Spring season fire in Washington burns 100 acres.

Dog Mountain Fire
Dog Mountain Fire, 5-6-2013, Washington DOT photo

Since the Dog Mountain Fire about 30 miles southwest of Mt. Rainier in Washington (map) was reported May 4, 2013, it has burned approximately 100 acres near the eastern end of Riffe Lake in Lewis County. It is 50 percent contained, and approximately 80 people continue to be assigned to it under a Type 3 organization lead by Incident Commander Charley Burns. The fire is burning in a recently logged area and 8-year-old forest plantation owned by the Port Blakely Tree Farms.

Dog Mountain Fire
Dog Mountain Fire, 5-6-2013, Washington DOT photo

Bulldozers, fire engines, and water-dropping helicopters are assigned to the fire which was initially fanned and spread by dry east winds.

Crews continue to construct containment lines and mop-up where possible. The cause of the fire is under investigation. No structures are threatened and no homes have been evacuated.

Investigators determine exploding targets caused 7,300-acre Goat Fire

U.S. Forest Service investigators have determined that target shooters using exploding targets caused the Goat Fire which burned 7,378 acres three miles southwest of Pateros, Washington (map) in September. Investigators had previously said that two other fires in the state may have been started by exploding targets — a 120-acre blaze in Mud Creek Entiat and another on Deadman Hill near Cashmere.

Here is an excerpt from the Wenatchee World:

The U.S. Attorney’s Office is reviewing the U.S. Forest Service investigation into the Goat Fire near Pateros, said Forest Service spokesman Tom Knappenberger.

He said criminal charges could be filed later.

Anyone convicted of igniting the blaze could also be required to pay for suppression costs and other damages.

The Goat Fire burned mostly on Forest Service land, but also charred some private property and Bureau of Land Management land.

Emergency service towers, cellular phone towers, local television broadcast equipment, and buried power lines were threatened in the fire that burned from Sept. 15 until Nov. 9.

These devices have become more popular in the last year. When we wrote about this dangerous trend last October, with a quick Google search we found 22 fires during a 5-month period that were started by the use of exploding targets.

Goat Fire
Goat Fire. Photo by Kurt Ranta.


Thanks go out to Carl

Report released on serious injury while suppressing fire aided by ropes

Ropes FLA, cover

A facilitated learning analysis has been released for a serious injury that occurred while firefighters were taking suppression action on an extremely steep slope above the Columbia River Gorge on the border between Washington and Oregon.

That portion of the Milepost 66 fire was too steep for firefighters to work without some form of protection or a fall arrest device. An engine crew from the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area certified in tree climbing and low angle rope use was assigned to work the slope using ropes. The CRGNSA is managed by the U.S. Forest Service.

Two crew members rappelled down the slope, taking action on hot spots they ran across. They arrived at a bench and mopped up more of the fire. When finished, they rappelled down to the highway below. What happened next is in the excerpt below:

…As crew member #2 reached the edge, or lip, of the 70’ cliff, he though “it’s a little loose,” meaning that rock was falling from the slope below the bench. The loose rock was also noticed by someone watching from below. Crew member #2 continued his descent down the rope when his hand tool got stuck about 20’ below the lip. He reached back to make an adjustment and continue his descent. At the halfway point crew member #2 called crew member #1, “I just got hit by a rock.” Crew member #3 was at the HWY taking photos and witnessed a rock fall and hit crew member #2. Crew member #3 didn’t see where the rock came from but estimated the rock was the size of a small melon or softball. This happened approximately 30’ above the HWY. Crew member #2 paused and then continued the descent to the HWY. Crew member #3 called out to #2, “are you OK?”, received no response and started moving toward #2. By the time crew member #3 arrived, #2 said he wasn’t doing well. Crew member #2 was bleeding and had some deformity on the left side of his face. Crew member #3 removed #2’s harness and called for the trauma kit from the engine. Crew member #3 said it was obvious that Crew member #2 was in serious pain.

Ropes FLA, anchoring from above the bench
Photo from the FLA

According to the report, the injured firefighter was treated on scene by two paramedics and transported to a hospital within 17 minutes of the injury. There are no details provided about the diagnosis of the injury or the patient’s recovery, but the firefighter was admitted to the Hood River County Hospital and later referred to Oregon Health Science University hospital for a more complete evaluation.

Some of the conclusions, lessons learned, and suggestions in the report included:

  • Implement the use of heat-resistant ropes.
  • The applicability of the USFS Tree Climbing training to the fire environment Rope Belay Program should be more fully evaluated.
  • There is a need for a written operating plan, SOP’s, safety checklist and/or risk analyses.
  • Depending on the level of risk identified by the team and duty officer during the risk analysis process of each particular mission, approval for the operation might be bumped up to a higher management level (Fire Engine Operator -> Fire Management Officer -> Agency Administrator).

Wildfire news, January 3, 2013

Wenatchee Complex Fire, Highway 97
Firefighters patrol a smoky section of Highway 97 on the Wenatchee Complex Fire. Photo by Jim Timaselli, USFS

Wenatchee residents endured heavy smoke

The residents of Wenatchee, Washington were exposed to extremely high levels of wildfire smoke for several weeks in September and October. The Wenatchee Complex fires, started from a storm that produced 4,000 lightning strikes, blackened over 56,000 acres.

According to the Wenatchee World:

… by Sept. 14, there were more than 1,100 micrograms of fine airborne particles per cubic meter. That’s more than eight times the level considered hazardous for human health. (For comparison’s sake, the clear-sky day of Dec. 19 averaged just 8.4 micrograms.)

Wenatchee’s smoke levels remained high for weeks, averaging 200 micrograms daily until Oct. 12 but never reaching that peak again. But in Cashmere, as smoke poured from canyon mouths and settled, 24-hour average particle counts there reached as high as 928 micrograms between Sept. 17 and 22.

Cashmere schools closed for three days while officials struggled to proof them against smoke, which had infiltrated the buildings and reached dangerous accumulations. Parents in other districts opted to remove their kids from school: Between Sept. 9 and Oct. 12, there were 3,400 more student absences in Chelan, Douglas, Kittitas and Okanogan counties than the same period in 2011.

Fire burns DNR facility in Washington

Yesterday a fire in a Department of Natural Resources maintenance facility in Forks, Washington heavily damaged a fire engine and destroyed three pickup trucks. All that was left of the structure was the four walls and a portion of the roof. Some components from the engine may be salvaged even though the roof collapsed onto the truck.

Colorado Springs to hold community wildfire meeting

In the wake of criticism following their management of the Waldo Canyon fire which destroyed 347 homes last June, the Colorado Springs Fire Department has scheduled a community meeting “to increase wildfire awareness and emergency preparedness in the community”, according to a news release from the city. In addition to encouraging their residents in high risk areas to prepare for the inevitable wildfires, the city has a lot of room for improvement in their training and preparedness.

Coulson modifies 2 helicopters for night flying

Coulson Aviation has modified two helicopters so that they can fight fires at night. More information is at FireAviation.com

Extreme fire danger in Victoria

Our friends down under in Victoria will be experiencing extreme bushfire danger in the southwest part of the state on Friday, with the danger in the rest of the state rated as severe. Temperatures will be above 40C (104F) until the middle of next week. Heat health alerts were issued by the chief health officer for the central and north central districts, taking in Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Marysville and other townships.

Video of helicopter crash in ocean off Brazil coast

The four crewmembers of a fire department helicopter walked swam away from their helicopter after it crashed into the ocean off the coast of Copacabana beach in Brazil. Check out the video HERE. The crash occurred while they were attempting to rescue a stranded swimmer.

The Rio de Janeiro state fire department blamed the incident on an undetermined mechanical failure.


Thanks go out to Dick

More fire crew videos, fire season summaries

UPDATED January 1, 2013: added a video from the Wind Cave National Park fire organization.

Yesterday we posted two videos that hotshot crews produced which summarized their 2012 fire season. Today we have more.

The first one is the Entiat Hotshots (based on the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest in Washington):

Next is the Sawtooth Hotshots (Sawtooth National Forest in Idaho):

And finally, Lakeview Helitack: (near Lakeview, Oregon)

From the fire personnel at Wind Cave National Park:

Let us know if you are aware of any other good videos summarizing the 2012 fire season.


Thanks go out to Matt

Investigators determine cause of fire in Washington that burned 61 homes

air tanker drops on Taylor Bridge fire
Tanker 489, a Lockheed L-188A Electra, drops on the Taylor Bridge fire August 14 at the Sunlight Waters housing development, as the fire advances on the community near Cle Elum, Washington. Photo by, and used with permission from, Joshua Trujillo / SeattlePI

Fire investigators from the Washington state Department of Natural Resources have determined that the Taylor Bridge fire was caused by a construction crew working on a bridge on Highway 10. The fire destroyed 61 homes and blackened about 23,000 acres southeast of Cle Elum. It started on August 13 about 30 feet from where one worker was cutting rebar with a STIHL power saw on the bridge deck and where a second worker was welding under the bridge.

The contractors were working on a state Transportation Department project during a period when industrial activity was supposed to be shut down because of high fire danger.

During the construction work a water truck was on site but the operator was away on an errand and no one else on site knew how to run it. Some workers connected a garden hose to the truck but the “trickle of water”, according to the report, was not effective in stopping the fire. Fire extinguishers on the project were scarce so employees used shovels to fight the fire, at least until it went over the hill.

The investigation found that there had been two other unreported fires on the project earlier that had been put out by employees.

The two companies working on the project were Conway Construction of Ridgefield and a subcontractor, Rainier Steel of Auburn.

The DNR is consulting with the Attorney General’s office about their options to recover a portion of the $11 million spent fighting the fire.