West Virginia firefighter killed by falling tree

A West Virginia Department of Forestry employee, Cody J. Mullens, 28, was killed by a falling tree while fighting a wildfire on April 13 near Montgomery, West Virginia.

The firefighter’s death was announced by West Virginia governor Jim Justice, who said he and his wife were “heartbroken by the tragic news of losing one of our own. Our state foresters are some of the most dedicated workers in our state, putting their lives on the line to protect our communities from wildfires, and we owe them all, especially Cody, an enormous debt of gratitude.”

Mullens was from Mt. Hope, Fayette County. West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported that he was part of a response unit working a brush fire along Route 61 in Armstrong Creek, around 30 miles southeast of Charleston.

West Virginia has statewide burn restrictions in effect and is midway through their typical wildfire season.

West Virginia: firefighter injured after falling 75 feet

WHAG is reporting that a firefighter was injured after “falling nearly 75 feet down a cliff” in or near Harpers Ferry National Historical Park in West Virginia while fighting a vegetation fire. The firefighter was stabilized at the scene and transported to Winchester Medical Center for further treatment.

Bradley Fritts, the incident commander with the Bakerton Fire Company, said the injured firefighter will remain in the hospital until Friday. Mr. Fritts said the fire would be turned over to the National Park Service Wednesday morning.

Bloodhounds help find arsonists in West Virginia

Bloodhounds are credited with helping to reduce the number of arson fires in West Virginia.

An excerpt from an article in the Charleston Gazette:

…“We’ve had great success at apprehending arsonists,”  [John Bird, an investigator for the state Division of Forestry] said. “And the word has gotten out. It doesn’t matter if people are on foot, riding four-wheelers or inside vehicles. The dogs can track them back to their homes. Once people realize that, they tend to be a whole lot less inclined to go out and start fires.”

With noses more than a million times more sensitive than those of their human handlers, the agency’s bloodhounds have proven themselves capable of some amazing olfactory feats.

“We’ve tracked some suspects for miles,” Bird said. “We’ve had cases where the suspect had set fires from his vehicle and the dog was still able to track him. We even had one case in which the dog tracked seven different people to their homes. It turned out that all of them were involved in a single arson. Every time we harness these dogs, they do something that amazes us.”

Wildfire briefing, March 12, 2014

West Virginia man found dead at wildfire

A man that was found dead near the scene of a fire Tuesday in Kanawha County, West Virginia has been identified as Donald Chandler, 66. The cause of death has not been determined but relatives thought he probably suffered a heart attack while trying to put out the fire. Officials were not sure if the fire started in a storage building and spread into the vegetation, or if a brush fire ignited the structure.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family and friends of Mr. Chandler.

Fire resistant vegetation leads to a success story

Usually when a wildfire makes the news there has been a failure, perhaps more than one. The first of course is the ignition, if it is human caused. Then if the initial attack does not succeed it can spread — into the headlines of the media. But we rarely hear about the fires that are aggressively attacked and kept small, like what happened today in the southern California community of Brea.

Not only did the ground and aerial firefighters succeed, but decisions made by the homeowners association also deserve a pat on the back. The fire in Tonner Canyon near Lambert Road and the 57 Freeway was kept to only two acres thanks to the firefighters AND the fire- and drought-resistant vegetation that had been planted by the association. Even though there were Red Flag Warnings in effect today and strong winds were pushing the fire up a hill, it was stopped by the suppression forces and the proactive mitigation measures in place.

The fire was reported at 12:40 p.m. and firefighters were mopping it up by 1:20 p.m. Soon thereafter, they were back at their stations and ready for another fire.

Update on firefighters’ response to Hurricane Sandy


Laguna Hotshots clearing a road in West Virginia
Laguna Hotshots clearing a road in West Virginia

There has not been much change since yesterday in the number of wildland firefighters that are assisting with the recovery from Hurricane Sandy in the eastern United States. There are still 11 Incident Management Teams, 40 hand crews, and about 1,100 personnel that have been mobilized through the National Interagency Coordination Center in Boise.

Some of the tasks they are working on include:

  • Operating a receiving and distribution center.
  • Using chain saws to clear debris off roads.
  • Supporting chain saw crews that are clearing roads.
  • Supporting a FEMA Community Relations Base Camp
  • Managing points of distribution.
  • Developing plan for debris removal.
  • Operating a mobilization center.
The photo of the Laguna Hotshots above came from their web site (which automatically plays country music when you visit the site). The other photos below were supplied by the National Incident Management Organization (NIMO). If you have photos of the crews in action, send us a copy.
Hotshots being briefed in New York
Hotshots being briefed at a Logistical Staging Area in New York
Logistical Staging Area in New York
Logistical Staging Area in New York, November, 2012.
Bill Hahnenberg debris removal NYC Sandy
Bill Hahnenberg (on the right), Incident Commander of the Portland NIMO IMTeam, planning debris removal with a NYC official