LCES Fails at Wildland FireThanks go out to Dick for the tip.
Monday, August 4, 2008
My engine company had been assigned to work on a fire in the Northern California area. The date of the incident, July 15,2008 at about 1800.
We were assigned to support a critical backfiring operation on the division we were assigned. There was a Type II Fire Hand crew from Alaska that was put in charge of the burning operation for the evening. I was asked to walk down a trail and assist with water support, due to the fact that the intensity of the fire had increased in the area.
Throughout the course of the fire we had been unable to secure the proper LCES protocols due to the terrain and fuels on the fireground. Somehow the communications were not passed on that we needed to stay off from the trail, another issue was the fact that communications to cease all burning operations had also not been properly conveyed.
My engine company proceeded down the trail as was requested by the Strike Team Leader on the division. As I led the two other people from my engine down the trail, we encounter a few large pockets of smoke that were very thick and white in color. This was not a great deal of concern at the time, the firing operation was being done on a mid-slope with burning down hill to create a backing fire.
We noted that a hose line had blown on our way down the trail, as we came through the third large patch of smoke, everything turned black. We then realized that we were in trouble and we had fire coming right at us.
Within a matter of a few seconds we had flames all the way around us and lapping over our heads. I instructed my crew to run back toward the blown hose and seek cover under the water curtain that it was providing. We had two choices at this time, make it back to the blown hose or deploy a fire shelter. We were able to reach the blown line after running about 150 feet, we stayed under the water curtain while the flame front pushed passed us.
After the flame front passed we were then able to push up hill and out of any further harm. We all did what we were trained to do, covered our airway and get out of the heat. I am happy to say that other than a few mild burns, scorched hair and delamination of my right boot we were able to escape major injury.
After going back to the site of the burn over, we found that we had been walking across the top of a narrow canyon. We were later informed that there had been a great deal of roll out causing fire to establish itself in the bottom of the canyon, causing the large push below us.
I can honestly say that this was a close call, I have never felt heat like this in the seven years that I have fought wild land fire or the four years that I have fought structural fire.
Communications should be conveyed properly at all times. If you have any doubt that communications are not understood, please take the time to ask.
Take the time to have good crew cohesion, the fact I did not have any of the firefighters I was in charge of question me made it easier to provide a safer outcome.
LCES, 10 Standard Fire Orders are there for a reason, just because you follow the rules does not mean that every crew on your fire will do the same. Be safe in all you do.... we all go home, every time!!!
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