Zone” newsletter, July, 2004
Lessons Learned —
author, date unknown
One-Year Anniversary Letter
by Kelly Close, FBAN
Declaration on Cramer
Redactions, by James Furnish, April, 2005
FSEEE v. USFS, FOIA
Civil Lawsuit Order,
Request to USFS, December, 2005
FOIA Appeal to USFS,
Management Evaluation Report
Investigation Team Information
Synopsis of the
Cramer Fire Accident Investigation
(facts 1 - 57)
(facts 58 - 201)
(facts 203 - 237)
Resources on the Fire
Cramer Fire Timeline
Fire Behavior and Weather
Equipment Found at H-2 and the Fatalities Site
Fire Policy, Directives, and Guides
OIG FOIA Response,
2nd FOIA Request to OIG,
2nd OIG FOIA Response,
August, 2006, (1.4 mb, Adobe .pdf file)
OSHA Cramer Fire Briefing Paper
• Summary and ToC
• Sections I-IV
• Sections V-VII
• Section VIII
OSHA South Canyon Fire
Letter to District
Ranger, June 19, 2003
OSHA Investigation Guidelines
OSHA News Release
• OSHA Citation 1
• OSHA Citation
OSHA FOIA Letter
Adobe PDF and Microsoft Word versions of documents related to
the Cramer Fire can be downloaded from the U.S.
Forest Service website.
Cramer Fire Fatalities
North Fork Ranger District
Salmon-Challis National Forest
Salmon, Idaho - July 22, 2003
Saturday Evening, July 19, 2003
Fact 58: At approximately 2100, a lightning strike
was reported in the area of Cramer Creek on the SCNF in Idaho. The fire
started in steep terrain in country known as the Salmon River Breaks (statements:
5 and 29; record: 14).
Sunday Afternoon, July 20, 2003
Fact 59: 1400 weather: 76 °F, 25-percent relative
humidity, northwest winds at 2 mph (record: 9).
Fact 60: The Cramer Fire was reported by the Long Tom
Lookout, at 1630 (statements: 5, 36, and 37).
Fact 61: At 1648, jumper 41 was diverted from its original
mission on the Crystal Fire to the Cramer Fire. Smokejumpers were unable
to staff the Crystal Fire because it was too windy (statement: 6; record:
Fact 62: Between 1704 and 1710, jumper 41 reported
that the fire was approximately 3 acres and burning in light fuels, on
a 60- to 70-percent slope, with a high spread potential (figure 3). The
jump ship was unable to staff the Cramer Fire because of high winds (statements:
5 and 15; record: 15).
Fire from jumper 41 plane, July 20, 2003, at 1705.
Fact 63: Cramer air attack departed Salmon, ID, at
1713 for the Cramer Fire and at the time of arrival, estimated the fire
at 3 acres (statements: 18 and 36).
Fact 64: Bureau of Land Management (BLM) engines 7157
and 422 were dispatched to the fire at 1715 from Salmon (record: 15).
Fact 65: At 1754, Moyer helicopter H- 166, was dispatched
from the Crystal Fire to the Cramer Fire (record: 15).The North Fork RD
helicopter H-193, helitack crew, and foreman, based at Indianola, ID,
were not able do initial attack on the fire, because they were on an assignments
in Utah and Wyoming. Dispatch informed Cramer air attack that a Type II
initial attack crew (Ferguson 186) was on its way to the fire. The Ferguson
crew got lost on the way, and since the crew boss did not know how to
program his radio to communicate with the IC, the crew did not report
to the Cove Creek helibase, which was approximately 13 miles up river
from the Cramer Fire, until the following day (figure 4) (statements:
5, 8, 10, 15, and 16; record: 15).
Fact 66: Between 1800 and 1952, a single-engine airtanker,
T-454, dropped two loads of retardant on the Cramer Fire (record: 15).
Fact 67: At 1900, [————] [————]
from the Moyer helitack crew became the IC Type IV for the Cramer Fire
and [————] [————], also
from Moyer, became an IC Type IV trainee. [————]
and [————] arrived at the Cove Creek helibase
(statements: 15, 28, and 37; record: 15).
Fact 68: At 1938, [————], Moyer
helitack foreman, and [————] a Moyer helitack
crewmember, reconned the fire in H-166 while on their way to the Cove
Creek helibase and reported the fire was 20 to 25 acres (figure 5), burning
in ponderosa pine, mountain mahogany, and grass (statements: 3, 5, 14,
15, and 16; record: 15).
Fire perimeter and spread on July 20 later in the evening.
Fact 69: After selecting a helispot designated H-1
that was ¼ mile below the fire, [————]
and [————] landed at the Cove Creek helibase to
brief the helitack and engine crews (H-166 and BLM engine 7157) (statement:
3). [————] requested an IC Type III for the fire,
which was subsequently ordered by [————] the forest
FMO (statement: 20).
Fact 70: At 1943, Cramer air attack landed in Salmon
for the night (statement: 18).
Fact 71: At 1950 or 2000, [————]
[————] and [————] reconned
the fire in H-166. During the recon, they identified escape routes and
safety zones in recently burned areas referred to as "the black."
The east flank of the fire, which was their primary concern, was burning
actively. The west flank was fairly cool, and a retardant line had been
placed on the northwest corner of the fire (statements: 5, 18, and 37).
Fact 72: At 2015, [————] and
[————] landed on H-1 and engine 7157 crewmembers
were flown in shortly afterward. Their plan was to work the west side
of the fire so that when they transitioned to an IC Type III the next
day, they would have a secure west flank. While [————]
scouted the west flank, [————] stayed at H-1 to
unload and brief the engine 7157 crew. [————]
informed dispatch that they were on the Cramer Fire (statements: 3, 5,
10, 14, 16, and 37).
Fact 73: As he continued to walk the fire, the east
flank burned to within 100 yards of H-1. He did not feel comfortable working
the east side — it was unsafe and he lacked the personnel to start
a direct attack. During that time, the fire crossed the ridge about ¼
mile above H-1 into Cramer Creek (statement: 37).
Fact 74: At 2045, [————] the
Salmon-Cobalt FMO, was dispatched to the Cove Creek helibase to relieve
[————] as the IC. After consulting with [————]
[————] told [————] that
[————] would remain the IC on the fire (statements:
20 and 36).
Fact 75: At 2200, as [————]
left the Cove Creek helibase, he tried to notify Alan Hackett, the North
Fork RD AFMO, that he would be the IC Type III on the Cramer Fire the
following day. Because [————] was unable to contact
Hackett, he notified dispatch, which planned to call Hackett in the morning.
Hackett had the weekend off and arrived home around 1900 (statements:
14 and 20).
Fact 76: Because of daylight flight restrictions, H-166
headed back to Moyer at 2143 and was unable to fly personnel from BLM
engine 422 to H-1 (statements: 3 and 20).
Fact 77: [————] finished his
recon by walking the west flank of the fire at 2300. It was steep and
rocky and the fire was creating "rollouts," burned debris that
rolled downhill and increased fire spread. He notified dispatch that he
would not engage the fire that night because of dangerous conditions (statement:
Monday Morning, July 21, 2003
Fact 78: At 0030, the engine 7157 crew bedded down
so they could be available for initial attack later in the day. [————]
and [————] remained on the fire as lookouts, monitoring
the fire and gathering information (statements: 3, 5, 8, 16, and 37).
Fact 79: Because the fire was in a thermal belt, it
remained active and increased to about 8 to 10 acres. Winds were upslope
5 to 15 mph (statement: 5; record: 15).
Fact 80: 0100 weather: 62 °F, 35-percent relative
humidity (record: 9).
Fact 81: At 01 30, there was rolling debris within
the fire perimeter that included rocks and large trees. Conditions remained
warm, 73 °F with little humidity recovery. [————]
ordered two hand crews in addition to the two that Cramer air attack ordered
the evening before (statements: 5, 14, 15, 33, and 37).
Fact 82: The fire, which burned actively until 0200
or 0230, started to die down and had reached 25 to 45 acres (statements:
33 and 37).
Fact 83: At 0300, the weather station at Long Tom Lookout
showed maximum humidity recovery of 46 percent (record: 9).
Fact 84: At 0530 [————] walked
the perimeter of the fire (Statement: 37).
Fact 85: [————] called for
a spot weather forecast at 0710 and reported to dispatch 64 °F, 45-percent
relative humidity, and winds upslope 1 to 2 mph (statement: 37; record:
Fact 86: He also estimated the size of the fire at
35 to 45 acres (record: 15).
Fact 87: 0800 weather: 60 °F, 49-percent relative
humidity, northeast winds at 2 mph (record: 9).
Fact 88: At 0800 [————] received
the spot weather forecast, which called for sunny skies, zero chance of
wetting rain, maximum temperatures between 97 and 101 °F, minimum
relative humidity at 11 percent, and winds upslope at 4 to 8 mph. Based
on the winds the previous night (10 to 20 mph from the west, southwest),
[————] and [————] expected
the winds to be higher than predicted in the spot weather forecast (statement:
37; records: 7 and 15).
Fact 89: Dispatch notified [————]
at 0805 that 133-KA, a heavy helicopter used for water bucket support,
was available. [————] and [————]
made the decision to keep 133-KA on the ground until Hackett became the
IC (statements: 15, 16, 25, 36, and 37).
Fact 90: Earlier in the morning when Hackett returned
to the North Fork RD from his days off, [————]
informed him about the Cramer Fire and identified [————]
as the IC. [————] told Hackett to contact [————]
for a briefing, but Hackett was unable to contact him. [————]
talked to [————] again at 0830. [————]
told Hackett to call [————] at the SO. During
the call [————] requested that Hackett be the
IC, because [————] was assigned the zone duty
officer for that day. According to [————], Hackett
was the zone duty officer, but since [————] could
not be reached, [————] approved Hackett as the
IC. [————] told Hackett to "go out there
and take it," relieving him of his AFMO duties (statements: 1, 14,
15, and 28).
Fact 91: [————] as the zone
duty officer, was directed by the forest FMO to work on fire business
unrelated to the Cramer Fire and was "out of the loop" on the
Cramer Fire until the afternoon of July 22 (statements: 16 and 20).
Fact 92: At 0900, [————] and
[————] returned to H-1, and Hackett left the North
Fork RD for the Cramer Fire (statements: 14, 16, 33, and 37).
Fact 93: Shortly afterward, at 0908, Cramer air attack
departed Salmon for the fire (statements: 18 and 40).
Fact 94: At 0945, dispatch notified [————]
that personnel on engine 7157 were needed for initial attack in the local
area and that Alan Hackett would be the incoming IC Type III on the fire
(statements: 3 and 37; record: 8).
Fact 95: At 0948, H-166 flew to the Cove Creek helibase
from Moyer (statement: 3; records: 8 and 15).
Fact 96: Around 1000, Cramer air attack was over the
fire and estimated the size at 40 acres. After circling the fire for 30
minutes, he returned to Salmon because of lack of fire activity and landed
at 1042 (statements: 18, 33, and 40; records: 8 and 15).
Fact 97: 1000 weather: 66 °F, 43-percent relative
humidity (record: 9).
Fact 98: After Hackett arrived at the Cove Creek helibase,
he and [————] reconned the fire at 1034 in H-166.
The fire perimeter was calm except for the northeast corner and was backing
down through pines and grass while simultaneously spreading slowly uphill.
The west side of the fire had burned into rocks and appeared cold. Hackett
main concern was the northeast perimeter of the fire. Hackett estimated
the fire to be 30 to 35 acres (statement: 14; records: 8 and 15).
Fact 99: After reconning the fire, Hackett landed at
H-1 at 1058. After providing Hackett with an incident organizer, [————]
briefed Hackett on available resources, the predicted-weather, spot weather,
onsite weather, and the winds, noting that the previous day they were
higher that predicted. Hackett learned from [————]
that 133-KA was not used for bucket work in the morning in order to save
flight hours for the afternoon. Hackett became IC Type III on the fire.
According to [————], Hackett's plan for July 21
was to move a crew to H-1 and use 133-KA for bucket work on the fire.
While waiting for the hand crew to arrive, debris was rolling out of the
drainage west of H-1 (statements: 5, 10, 14, 15, 16, and 33; records:
8 and 15).
Fact 100: 1100 weather: 69 °F, 40-percent relative
humidity (record: 9).
Fact 101: At approximately 1100, the Ferguson 18B crew
arrived at the Cove Creek helibase (statement: 14).
Fact 102: At the same time the engine 7157 crew was
shuttled to the Cove Creek helibase, followed by [————]
and [————] (statement: 37).
Fact 103: At 1130, as [————]
and [————] were leaving H-1 in H-166 and heading
to the helibase, they noticed fire activity increasing on the east and
north flanks. On reaching the helibase, [————]
told [————] about the increasing fire activity
and recommended launching 133-KA. [————] subsequently
notified [————], who ordered the helicopter from
dispatch (statements: 16, 33, and 37).
Fact 104: At 1148, dispatch sent 133- KA to the Cramer
Fire (statements: 5, 16, and 25; record: 15).
Monday Afternoon, July 21, 2003
Fact 105: A helicopter shuttle of the Ferguson 18B
crew began at 1242. When the crew boss arrived at H-1, Hackett briefed
him on fire behavior and tactics. The entire crew was not on the fire
until 1600 or 1630 (statements: 3, 5, and 14).
Fact 106: 1400 weather: 76 °F, 28-percent relative
humidity, calm (record: 9).
Fact 107: During the afternoon, Ferguson 18B began
cold trailing, hot spotting, and digging line to the east from H-1. At
1410, Hackett called dispatch for retardant availability, noting that
the fire was spreading slowly through the grass. Dispatch sent a single-engine
airtanker, T-454, which dropped a load of retardant on the Cramer Fire
around 1430 (statement: 14; records: 8 and 15).
Fact 108: At 1515, H-193 and the Indianola helitack
crew arrived at the Cove Creek helibase to work the Cramer Fire. Hackett
asked H-193 to do bucket work on the perimeter of the fire to keep it
from backing towards H-1 (record: 8).
Fact 109: At 1558, Cramer air attack departed Salmon
for the Cramer Fire (statement: 18).
Fact 110: At 1613, Hackett called dispatch to report
that the fire was becoming active and might reach the Salmon River road
that night or the next morning (statement: 14; record: 8 and 15).
Fact 111: At 1631, [————] [————]
a member of the Indianola helitack crew, was in place as a lookout for
Ferguson 18B (statement: 14; record: 8).
Fact 112: The wind shifted and picked up, increasing
fire activity and pushing the fire east over the ridge. Once the fire
reached the ridge near H-1, it backed down into the Cramer Creek drainage
Fact 113: At 1634, fire activity below the crew caused
Hackett to abandon his plan to secure the northeast corner of the fire
and to pull the entire crew back to save H-1. The crew tried to hold the
line they built above H-1, but erratic 15- to 20- mph winds blew the fire
across their line (statement: 14; record: 8).
Fact 114: At 1715, Cramer air attack reported the fire
at 60 acres and requested two medium helicopters for Tuesday, July 22
(statement: 14; records: 8 and 15).
Fact 115: At 1735, Hackett decided to disengage suppression
and remove crews from the fire. Hackett and [————],
plus four Ferguson crewmembers, flew from H-1 in H-166 and H-193 and notified
dispatch that they were leaving. The remaining Ferguson crewmembers walked
to the Salmon River road, were picked up, and shuttled back to the Cove
Creek helibase. As he left, Hackett told Cramer air attack to stay on
the fire until dark. 133-KA continued working the line after the crew
left, but was not effective (statements: 3, 5, 14, 16, and 18; record:
15). At 1830 the fire crossed the West Ridge into the Cache Bar drainage
(appendix c: figure 20).
Fact 116: 1745 weather: 80 °F, 18-percent relative
humidity (record: 9).
Fact 117: At 1952, Cramer air attack reported isolated
torching on the fire, which had grown to 200 acres (figure 6) (statements:
5, 10, and 14; record: 15).
Fact 118: Around 2000, Hackett observed that the intensity
on the east-northeast side of the fire was low and the west side of the
fire "looked good" (record: 15).
Fact 119: Between 2030 and 2100, he briefed [————]
[————], crew boss of the central Oregon regulars,
about the fire's activity, weather, and resources that were coming in
and told him to be at the Cove Creek helibase at 0800 on July 22 (statement:
Fire perimeter and spread on July 21, 2003, and early morning on July
Fact 120: At 2030, Cramer air attack returned to Salmon
and landed at 2048 (statements: 5 and 18)
Fact 121: At 2100, [————] [————]
the forest aviation officer (FAO), shared two concerns with [————]
and [————]: 133-KA was not used on the morning
of July 21 and fire operations on the Cramer Fire sounded disorganized
and chaotic, based on radio traffic during the afternoon. He suggested
that the IC be pulled from the fire (statements: 15, 25, and 36).
Fact 122: Later that evening, [————]
informed [————] of [————]
concerns (statement: 15).
Fact 123: After 2130, Hackett called the SO to discuss
plans for the next day. Although he was unable to talk to [————],
Hackett talked with [————] and [————]
CID manager, recounting the day's fire behavior and weather, noting that
he could catch the Cramer Fire at 300 acres or less if he had two medium
helicopters and additional overhead, especially operations and logistics.
Hackett mentioned that he had been having supervision problems with Ferguson
18B. While he did not discuss specific strategies and tactics for the
following day, he felt that three hand crews were adequate to stop the
fire's growth to the east and south, given the line digging conditions
on the fire. Hackett was told that the two medium helicopters that he
requested were ordered but unavailable because they were committed to
other fires. He was also told to use [————] as
the strike team leader on the fire the following day (statements: 8, 14,
28, and 36). The logistics support person that Hackett requested was filled
at 0858 on July 22 (record: 24). Although Type I crews were available,
they were neither offered nor requested (record: 25).
Fact 124: Following the call, Hackett went home and
got a "decent night's sleep." H-166 flew back to Moyer. At the
SO that evening, [————] identified the Cramer
Fire as having higher priority than some other fires on the forest to
assure that Hackett received the resources he needed (statements: 3, 14,
and 28; record: 8).
Fact 125: [————] was satisfied
with an IC Type III, three contract crews, a strike team leader, and 133-KA.
He also felt that an IC Type III could handle the Cramer Fire without
a Type III team (statement: 15).
Tuesday Morning, July 22, 2003
Fact 126: The Cramer Fire was active until 0300. At
0700, Long Tom Lookout reported winds west 4 to 10 mph. The Moyer helitack
crew came on duty at Moyer, ID, with dual responsibilities – the
Cramer Fire and local initial attack (statements: 5, 16, and 37).
Fact 127: Around 0730 or 0745, Hackett returned to
the Cove Creek helibase (statement: 14).
Fact 128: H-193 arrived at the helibase at 0806 (statements:
10 and 41; records: 8 and 15).
Fact 129: Later in the morning, while [————]
was preparing for a Type II team to take over the Crystal Fire, she talked
to the FAO about the concerns he surfaced the previous evening with [————]:
133-KA was not used the morning of July 21 and fire operations appeared
unorganized. [————] said that, when asked, the
FAO did not have concerns about the IC. As a result she did not follow
up after their conversation and address his concerns. However, the FAO
stated that he did register concerns about the IC's ability to control
the situation on the fire line, but that [————]
had no comment and proceeded to brief the Type II team (statements: 1
Fact 130: 0800 weather: Clear, 64 °F, 50-percent
relative humidity, winds from the west at 5 to 10 mph, 10-hour fuel moisture,
7 percent. Conditions were warmer than usual (statement: 5).
Fact 131: The Moyer crew based their weather assessment
on the report from Long Tom Lookout that morning, as well as fire behavior
the previous day. [————] reported that, "We
knew we were in the extreme of extreme," and [————]
described it as the "worst-case scenario" (statements: 3, 16,
Fact 132: H-166 departed for the Cove Creek helibase
at 0822 and landed at 0834 (statements: 35 and 37; records: 8 and 15).
Fact 133: At 0820, Hackett, [————]
the Indianola helitack assistant foreman, and [————]
crew boss of the central Oregon regulars, departed in H-193 to recon the
Cramer Fire. During the recon, they discussed securing H-1. One crew would
work the bottom of the fire and two crews would work up from H-1 on the
east flank. They discussed tying in with the black and cold trailing to
avoid digging so much line (statements: 4, 5, 10, 11, 14, and 41; records:
8 and 15).
Fact 134: They identified two options for safety zones
for the crews working the east flank from H-1-the black and an open sagebrush
field (1 to 2 acres) east of Cramer Creek that would have to be burned
out to be used as a safety zone. [————] estimated
the sage height to be about 2 feet and the grass about 1 foot high (statements:
10 and 14).
Fact 135: Hackett identified [————]
as the lookout above H-1, across the Cramer Creek drainage from the fire,
on its east flank. A second lookout on the east side was to be flown in
above [————] although this was never done. That
second lookout would have had a view into Cramer Creek and a view of H-2,
but not a view of the Cache Bar drainage. Other lookouts according to
Hackett were Cramer air attack, the helicopter pilots as they were flying
the fire, and Long Tom Lookout. There were no lookouts for the west side
of the fire (statements: 10, 14, 16, and 40).
Fact 136: They then turned their attention to placing
two rappellers above the retardant line to cut a two-way helispot (H-2).
They chose the H-2 site because it was fairly open and closer to safety
zones than another site further up the ridge. The rappellers would need
to remove approximately six trees and one snag in the middle of the opening
on H-2. This helispot would be used to fly in a fourth crew that would
build downhill line along the west side to secure the west flank of the
fire. That, combined with a retardant line down the west side, would tie
off the fire (statements: 10, 14, 16, and 41).
Fact 137: They identified two safety zones for the
rappellers. One was a grassy area in a ceanothus brush field (an old burn),
about 200 to 300 yards down and to the west from H-2 along the ridge.
The rappellers would have had to burn it out for it to be used as their
safety zone. The other was approximately 150 yards down the east side
of the ridge, back into the black from the previous day's burn. Both were
an estimated 2-minute walk or less. The recon party was comfortable with
the plan of attack for the day. Hackett was fairly confident that, with
the resources on hand, he was going to be able to contain the fire (statements:
10, 14, and 41).
Fact 138: Fire intensity was low during the recon,
with flame lengths less than 1 foot in open pines, backing through the
grass. The fire was 150 to 200 acres and had burned up to and slightly
over the ridge on the west side into the Cache Bar drainage but looked
cold. There was some fire activity below H-1 (statements: 10 and 14).
Fact 139: When H-193 landed about 0855, [————]
was assigned helibase manager and [————] was helibase
manager trainee (statement: 37).
Fact 140: 0900 southeast Idaho fire weather: mostly
sunny, highs 86 to 95 °F in the valleys and 81 to 87 °F on the
ridges, trend 3 degrees warmer, minimum relative humidity 9 to 17 percent
for valleys and ridges, unchanged, 20-foot/10-minute average winds northwest
5 to 15 mph, Haines Index 5 moderate (record: 7).
Fact 141: At 0900, 133-KA left Indianola for the Cramer
Fire to do bucket work (statement: 5; record: 15).
Fact 142: Hackett briefed the crew bosses and the helitack
crews at the Cove Creek helibase. The central Oregon regulars, Ferguson
18A, 18B and 4B, and the Moyer and Indianola helitack crews were present
(statements: 3, 13, and 16).
Fact 143: Hackett's strategy was to put three crews
into H-1, two starting up the east side and the third at the bottom of
the fire. He was going to rappel two people into H-2 to construct a helispot.
Once H-2 was completed, a fourth crew would go into H-2, cold trail down
the west flank, and tie in with the crew working the bottom of the fire.
Hackett did not have a plan for supervising the hand crew that would be
flown into H-2 to work the west flank. Supervision of the rappellers on
H-2 was Hackett's responsibility. He discussed the placement of two lookouts
— Fuller and a member of the Indianola crew. With three crews and
three helicopters, Hackett communicated that he could have the fire contained
that day. This sentiment was shared by others — it was a "another
fire, a regular day.” Hackett discussed communications and assigned
radio frequencies (statements: 3, 4, 10, 14, 16, 33, 37, and 41).
Fact 144: He also identified [————]
as the strike team leader or division supervisor for the H-1 crews and
noted that [————] would be running ground operations
on the fire (statements: 4, 10, 16, and 37).
Fact 145: During the morning briefing, Hackett discussed
the weather from the previous two days and noted that it was getting progressively
warmer and drier. He told the crews to expect stronger winds in the area
later in the afternoon as was the case the previous day. Hackett had forgotten
to request a spot weather forecast for Tuesday. Had a request been made,
the National Weather Service would have told him to expect higher winds
than forecasted. He also mentioned that the general fire weather - forecast
was available over the radio and told everyone which channel to access
for the weather. Hackett discussed fire behavior the previous day and
reported that the fire intensity was low during Tuesday morning's recon
(statements: 3, 4, 14, and 16; record: 16).
Fact 146: [————] noted during
the briefing that [————] and [————]
who had been detailed to the Moyer helitack crew, might be needed as a
saw team with the central Oregon regulars (statements: 13 and 33).
Fact 147: Other than flying recons at 0820 and at 1326,
Hackett stayed at the Cove Creek helibase during the day to manage logistics,
operations, and related responsibilities (statement: 5).
Fact 148: After Hackett's briefing, [————]
briefed the central Oregon regulars crew prior to their departure to H-1.
When [————] asked who the other lookout would
be besides himself, [————] asked Hackett. Hackett
told him that H-193 would “fly one up there.” [————]
told [————] that the other lookout would be responsible
for establishing communications with [————]. [————]
assumed, as the day progressed that a lookout had been posted on the western
flank and that the rappellers on H-2 were in contact with the lookout.
Hackett did not place a lookout on the western flank to monitor the progress
of the fire, which by 0943 had crossed over the ridge and into the Cache
Bar drainage (statements: 10, 13, and 16).
Fact 149: Jeff Allen and Shane Heath from the Indianola
helitack crew were chosen to rappel into H-2. They were considered the
best two for the job. Allen, a class B faller, was in charge and Heath,
a class C faller, was his rappel partner (statements: 4 and 10).
Fact 150: At 0929, H-193 launched to rappel Allen and
Heath onto the H-2 site. [————] in a one-way communication
with the rappellers, showed Allen and Heath their escape routes and safety
zones. He also conveyed the work assignment at H-2, estimating that it
would take an hour to clear the helispot. Allen and Heath confirmed that
they understood what the job was and rappelled into H-2. Upon reaching
the ground at 0943, Allen and Heath contacted [————]
to say they were okay. [————] told the rappellers
about a low-intensity ground fire on the West Ridge of the Cache Bar drainage.
[————] the pilot of H-193, saw fire below H-2
to the east, though it was not very active, and asked 133-KA to do some
bucket work in the area. [————] did not observe
fire activity on the west side. H-193 returned and landed at the Cove
Creek helibase at 0958 (statements: 3, 4, 10, 14, 19, 37, and 41; records:
8, 15, and 18). After returning to the helibase, [————]
became the Cove Creek helibase manager (statement: 10).
Fact 151: H-2 was located approximately 1 mile north-northeast
of H-1, on the ridge between Cramer Creek and the Cache Bar drainage and
½ mile down the main ridge from a usable helispot (H-4) cleared
years earlier. H-2 was closer to the fire than H-4 and provided a less
treacherous descent for the hand crew that would be sent in later in the
afternoon. Visibility of the slopes below was limited due to topography
and standing timber. The slope below H-2 in the Cache Bar drainage was
unburned. The slope below H-2 in the Cramer Creek drainage was underburned
but the tree canopy was still intact (statements: 10 and 32; record: 17).
Fact 152: At 0927, Cramer air attack departed Salmon
for the Cramer Fire and arrived at 0955. Fire activity near H-1 consisted
of scattered, low-intensity ground fire in grass and timber. Air attack
contacted Allen, confirmed the location of H-2, and discussed the location
of safety zones. He then spoke with Hackett about prepping the ridge above
H-2 with retardant. Hackett confirmed the plan. The pilot of 61-N, on
hearing the conversation between Allen and Cramer air attack, felt that
the rappellers were not in harm's way (statements: 10, 18, and 40; record:
Fact 153: At 1021, H-166 departed for H-1 with [————]
and the Oregon regulars crew boss trainee. They reconned the fire enroute
to H-1 and saw that the fire perimeter was below the West Ridge in the
Cache Bar drainage. They discussed the black as a safety zone. Although
[————] felt that they could make good progress
that day, he didn't feel he could accomplish what the IC thought they
could. He also didn't think the crews could reach H-2 from H-1 that day.
[————] landed on H-1 and walked the fire line
with the crew boss trainee, explaining that he wanted the central Oregon
regulars to do some cold trailing and hot spotting to secure the east
side of the fire. While walking the fire line, [————]
requested that 133-KA work in the Cramer Creek drainage. H-166 departed
H-1 and landed at the Cove Creek helibase at 1047 to begin shuttling crews
along with H-193. The crew shuttles took an extended period of time —
each round trip, carrying three crewmembers, took approximately 15 minutes.
Sixty people needed to be transported to H-1. The first crew in was the
central Oregon regulars, the second crew in was Ferguson 18B, and the
third crew in was Ferguson 18A (statements: 3, 4, 14, 16, 37, and 41;
records: 15 and 18).
Fact 154: When [————] arrived
at H-1, [————] discussed the terrain, crew safety,
and [————] placement a lookout. [————]
also briefed the incoming crews on safety zones, fire weather, tactics,
strategy, and the probability of rollouts. As the first two crews arrived,
they began cold trailing, hot spotting, and constructing hand line on
the east flank of the fire (statements: 5 and 16).
Fact 155: [————] walked to
the east side of the fire and could see fire down below the crews but
not around into the next drainage (statement: 11).
Fact 156: Between 1030 and 1100, the fire became active
below H-I, to the southwest just above the Salmon River road (statement:
Fact 157: At the same time, [————]
asked [————] an Indianola helitack crewmember,
to check on the progress of H-2. [————] established
communications with Allen, who responded that things were going well and
that they needed more time, maybe 45 minutes to 1 hour to complete the
job (statements: 4, 5, and 10).
Fact 158: Shortly after, 133-KA left Indianola for
the Cramer Fire to do bucket work and then returned to Indianola for fuel
at 1256 (statement: 5; records: 8 and 18).
Fact 159: 1130 weather: 84 °F, 21-percent relative
humidity, south-southwest winds at 3 to 4 mph up drainage, gusting to
5 mph, 4300-foot elevation. The weather observations taken by the central
Oregon regulars on the fire differed from those taken by Long Tom Lookout,
but both showed the same warming and drying trend (records: 9 and 19).
Tuesday Afternoon, July 22, 2003
Fact 160: 1230 weather: 91 °F, 18-percent relative
humidity, south-southeast winds at 2 to 3 mph up drainage, gusting to
6 mph (record: 19).
Fact 161: Lead plane 41, which was dispatched to the
Cramer Fire at 1150, departed Boise, ID, at 1210 and arrived over the
fire at 1245 along with tanker 1. Cramer air attack was over the fire
working with tanker 26, which was dropping retardant. Cramer air attack
briefed lead plane 41 about the rappellers on H-2; about [————]
the ground contact at H-1, who was working the south and east flanks with
three crews; and about 133- KA, which was working with the crews and two
other helicopters conducting crew shuttles to H-1 (statements: 18 and
Fact 162: Around 1245, Allen asked 133-KA to fly up
to H-2 and look at smoke that concerned him between the West Ridge and
Cramer Creek. 133-KA had a limited view because of the smoke, but could
see a hot spot 1/2 mile below H-2. 133-KA told Allen that his view was
limited, to which Allen responded, "OK, fine. We'll keep an eye on
it" (statement: 19).
Fact 163: Between 1230 and 1300, [————]
asked [————] to check again on the progress of
H-2. Allen said that things were going fine and they would be another
30 to 45 minutes (statements: 4, 5, and 10).
Fact 164: Lead plane 41 was unsure of the plan for
the west side of the fire other than to drop retardant down toward H-1
and hold the fire on the west flank at the ridge where H-2 was located.
He commented later, as conditions were heating up, that this plan was
very optimistic under ideal conditions. He thought that [————]
was the IC because he assumed that role and had a good handle on the fire.
He did not know how many personnel were on H-2, how many firefighters
were on the ground, or what unit they belonged to but noted that the information
he received was as much as any lead plane pilot normally gets when they
transition with an air attack. While flying the fire, lead 41 observed
small spot fires on the upper third of the slope in the Cache Bar drainage.
Fire activity was low and the fire was lying down. Fire was also burning
in grass 50 to 100 feet below H-1 at low intensity (statements: 18 and
Fact 165: At 1304, lead plane 41 relieved Cramer air
attack, which returned to Salmon and landed at 1329 for lunch and refueling.
Lead plane 41 assumed dual responsibilities — air attack and lead
— for approximately 2 hours while he worked with tanker 1 and tanker
26. He estimated the outside air temp to be 86 °F at 8,000 feet and
observed that fire activity was starting to increase. The airtankers dropped
two more loads of retardant (statements: 18, 29, and 40; record: 18).
Fact 166: At 1326, Hackett and [————]
departed in H-166 for a recon of the fire. The plan was to off load [————]
at H-1 to work with [————]. Both would help [————]
by felling trees for a crew on the east side of the fire. During the recon
around H-1, they noted that most of the fire activity was just below the
helispot, with flame lengths 4 to 6 feet. The fire also was active along
the east flank and to the northeast but was low intensity and backing
down the hill with 1- to 2-foot flame lengths. [————]
told Hackett that the crews were doing fine on the east flank. They were
in a draw in greener vegetation and safe. Hackett informed [————]
that the crew west of H-1 was in the black. [————]
noted benign fire behavior and concluded that "these guys have it"
(statements: 3, 13, 14, and 33; record: 18).
Fact 167: When they flew to the top of the ridge, [————]
observed Allen and Heath on H-2 and noted that the visibility was clear.
One of them waved from below. When Hackett contacted Allen to check on
their progress, Allen replied that there was a little more work to do
— maybe another 15 or 20 minutes and they would be done. Hackett
told them to call for a pickup when they were finished. He had decided
not to put a crew into H-2 because they would have to walk in dangerous
terrain at night. [————] noticed that fire was
backing into the Cache Bar drainage with 1- to 2-foot flame lengths and
slowly working its way downslope. “There was fire [in an old burn]
that was backing down into that draw, and I was like, wow, I wonder the
hell's going to happen here?” [————] assumed
that a lookout was aware of the problem. Hackett also saw fire in the
Cache Bar drainage. According to lead plane 41, [————]
and Hackett agreed they would not be able to do anything Tuesday afternoon
and would need to plan for the next day, the next burning period, and
to possibly do a burnout in the Cache Bar drainage (statements: 13, 14,
29, and 37).
Fact 168: H-193 and H-166 shuttled crews while the
spot fires below H-1 continued to grow. At 1327, H-193 discontinued crew
shuttles to do bucket work (approximately two fuel cycles) on the fire
below H-1, which was increasing in intensity (statements: 14, 29, and
41; record: 18).
Fact 169: At approximately the same time, 133-KA left
Indianola for the Cramer Fire (record: 18).
Fact 170: 1330 weather: 95 °F, 15-percent relative
humidity, south-southwest winds at 4 mph updrainage, gusting to 7 mph
Fact 171: At 1340, during the recon, H-1 was threatened
by fire. While doing bucket work below H-1 , 133-KA noted that the temperature
in the canyon below the fire was 106 °F . Personnel were pulling back
from H-1 because of active fire in the area. Rather than putting [————]
into H-1 as planned, Hackett let [————] off in
an opening east of H-1 on the next ridge over. [————]
was without a plan, a briefing or any designated safety zone, and [————]
at that point was unaware that [————] had been
dropped off. Hackett completed his recon and returned to the Cove Creek
helibase at 1404 (statements: 4, 13, 14, 16, 19, 37, and 41; records:
15 and 18).
Fact 172: On returning from his recon, Hackett discussed
with [————] the possibility of not using H-2 that
day (statement: 10).
Fact 173: Once on the ground, [————]
noticed the fire was making small runs to the east in grass with upcanyon
winds and was slowly backing down slope into the main draw with small
flame lengths. The fire had reached Cramer Creek (statement: 13).
Fact 174: At 1400, [————] noted
that fire activity was picking up — downhill winds started and the
wind was "whipping back and forth." A large, brown, smoke column
formed west of H-1. Fire activity was intense around the helispot, eventually
burning over H-1 and making it too smoky to land (statements: 3, 10, 11,
13, 16, and 33).
Fact 175: At 1413, Hackett asked CID to locate the
forest FMO (statements: 4 and 14; record: 8).
Fact 176: 1400 weather: 82 °F, 16-percent relative
humidity, north-northwest winds at 2 mph (record: 9).
Fact 177: 1414 weather: 82 °F, temperatures up
6 degrees from July 21, relative humidity down 12 percent, winds 0 to
2 mph (statement: 5; record: 8).
Fact 178: At 1420, H-166 refueled and departed for
H-1 with [————] a Moyer helitack crewmember, and
the two remaining Ferguson 18A personnel. By this time, the central Oregon
regulars, Ferguson 18B, 18 people from Ferguson 18A, [————]
[————] Allen, and Heath were on the fire. While
enroute to the fire, [————] called [————]
and asked if he wanted the two Ferguson crewmembers dropped off at H-1.
[————] told [————] to
return the Ferguson crew members to the Cove Creek helibase and to pull
[————] off the ridge. H-166 dropped off Bennett
and the two Ferguson crewmembers at the helibase, returned to the fire
at 1445, and picked up [————] (statements: 3,
13, 16, and 37; record: 18).
Fact 179: At 1423, in a radio communication with [————],
Hackett expressed concern that the Cramer Fire was going to make a run
to the west and, though the fire made a run to the east, everybody was
safe (figure 7). He had a plan that might work depending on the timing
and availability of helicopters (statement: 28; records: 8 and 15).
Fact 180: Between 1430 and 1440, the fire that had
been smoldering in the Cache Bar drainage turned into an active flaming
front (statement 29).
Fire perimeter and spread on July 22, 2003, by 1430 (estimate).
Fact 181: At 1443, [————] used
his crews and the helicopters to try and secure H-1. He then decided to
pull his crews off the line because they were not capable of doing the
assignment (statements: 4, 5, 13, 16, and 29; record 15).
Fact 182: A minute later, [————]
told Hackett that he intended to hike off the hill with his three crews
Fact 183: [————] asked [————]
at the helibase if Allen and Heath had returned to the Cove Creek helibase.
[————] said they were still on H-2, that he had
just contacted Allen through lead plane 41, and that they needed another
40 to 45 minutes (statements: 4 and 10).
Fact 184: At 1447, Hackett, in a radio conversation
with [————], said that he needed to get hold of
Allen on H-2 to get him out. [————] responded,
“Why don't you go ahead and pull them out, we're okay at H-1.”
Hackett repeated once more that he was going to go get Allen and Heath
at H-2, and [————] responded, “Sounds like
a plan” (record: 8).
Fact 185: At 1454, Cramer air attack returned to the
fire after departing Salmon at 1442. Lead plane 41 briefed Cramer air
attack and noted that the two rappellers were on H-2, but that a helicopter
was enroute to pick them up. Upon reentering the fire area, the Cramer
air attack pilot noted the fire had grown significantly and gained a great
deal of energy in the preceding 2 hours. The wind had also shifted to
the west (statements: 18 and 40; record: 18).
Fact 186: At 1500, winds were from the west, gusting
up to 30 mph at H-1 (statements: 11 and 18).
Fact 187: Between 1500 and 1520, lead plane 41 and
Cramer air attack observed that the fire had crossed into the Cache Bar
drainage and was widening out, climbing the slope of the drainage, and
starting to spread rapidly, creating a lot of smoke. Lead plane 41 observed
spread rates and intensities that were much greater than he had expected.
He thought that H-2 would not be at great risk due to the light fuels
and rocky areas on the west slope, and that Allen and Heath had been transported
from H-2 to H-1. Lead plane 41 was confused about the location of Allen
and Heath because personnel on the fire were using first names and last
names on the radio. The Cramer air attack pilot described the fire in
the Cache Bar drainage as very intense and moving quickly. He felt strong
updrafts at the leading edge and downdrafts at the trailing edge, causing
him to gain and loose 1,000 feet of altitude, an effect he experienced
on previous fires that were "blowing up." The smoke was moving
almost due east close to the ground, rolling over the ridgeline at H-2
and merging with the main plume at Cramer Creek, which was blowing to
the southeast towards Salmon (figure 8) (statements: 18, 29, and 40).
Fact 188: At approximately 1500, both H-193 and H-166
were at the Cove Creek helibase. H-193 was down for a 30- hour maintenance
inspection and refueling. H-166 had just land for refueling, after returning
with [————] (statements: 3, 13, 29, 37, and 41).
Fire perimeter and spread on July 22, 2003, from 1500 to 1730 (estimate).
Fact 189: At 1505, Allen notified helibase that they
were ready to be picked up from H-2. Helibase responded to Allen that
they would send H-193 on its way. Allen replied, "Send them in a
hurry" (statements: 4, 10, and 14; record: 8).
Fact 190: At 1509, Allen called the Cove Creek helibase
and asked about the status of H-193. The helibase responded that H-193
was still on the ground and would leave shortly to pick them up. Allen
responded, "We need them right now." Helibase said that they
were sending H- 166 to get them immediately. Allen replied, "Good....thanks."
At the same time Long Tom Lookout reported quite a bit of smoke from the
Cramer Fire (statements: 4, 10, and 37; record: 8).
Fact 191: At approximately 1510, [————]
instructed [————] the Cove Creek helibase radio
operator, to ask Allen and Heath if they were in danger and if they needed
to go to their safety zone. According to [————]
Allen responded no; it was getting real smoky and they needed a ride out
(statements: 3, 4, and 10).
Fact 192: At the same time, [————]
while enroute to the fire, called dispatch and told [————]
not to divert resources from the Cramer Fire (statement: 28).
Fact 193: At 1511, [————] announced
he was pulling three crews off the fire line back to H-1. Hackett reported
to Long Tom Lookout that he was pulling three hand crews, under [————]
command, off the Cramer Fire. [————] observed
shortly before that the winds were strong and increased significantly.
At H-1, the winds were steady at 20 to 25 mph, gusting to 30 to 35 mph
(statements: 4, 14, and 16; record: 8).
Fact 194: At 1512, the Cove Creek helibase called Allen.
When Allen responded at 1513, the helibase said that H-166 needed fuel,
but it would be leaving right away, and asked if there were any problems
at the moment. Allen responded, "Oh, God. We just got fire down below
us. So the smoke's coming right at us…uh…just make them hurry
up" (statements: 4 and 10; record: 8).
Fact 195: At 1513, H-166 launched with just enough
fuel to retrieve Allen and Heath (statements: 3, 5, 14, 37, and 41 ; record:
Fact 196: Between 1513 and 1520, lead plane 41 reported
that the fire was blowing up, especially on the west side. The entire
upper portion of the Cache Bar drainage erupted into flames which ran
uphill. Flame lengths averaged 20 feet in brush and 50 feet at the leading
edge. Although the fire was not a solid front, it tended to follow stringers
of brush and timber and spread simultaneously among the stringers. The
fire did not die down when it hit rocky areas on the slope. According
to lead plane 41, it "just kind of swept over [the rocks] and it
"looked like the rocks were burning, too" (statements: 18 and
Fact 197: Between 1514 and 1522, Hackett was involved
in multiple conversations about aviation and ground resource allocation
for the Stoddard Fire. [————] was in dispatch
when the Stoddard Fire was reported and his response was to aggressively
attack it to prevent another problem fire (statement: 6; record: 8).
Fact 198: At 1515, CID called Hackett requesting 133-KA
for another fire. Hackett responded that 133-KA was refueling, he had
two people on a helispot, and he might need 133-KA to do bucket work.
He told dispatch that he was in the process of retrieving individuals
from the helispot. Hackett also told dispatch that, as soon as he retrieved
Allen and Heath from H-2 and knew that [————]
crews were safely walking off of H-1, he would release 133-KA to the new
fire (record: 8).
Fact 199: At 1519, Allen contacted the Cove Creek helibase
regarding the status of H-166. Helibase replied that H- 166 was off the
ground and should arrive shortly. Allen copied. Hackett suggested alternative
helispots for Allen and Heath if H-166 could not land at H-2 (record:
Fact 200: At approximately 1520, H- 166 said it was
coming to get Allen and Heath and notified them that he couldn't land
because it was too smoky. At about the same time, lead plane 41 heard
Allen calmly report to H-166 that winds were 20 to 25 knots from the west,
which was consistent with what lead plane 41 was seeing. Allen reported
to H-166 that they were leaving H-2. Cramer air attack was looking for
a route the rappellers could follow to safety (statements: 4, 10, 13,
14, 16, 18, 29, 37, and 40).
Fact 201: At 1524, Allen, calling in an excited voice
and breathing heavily, asked, "Could I get a helicopter up right
now?" Lead plane 41 observed that, as the fire reached the ridge,
some flame lengths were 50 feet or more, with occasional flame lengths
up to 100 feet in timber. He described the fire, which was fast-moving
on a very steep slope in light fuels, as "a big flash front."
The smoke column was dark and straight up, extending to 12,000 feet. It
dropped spots at the Cove Creek helibase as it drifted from the west to
east (statements: 3, 4, 13, 18, and 29; record: 8).
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