HRO Review of the Rattle Fire Snag Incident
September 10, 2008
(download PDF report, 11 pages, 345 kb)
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In Their Own Words: IHC-2
On September 10, 2008 we parked down on the 011 road near the Umpqua River and hiked into Pine Bench. IHC-1 was digging line, burning and using helicopters to keep the fire in-check on the slope from the river up to the top of Pine Bench. They were fully engaged with active fire and had the top 1/4 of their line construct and burn. I (IHC-2 Superintendent) tied in with the Assistant Superintendent from IHC-1 and he gave me a quick run down of what was going on. The hike appeared to be risky at 2 points due to active fire below and the portion of the trail that went through the black had not been snagged. Once we scouted the trail and we determined that exposure was minimal to hike in through IHC-1’s operations.
When we arrived on top of Pine Flats, we received a briefing from Division Supervisor A, with IHC-1, IHC-3, the TFLD, and us. The communicated priority was to complete the line and burn during that operational shift. Division A’s first priority that was communicated to all resources involved was to complete the burnout. In the briefing Division A discussed risks (snags), lookouts, fire behavior, weather, LCES, the Time frame for completion, and divisional assignments. We were the last resource to arrive due to our swing shift and were assigned to the top of the division. We all agreed on the general plan to secure the line to stop the spread of the fire to the west in order to keep it from getting into the old Spring Fire. We were going to stay on swing shift to secure the line after Division A left and was briefed by Operations and Branch.
After the briefing and scouting the fire location, locating safety zones, medivac site, fuels and hazards, we meet with Division A again and agreed on tying into a rock outcropping as a natural barrier into the Boulder creed drainage. The use of professional fallers was discussed with Division A and the TFLD but due to the time frame the Fallers would not make it to Pine Bench until the end of day shift. This decision was made knowing that it would not stop the fire to the north but would slow it down and would minimize the exposure to the snags. (the distance from the rock to the trail was approximately 150 feet of indirect line placing all the snags on the fire side and gave us the time to prep the line before the burn out or the fire reached that location) It took us approximately one hour to scout, devise the plan and brief the crew. The indirect line to the active fire edge was 100-175 feet away. Only a small area had active fire in it that was just north of the rock we were tying into and to the East of it (about 5 acres all in a large snag area within the old fire scar). The remainder of the line we were going direct on was not part of the old fire scar and had minimal fire activity (creeping and smoldering). The majority of the trees from that point were a healthy older stand of large diameter conifers. We felt this was a safe and viable operation mitigating the snags. The line location placed all the snags on the north side of our hand line. The largest area of snags was between the rock and the hiking trail. The fire was still 100-175 feet away. At this time we felt that the small area of snags and distance from the fire edge allowed us enough time to construct the indrect line away from the snags and still allowed us to tie our line into the natural barrier. From there we were going direct and tying in to IHC-3’s hand line who was working toward us on pine bench.
Prior to starting work on the hand line, and burn out. We briefed the crew again on the plan, risk implication and mitigations, knowing the plan was to slow the fire spread and not stop it. The current plan was the best place to slow the fire growth to the south and may not have been the optimal location due to the amount of time we had to implement the plan.
We had taken the time to scout and snag the line in front of the diggers on the line between the rock and trail and then from the trail to IHC-3. During the size-up, the snags in the felling area were recognized but the crew made risk based decision to not go past the rock outcropping to evaluate any further due to the fact we felt the risk of entering into the old burn area to evaluate any hazards was much higher then the risk of completing the cutting operations and leaving the area.
We anchored into the rock with hand line and had progressed about 500 feet from the rock when one falling team (Faller-2 and Swamper-2) stayed behind to snag 150 feet of line from the rock to the trail, the other two falling teams continued to construct direct hand line goint to the south along the smoldering fire edge.
Shortly after starting the falling operation Division A questioned the falling team (Faller-2 and Swamper-2) on their timeline for completation and reiterated again for them to meet the intended time line.
There was a perception of sense of urgency from Division A to complete the line and start the burn prior to all the line being tied in and sections completed between the three crews. All crews made the decision to hold off on burning till all sections of line were completed. Once we tied in to the cooler edge of the fire just off the trail the indirect line was running east-west and the direct line turned south-south east and was smoldering and creeping from there to IHC-3. As we continued working on line completion it became evident the set timeframes to complete the line and burnout were unreal expectations.
At approximately 1915 we were 8 chains from IHC-3 when the snag struck Faller-2. IHC-1 was still working on their line below pine flats. We notified Division A and requested a medivac. We shut down all operations and moved to the accident site and began treatment and packaging of Faller-2
for transport to the Medivac site. At this time Faller-2 and his equipment had to be moved due to the fire location and the need to move him during day light hours. We implemented our Crew medical plan and the lead EMT took charge of the medical scene. I (IHC-2 Superintendent)began relaying information to Division A . Our EMT(i) arrived with IV and took charge of the patient. Once the patient was packaged transport to the Medivac site was started (about ¼ mile) half way to the Medivac site the Paramedic arrived from the Helicopter. The patient was transferred to a backboard and then to the Helicopter at 1953 the patient was loaded and the Helicopter was lifting off.
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