Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
Review Report of Serious CDF Injuries, Illnesses, Accidents
and Near-Miss Incidents
Engine Crew Entrapment, Fatality, and Burn Injuries
October 29, 2003
OVERVIEW OF ACCIDENT
On October 21, 2003 a series of fires began in Southern California that
would eventually burn nearly 750,000 acres in six counties. These fires
resulted in 20 fatalities (19 civilian and one fire service), 183 injuries
to responding personnel, and destroyed over 3,500 residential structures.
This fire siege created the largest mobilization of fire fighting resources
in California history. At the peak of the mobilization there were over
16,000 personnel including 1,600 engine companies, nearly 300 fire crews,
and over 160 aircraft assigned to the fires.
In the early evening of October 25, the Cedar Fire started in San Diego
County. The fire, initially burning under a Santa Ana Wind condition eventually
consumed 280,278 acres and destroyed 2,232 structures, 22 commercial buildings,
and 566 outbuildings, damaging another 53 structures and 10 outbuildings.
There was one fire fighter fatality, 13 civilian fatalities and 107 injuries.
On the evening of October 27 Novato Fire District Engine 6162, staffed
with a crew of four (Captain, two Engineers, and a Fire Fighter/Paramedic)
responded, along with three other engines, to the Cedar Fire as part of
Task Force XAL-2005A. Once at the Cedar Fire a fifth engine was added
and XAL-2005A was designated as a Strike Team.
The morning of October 29 the Cedar Fire was over 230,000 acres, 15%
contained, and burning to the east and northeast now under the influence
of onshore winds. For the October 29 operational period Strike Team XAL-2005A
was assigned to Branch 3 / Division I in the Santa Isabel / Wynola area
eventually deploying along Orchard Lane. Engine 6162 was assigned to 920
Orchard Lane and prepared to defend the residence at that location.
Shortly after noon the fire, that had crossed Highway 78/79 early in
the morning, increased in intensity and overran the crew of Engine 6162
resulting in fatal injuries to Engineer Steven Rucker, serious burn injuries
to Captain Doug McDonald, and minor burn injuries to Engineer Shawn Kreps
and Fire Fighter/Paramedic Barrett Smith. During the burn over Engineer
Kreps and Fire Fighter/Paramedic Smith were able to take refuge in the
residence. After his attempts to assist Engineer Rucker were unsuccessful
Captain McDonald, now seriously burned, was assisted into the residence
by Engineer Kreps and Fire Fighter/Paramedic Smith.
Following the burn over Engineer Kreps and Fire Fighter/Paramedic Smith
were able to assist Captain McDonald to the engine. Engineer Kreps then
drove the engine from the accident site to the intersection of Highway
78/79 and Orchard Lane where medical treatment was provided. The injured
personnel were then airlifted to the University of San Diego Burn Center.
There were also several near misses along Orchard Lane as resources at
902 Orchard and 1038 Orchard had their escape routes cut off by fire.
They were eventually able to retreat without any injuries or damage to
reading—Summary of Events>>>