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Accident Report
Fatalities & Injury
July 17, 1976

Cover and Contents


I. Events Prior to Accident

  1. Location
  2. National Fire Situation
  3. Fire Environment
    1. Weather
    2. Topography
    3. Vegetation and Fuels
  4. Origin and Initial Suppression Effort

II. Fire Behavior and Burning Sequence on July 16 and 17, 1976

  1. General Situation
  2. Prior Weather
  3. Fire Behavior Appraisal
  4. Fire Behavior July 16
  5. Burning Sequence July 17
  6. Chaparral Model Nomograph
  7. Fire Behavior Summary

III. Suppression Effort and Accident Sequence

  1. Accident Sequence
  2. Post-Accident Rescue and Medical Action

IV. Investigation

V. Organization and Management

  1. Fire Overhead and Crew Assignments 7/16-7/17/76
  2. Overhead Qualification and Experience
  3. Crew Qualification and Experience
  4. Logistical Support
  5. Fire Planning and Intelligence
  6. Aviation Management Activity

VI. Findings

  1. Mechanical Factors
  2. Physical Factors
  3. Human Factors
    1. Crew
    2. Overhead
  4. Management Factors


Battlement Creek Fire 1976-2006: Thirty Years of Lessons Learned, Powerpoint presentation for the Colorado Fire Training Officers Association, .ppt file, 3.7 mb

No Fire Shelters in British Columbia, July 25, 2005 safety bulletin explaining their change in policy, .pdf file, 2.2 mb




Accident Report
Fatalities & Injury
July 17, 1976


A. Location

The fire occurred approximately 40 miles northeast of Grand Junction, Colorado, in the Battlement Creek drainage, Sections 11, 12, 13, 14 and 23, T7S, R95W. It consumed 880 acres in 3 days: July 15, 16 and 17, 1976. At the time of the accident, 13 crews totalling 270 men and approximately 20 overhead were assigned to the fire. (See Section I-D for initial suppression effort by the Grand Valley Volunteer Fire Department on July 11.) The Grand Junction District of the Bureau of Land Management was responsible for suppression of the fire. Fire suppression support and capability is newly organized this year around the Grand Junction Fire Center (BLM) located at Walker Field (the commercial airport) in Grand Junction. This Center serves all BLM lands in western Colorado with a complement of crews, helicopters and air tankers. The Fire Center, under Colorado State Office supervision, has 1 full-time employee, 9 seasonal employees, 2 fire management specialist assistants (detailed from BIFC), 30 trained firefighters from the San Luis Valley, Colorado, crews, and one 12-man helitack crew (detailed from the Forest Service).

B. National Fire Situation

On July 15, there were 198 fires reported on the Daily Fire Situation Report from BIFC. The majority of the fires were in California, Nevada, and Utah. The only fire requiring interregional support was the Ishawooa fire on the Shoshone National Forest, which used air tanker No. 56 and 60 Missoula smokejumpers. Utah BLM had a large fire southwest of Salt Lake City. During this day, the Grand Junction District worked on three fires, including the Battlement Creek fire.

On July 16, the number of fires increased to 242, but more importantly extensive dry lightning occurred in California, Nevada, and Utah. The Battlement Creek fire and the Wickahoney fire in the Boise District of the BLM (1,590 acres) required mobilization of considerable resources. Initial attack forces in most areas of California and Utah were heavily taxed, but were successful in containing most of the fires.

On July 17, as an aftermath of the lightning storms the prior afternoon, 458 fires were reported, and red flag warnings were forecast in central California. Of the 458 fires, 384 of them were in California. The Battlement Creek fire was the only one drawing on BIFC support, although several large restock orders were processed through the fire warehouse from other areas.

This situation continued through Sunday, July 18, when 425 fires were reported. Again, 352 of these were in California, with Sequoia and Yosemite National Parks catching 120 of these fires. There were no major support actions from BIFC or any other caches outside the fire areas.

In brief summary, the national picture shows a fairly busy initial attack situation with few large fires materializing, and most of these not drawing on outside resources to any extent. A large supply of crews, aircraft of all kinds (except heavy helicopters), overhead, radio equipment, and fire supplies were available.

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