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Point Fire, 1995
Island Fork Fire, 1999

Point Fire Case Study

Point Fire Accident Investigation

A. Point Fire Overview

B. Investigation

C. Recommendations

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

F. Glossary


Island Fork Fire Accident Investigation


Island Fork Fire, NIOSH Report

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
Findings of Fact
 • Legal Standards
 • Analysis

Ruling on Public Safety Officer Benefits (PSOB)


Surviving Fire Entrapments


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


Kentucky Division
of Forestry

Report of the
Accident Investigation Team
for the
Island Fork Fire

April 6, 1999 • Near Cranston, Kentucky

Sequence of Events • April 6, 1999

The investigation of the Island Fork wildfire fatalities was initiated on April 6, 1999, by the Kentucky State Police. Its specific focus was on the origin and cause of the fire and the causes of death of the individuals. The coroner of Rowan County, Kentucky, declared the time of death at 6:21 pm on April 6, 1999.

An interagency investigation team was established by the Kentucky Division of Forestry (KDF) to review the entire fatality scenario for the purpose of developing lessons learned for future wildfire incidents. The team was composed of members from the KDF, Daniel Boone Firefighters Association, and the U. S. Forest Service. Technical specialists in fire behavior, law enforcement, and fire equipment were assigned to assist the team on technical matters. Through dispatch logs and witness reports, the sequence of events was determined to be as follows:



Approximate time fire starts.
Rowan County 911 receives wildland fire call.
Route 377 VFD receives dispatch call/page.
Morehead FD dispatched/paged.
1647 Route 377 VFD arrives at fire scene (IC plus nine others).

1650 to 1735

The following sequence occurred with times of each unknown but in order:

  • IC instructs crews to construct line and protect structures. Structures are near anchor point on Island Fork paved road. Fireline anchored at paved road and construction begins in an easterly direction using handtools and a leaf blower.
  • Seven persons with Route 377 VFD construct line easterly with Kenneth Nickell and Kevin Smith being the lead men using a leaf blower and a rake. Nickell has a radio.
  • Spot fires begin to occur. Five team members double back to attempt control of spot fires. Two or three spot fires are attacked while Nickell and Smith continue to move easterly up the hollow remaining in visual contact with other team members. Strong winds experienced in the drainage where the team is working.
  • Nickell and Smith last "seen" by other five team members approximately 320 feet from locations of the spot fires.

    Re-creation of last area where Nickel and Smith were seen by other Route 377 firefighters.

  • Nickell calls on the radio stating they (Nickell and Smith) had been burned.
  • Two Morehead FD personnel scouting from Burrs Branch Road up the hill to the top where they become aware of the rapidly developing situation. They decide not to move down the hill to Nickell and Smith's location due to heavy smoke and high winds driving the fire uphill. They move northeasterly over the ridgetop into a small safe spot they constructed where the fire would be backing down the hill after it made its run, over the top of the hill.
  • Route 377 VFD unit 1102 calls for an ambulance and medical helicopter. (Morehead PD commo log supports request made at 1741.)
  • Nickell radios that he and Smith "are in trouble." Five other team members who returned to ICP not yet allowed by IC to go back and assist due to fire behavior.
  • IC permits others to look for Nickell and Smith but orders that they stay in the burned area working their way up the drainage. They locate the victims and notify the IC.
  • IC calls and asks for Morehead 300 to take IC role.


Morehead RD-FMO hears of wildland fire report in Island Fork area and relays information to Forest Dispatch.


KDF 110 en route (ETA 5 minutes).


KDF dispatch hears of injuries at Island Fork Fire. KDF personnel 102 and 115 converging on Island Fork area.


Requested State Fire Marshal to scene; firefighters down.


Muses Mill VFD dispatched to the Island Fork Fire.


Morehead Ranger District, Daniel Boone National Forest crew (seven people) arrives at Island Fork Fire.


KDF 102 arrives on scene.

1843 KDF 115 arrives on scene.


Kentucky State Police (KSP) and Rowan County coroner on scene conducting investigation.


Supervisory Law Enforcement Officer (USFS) arrives and joins KSP and coroner on the hill conducting investigation.

2130 Lines being tied together and fire contained.

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