of personal protective equipment
  • Apparatus design
  • Lack of scene size-up
  • Lack of situational awareness
  • Lack of training for grass/brush fires
  • Lack of safety zone and escape route
  • Radio communications issues due to incident location

Key Recommendations

  • Fire departments should ensure fire fighters who engage in wildland firefighting wear personal protective equipment that meets NFPA 1977, Standard on Protective Clothing and Equipment for Wildland Firefighting
  • Fire departments should comply with the requirements of NFPA 1500, Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety, Health, and Wellness Program for members riding on fire apparatus

The report referred to an August 17, 2017 tentative interim amendment to NFPA 1906, Standard for Wildland Fire Apparatus, 2016 edition with an effective date of September 4, 2017.

“NFPA 1906 Paragraph 14.1.1 now reads, “Each crew riding position shall be within a fully enclosed personnel area.”

“A.14.1.1 states, “Typically, while engaged in firefighting operations on structural fires, apparatus are positioned in a safe location, and hose is extended as necessary to discharge water or suppressants on the combustible material.” In wildland fire suppression, mobile attack is often utilized in addition to stationary pumping. In mobile attack, sometimes referred to as “pump-and-roll,” water is discharged from the apparatus while the vehicle is in motion. Pump-and-roll operations are inherently more dangerous than stationary pumping because the apparatus and personnel are in close proximity to the fire combined with the additional exposure to hazards caused by a vehicle in motion, often on uneven ground. The personnel and/or apparatus could thus be more easily subject to injury or damage due to accidental impact, rollover, and/or environmental hazards, including burn over.

“To potentially mitigate against the increased risk inherent with pump-and-roll operations, the following alternatives are provided for consideration: (1) Driver and fire fighter(s) are located inside the apparatus in a seated, belted position within the enclosed cab. Water is discharged via a monitor or turret that is controlled from within the apparatus.
(2) Driver and fire fighter(s) are located inside the apparatus in a seated, belted position within the enclosed cab, but water is discharged with a short hose line or hard line out an open cab window.
(3) Driver is located inside the apparatus in a seated, belted position within the enclosed cab with one or more fire fighters seated and belted in the on-board pump-and-roll firefighting position as described in a following section.
(4) Driver is located inside the apparatus in a seated, belted position within the enclosed cab. Firefighter(s) is located outside the cab, walking alongside the apparatus, in clear view of the driver, discharging water with a short hose line.

“Under no circumstances is it ever considered a safe practice to ride standing or seated on the exterior of the apparatus for mobile attack other than seated and belted in an on-board pump-and-roll firefighting position. [2016b].”

Wildfire burns historic structures in Big Bend National Park

The fire started in Mexico and jumped the Rio Grande River

Castolon Fire Big Bend National Park
Fire damage to the barracks (Visitor Center and store) and picnic area in Big Bend National Park. Credit: NPS/T. VandenBerg.

A wildfire that started in Mexico jumped across the Rio Grande Wednesday May 22 and spread into the Castolon area in Big Bend National Park in Southern Texas. At least one historic structure was very heavily damaged, the barracks structure which housed the Castolon Visitor Center and La Harmonia store.

Castolon Fire Big Bend National Park
Structural and wildland engines used in defense of the Castolon Historic District, as seen from the driveway of the Officers Quarters. Image credit: NPS/CSchuler.

Thursday afternoon the Park provided a summary of the incident:


“Around 6pm [Wednesday], as the fire first entered the park, additional wildland crews as well as structural crews were called in. At that time, shade temperatures were near 109 degrees, with single digit relative humidity. Winds were pushing the fire NW toward the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive, and based on fire behavior at that time, the fire was expected to stay in the lower elevations along the Rio Grande burning the mesquite and river cane bosques. Continue reading “Wildfire burns historic structures in Big Bend National Park”

Firefighter fatality in Texas

Andy Loller
Andy Loller. Photo credit: Weatherford Fire Department.

Richard “Andy” Loller, Jr., a firefighter assigned to the Scenic Loop Complex of Fires in the Davis Mountains of West Texas, suffered a medical emergency and passed away June 10. He was flown by helicopter to receive medical treatment and was stabilized before being placed on a medical airplane to Odessa to receive further treatment. While in flight he passed away.

“We are all deeply shocked and saddened by the news of Andy’s passing,” said Weatherford City Manager Sharon Hayes. “He will be sorely missed by the community and all who knew and worked with him. Our prayers are with his family at this time.”

Currently, arrangements are underway to care for his family. Firefighter Loller, Jr. was 42 years of age and was assigned to Weatherford, Texas Fire Department Station 36 on A-Shift. He served 13 years in the fire service and is survived by his wife, two children, and a sister.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of firefighter Loller.

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

18 fires being managed as Scenic Loop Complex in Texas

Scenic Loop Complex of Fires
Scenic Loop Complex of Fires, by SEAT pilot Marc Mullis. Uploaded to Inciweb June 6, 2018.

A thunderstorm on June 3 that pelted the Davis Mountains in west Texas with lightning started 18 wildfires. Rain that followed may have put some of them out and others could have burned together, but remaining are at least 7 fires ranging between 11 and 3,541 acres, for a total burned area of approximately 8,134 acres.

The fires are spreading through rough terrain and currently are not a threat to any subdivisions. They are 14 miles west of Fort Davis, 6 miles west of the McDonald Observatory, and as close as half a mile north of the McDannald Fire that burned 19,000 acres north of Highway 166 in the first part of May.

Map of the fires Scenic Loop Complex
Map of the fires in the Scenic Loop Complex. Current at 2:21 a.m. CDT June 6, 2018.

The Lone Star State Type 2 Incident Management Team is in unified command with the County of Jeff Davis to manage the fires. A Type 1 Incident Management Team has been ordered.

Currently firefighters are being supported by helicopters, as well as Very Large, Large, and Single Engine Air Tankers. Multiple hand crews are en route.

Mallard Fire in Texas reaches Highway 287

Hotshots Mallard Fire
A Hotshot crew en route to the Mallard Fire in Texas. Photo by CarrieAnn Fain.

(Originally published at 7:13 a.m. CDT May 13, 2018)

The Mallard Fire in the panhandle of Texas has been very active over the last two days and has burned a total of more than 63,000 acres. But where it has spread from rugged terrain into pastures and agricultural property firefighters have been more successful.

In two places it has approached U.S. Highway 287. Firefighters were able to stop it just before it hit the small community of Goodnight. But seven miles southeast of the town it crossed the highway and ran briefly into fields before being knocked down.

map mallard fire
Map showing the perimeter of the Mallard Fire at 9:42 p.m. CDT May 12, 2018.

On Sunday the area is just outside a Red Flag Warning area, but the weather will not be helping firefighters much today. The winds will be out of the south at 10 to 22 mph with gusts in the late afternoon reaching 29 mph. The temperature will max out at 94 while the relative humidity increases from 22 percent to 40 percent in the afternoon. There is a 38 percent chance of thunderstorms and gusty winds after 4 p.m.

Weather geeks are having a field day observing the Mallard Fire. For the last two days it has produced huge pyrocumulus clouds stretching for miles into Oklahoma. At times it has morphed into a supercell with lightning and mammatus clouds.

Over the last few years extreme fire behavior has become more “normal”. Firefighters must maintain their situational awareness. What they are used to seeing and expecting may not be, now, what actually occurs on a wildfire. Hopefully, technology that exists and has been talked about but not widely deployed, will be made available to firefighters so they can know in real time WHERE the fire is and WHERE firefighters are.

Mallard Fire burns over 30,000 acres southeast of Amarillo, Texas

Above:  GOES 16 satellite image of the Mallard Fire at 3:22 p.m. CDT May 11, 2018.

(Updated at 8:08 p.m. CDT May 11, 2018)

The time-lapse video below is mesmerizing!!

****

(Originally published at 4:37 p.m. CDT May 11, 2018)

A large wildfire is moving through Armstrong County in the Texas panhandle 32 miles southeast of Amarillo and 18 miles southwest of Clarendon. Friday afternoon the Texas Forest Service said it had burned approximately 34,000 acres.

On Thursday the Summer Field Fire merged with the Mallard Fire. Large air tankers, SEATs, and helicopters have been working the fire since Wednesday. A very large air tanker was ordered Thursday.

Mallard fire map
Heat detected by a satellite over the Mallard Fire in the Texas panhandle. The most recent, the red dots, are from 3:13 a.m. CDT May 11, 2018.

The photo below is from Friday:

Below is a photo from Thursday:

The fire is putting up a huge column of smoke and is creating a large pyrocumulus cloud blowing off to the east.