BATTLEMENT CREEK FIRE Fatalities & Injury July 17, 1976

BATTLEMENT CREEK FIRE Fatalities & Injury July 17, 1976

BATTLEMENT CREEK FIRE 1976-2006: Thirty Years of Lessons Learned firefighters:

Anthony A. Czak, Flagstaff, AZ Stephen H. Furey, Salmon, ID Scott L. Nelson, Bloomer, WI pilot:

Don Goodman, BATTLEMENT CREEK FIRE Fatalities & Injury

July 17, 1976 Original LCES Paper, Paul Gleason, 1991 Escape Routes are the path the firefighter takes from their current locations, exposed to the

danger, to an area free from danger. Notice that escape routes is used instead of escape route(s). Unlike the other components, there always must be more than one escape route available to the firefighter. Battlement Creek 1976 is a good example of why another route is needed

between the firefighter's location and a safety zone. Fire Management Notes, Jack Cohen & Bret Butler, 1998

The Battlement Creek Fire ... burned on steep slopes covered with 6- to 12-foot high Gambel oak. Flames were estimated at 20 to 30 feet above the canopy. Four firefighters were cut off from their designated safety zone.

Fire Management Notes, Jack Cohen & Bret Butler, 1998 (cont.) When the fire overran them, they were lying face down on the ground without fire shelters in a 25foot wide clearing near the top of a ridge.

Tragically, only one of the four survived, and he suffered severe burns over most of his body. Fire Management Notes, Jack Cohen & Bret Butler, 1998 (cont.) Figure 1 suggests that for this fire, the safety

zone should have been large enough to separate firefighters from flames by 150 feet. Clearly, the 25-foot wide clearing did not qualify as a safety zone.

Fire Management Notes, Jack Cohen & Bret Butler, 1998 (cont.) Common Tactical Errors on the Fireground, Doug Campbell, 1991

Three were killed and another severely burned during a burnout operation. The accident happened on a ridge top. Their burnout was aligned against the forces of slope, wind and preheat and was not burning well. Another burnout team lit fire below, placing their fire in

full alignment with wind, slope and solar preheating of the fuel that promoted maximum fire spread. Hot Slope map of Battlement Creek

Common Tactical Errors on the Fireground, Doug Campbell, (cont.) The burnout from the bottom of the slope hit the ridge with such intensity that flames swept over the crew's position forcing them into shelters. Situation: The ground between the fire and the

crew was in alignment. Wind, slope and solar preheat were aligned. Error: The officers and firefighters did not recognize the potential getting worse. There was no time tag on the tactic.

British Columbia: What, no Fire Shelters? A quote from Chief Billy Goldfeder: WTF?

9. How would you best protect yourself in an entrapment situation? A. To best protect yourself, you would complete the following: - Shelter yourself in a large area that is light or

free from fuels (rocky area, water/wet area, ploughed field, a cool burned area, bulldozed clearing, etc.) - Find a fuel-free depression or trench, preferably behind a rock or dirt pile so to block radiant heat.

9. How would you best protect yourself in an entrapment situation? A. To best protect yourself, you would complete the following: - Protect yourself with clothing: sleeves down, collar up, gloves, goggles and hard hat on.

- Lie flat, facedown, parallel to the flame front. - Keep face down and protect your airways by taking shallow breaths close to the ground. 9. How would you best protect yourself in an entrapment situation?

A. To best protect yourself, you would complete the following: - Curl arms and hands around head around ears - Cover yourself with dirt if possible. - Wet clothing if possible. - Do not wear synthetic packs or materials.

What happened at Battlement Creek While the fire was overrunning the four burnout squad members shortly before 1448 m.d.t. July 17, 1976, crewman Nelson stood up from his prone position on the fireline (their

attempted refuge point), shouted, Im on fire, and ran downhill into the fire area below the burnout squad position. His body was later found with his burned watch nearby stopped at 1448. He was badly burned.

What happened at Battlement Creek Shortly after Nelson left the burnout squad position, crew boss Czak stood up, shouted unintelligibly, and ran generally down the ridgeline. His body was later found approximately 1,100 feet away from the burnout

squad refuge position. He was burned, but much less so than Nelson What happened at Battlement Creek Crewman Furey and squad boss Gibson remained, apparently in a prone position in the

burnout squad location. Both were burned as the fire swept over them. Fureys work trousers and fire-resistant shirt were burned entirely off his back except for small fragments. He was in considerable pain. Gibson advised Furey to remain on the ground, to try to rest, that help

was on the way. South Canyon Fire Report Leaders We Would Like to Meet

Ted Putnam Firefighter safety was more important than me finishing my career in good standing among fire managers. In almost twenty years of being involved in many fire investigations the promised improvements were rarely

implemented, human factors were largely ignored and the whole truth seldom told. Leaders We Would Like to Meet Ted Putnam

. As a result, management provided incomplete explanations of fatalities as evident in the Standards for Survival account of the Battlement Creek Fire where I was an eyewitness. So my gamble was that, in refusing to sign, firefighters would benefit more in the longer run. Someone seeing investigations from

the inside needed to speak up.

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