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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




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 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.


  1. * BLM and cooperating local entities should review Incident Command System alternatives to clarify roles under combinations of jurisdictions.

    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.

  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. BLM needs to reaffirm the necessity of providing basic safety briefings to crews when fire conditions or weather conditions change significantly.
  5. 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 trained.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.


  1. BLM and local cooperators should begin to develop and strengthen regional mutual aid communication plans, including radio frequency use and management.
  2. * 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.
  3. The BLM Boise District should provide its Dispatch Center with tape recording capabilities that include automatic time encoding.
  4. * 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. * 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.


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.


  1. 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.
  2. * 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.
  3. 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.
  4. * 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.
  5. Engines should always carry one or more individuals with enough training and experience to recognize and avoid unsafe practices.
  6. 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.



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.

  1. 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 fatal accident.
  2. 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 be needed.
  3. An investigation "handbook" needs to be developed that provides guidelines for team membership, investigation process and other relevant information.


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