Point Fire, 1995
Island Fork Fire, 1999
Point Fire Case Study
Point Fire Accident Investigation
A. Point Fire Overview
D. Supporting Data
- Sequence of Events
- Organization Charts
- Site Investigation
- Fire Behavior Report
- Property Damage Report
- Witness Statements
- Outline of Kuna Wildland Training Provided by BLM
E. Records and Reports
- Preplanned Dispatch
- BLM Radio Transmission Log
- Ada County Dispatch Log
- Fire Incident Status Summary
- Escaped Fire Situation Analysis
- Wildland Fire Entrapment Report
- Technical Analysis of Personal Protective Equipment
- Vehicle Inspection
- Weather Reports
Island Fork Fire Accident Investigation
Point Fire — U.S. District Court Civil Case
Ruling on I.C.'s Decisions - Nov. 10, 1998
• Factual Background
• Legal Analysis
Ruling on BLM Liability - Feb. 19, 1999
• Legal Standards
Ruling on Public Safety Officer Benefits
Colorado Firecamp extends special thanks to Linda Perkins, BLM
Idaho State FOIA Coordinator, for her friendly assistance in gathering
the Point Fire documents. BLM FOIA Letter
The most important part of this report could very well be the recommendations
found in this section. Lessons, however painful, can be learned from the
tragedy that occured at the Point Fire. If the recommendations help to
make the difficult job of fighting wildfires safer, then the investigation
team's efforts will have been worthwhile.
Some of the recommendations are of limited geographic applicability;
others may have far-ranging utility. Recommendations that require immediate
attention are marked with an asterisk.
A. INCIDENT COMMAND AND
A lack of coordination between the BLM IC and the Kuna RFD command was
apparent on the Point Fire. No physical contact was made or radio communications
maintained between the two entities. No mutual aid agreement exists defining
the wildland firefighting roles and responsibilities.
- * BLM and cooperating local entities should review
Incident Command System alternatives to clarify roles under combinations
Where there is a multi-agency response to a single jurisdiction,
a single IC should be used. Multiple jurisdictions, such as mixed
ownership lands where structure protection is needed, may require
a shared command. If there is a question about jurisdictions, agency
supervisors must mutually decide on the command structure as soon
as they arrive at the fire. Once this decision has been made, the
organization in use should be broadcast to all units on the fire as
well as dispatch centers.
- All adjoining federal, state, and local agencies should work toward
securing formal mutual aid agreements for fire protection and suppression.
Formal agreements should identify operating procedures, including command
structure, and common radio communications.
- All mutual aid entities should foster increased interaction between
agency fire management personnel and local entities (primarily rural
fire departments) to generate better understanding of the duties, responsibilities,
and capabilities of the cooperating entities. Activities such as prescribed
burns, training, post-wildfire critiques, and managed or simulated fires
could provide valuable experience in fire control and firefighting skills.
- BLM needs to reaffirm the necessity of providing basic safety briefings
to crews when fire conditions or weather conditions change significantly.
- The State of Idaho is urged to establish an entity whose role would
include oversight responsibility to establish, coordinate, and maintain
standards for wildland firefighter qualifications, training and equipment.
Without such oversight, rural volunteer firefighters will continue to
be asked to perform duties for which they may not have been adequately
- It is further recommended that the Idaho State Association of Fire
Chiefs take the lead in explaining to the public and elected officials
the need for the above-mentioned oversight role in the Idaho State government.
- It is recommended that agencies not request, accept, or use wildland
firefighters or equipment that do not meet mutually negotiated standards
as identified mutual aid agreements.
Communication, or lack of adequate communication, was
a significant factor in this incident. Specifically, common radio communications
were not always available to all firefighters on the Point Fire. Instructions
and warnings were not always received, and consistent radio contact with
engines was not always possible.
- BLM and local cooperators should begin to develop and
strengthen regional mutual aid communication plans, including radio
frequency use and management.
- * All cooperating entities should
inventory their capabilities to ensure that they are able to communicate
on common radio channels. BLM and rural fire departments should consider
exchanging radios during multi-agency wildfires.
- The BLM Boise District should provide its Dispatch
Center with tape recording capabilities that include automatic time
- * BLM Boise Dispatch should immediately
modify its current logging process for documenting radio transmissions
by providing a log for each radio dispatch console. Also, BLM Boise
Dispatch should initiate a separate log specific to each fire whenever
possible and limit entries to activities specific to that fire.
- BLM Boise District should better observe National Wildfire
Coordinating Group (NWCG) standards for engine designation, identification
of individuals and so forth. Use of "clear text" guidelines
need to be emphasized. Agency-specific terms, slang, and ten codes need
to be eliminated.
- All agencies should reaffirm the need for engines to
notify the IC when they re-position themselves, run low on water, and
the route they will take to refill.
- * Severe weather warnings should be
provided to the appropriate city or county dispatch center and the center
should broadcast these warnings to those monitoring their frequencies.
C. EQUIPMENT AND TRAINING
This incident identified significant variations between
federal and rural organizations in the types of equipment and training
provided for wildland firefighters. Rural fire departments have no uniform
standards for equipment and training for wildland firefighting.
- Cooperating entities involve in wildland firefighting are encouraged
to provide themselves with personal protective equipment that meets
the National Fire Protection Association Standard #1977. Further, it
is strongly recommended that each wildland firefighter be equipped with
a fire shelter.
- * BLM and cooperators should perform and document
weekly inspections of equipment and personal protective equipment, including
fire extinguishers, hoses, fittings, connectors, vehicle fluid levels,
drive lines, tires, etc. Equipment that experiences a breakdown on an
incident or exercise should be thoroughly examined by qualified personnel
and certified by management to be in working order before it is again
placed in service. Equipment with a history of mechanical failure should
not be used in off-road wildland fire suppression efforts, unless corrective
steps have been taken.
- BLM should contact the MTDC for information currently being gathered
regarding staying in a vehicle overrun by fire versus leaving the vehicle
and deploying fire shelters. Such information, when available, should
be shared with all cooperators involved in wildland fire suppression.
- * Engines must be equipped to distribute water around
the entire vehicle for protection in emergencies. Engines must retain
enough water in the tank at all times to provide protection in an emergency.
- Engines should always carry one or more individuals with enough training
and experience to recognize and avoid unsafe practices.
- Federal agencies, in cooperation with state and local officials, should
consider basic wildland firefighting training, using the NWCG wildland
firefighter training program as guidelines for rural fire departments
and other cooperators involved in wildland fire suppression.
D. INVESTIGATION PROCEDURES
Although not directly tied to the Point Fire, the team suggests three
improvements in the investigation process be incorporated in any similar
efforts in the future.
- The investigation process must begin promptly after an incident occurs.
Incidents with the loss of lives should receive an immediate response,
by the local unit involved and by agency officials. When logisitically
possible, the investigation team should be on site within hours of a
- The local unit involved must also act quickly to preserve evidence,
gather initial statements and photographs, provide for site security
and prepare for investigation team briefings. It should prepare a list
of persons to contact, and prepare maps and other documents that will
- An investigation "handbook" needs to be developed that provides
guidelines for team membership, investigation process and other relevant