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Thread: Three Firefighters Killed When Fire Engine Rolls Down 800-Foot Calif. Ravine

  1. #1
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    Three Firefighters Killed When Fire Engine Rolls Down 800-Foot Calif. Ravine

    Three Firefighters Killed When Fire Engine Rolls Down 800-Foot Calif. Ravine
    Two Others Suffer Serious Injuries

    ANDREW KRAMER
    Associated Press Writer

    HAPPY CAMP, Calif. (AP) -- A fire engine fighting wildfires in the Klamath National Forest tumbled 800 feet off a steep, dirt road into a ravine Sunday, killing three firefighters, officials said.

    Two others survived the plunge and were airlifted to the Mercy Medical Center in Redding, Ca., said Brian Harris, a the U.S. Forest Service spokesman. Their conditions were not known.

    The five firefighters were returning from a 620-acre fire near the extreme northern California town of Happy Camp at about 2 a.m. when the truck rolled off the ravine, he said.

    "Indications are they rolled in the worst possible place. It's safe to say they rolled the entire 800 feet,'' over rocky and partially wooded terrain, he said.

    The about 400 firefighters working the fires retreated Sunday and let the blaze burn unchecked, Harris said. No homes were threatened. The deaths brought to 12 the number of firefighters killed while fighting blazes in the West this summer.

    Meanwhile, a wildfire near the Columbia River port town of The Dalles had grown to 12,000 acres Sunday and burned to within inches of some rural buildings.

    Crews had the fire about 55 percent contained but gusty wind periodically kicked up the flames.

    "The fire is continuing to pose serious control problems,'' said Peg Foster, an Oregon Department of Forestry information officer.

    The blaze grew by 3,000 acres during the night, officials said.

    Residents of 250 homes had been urged to evacuate since the lightning-started fire flared Thursday and spread into rural subdivisions about three miles south of The Dalles. In some places, flames burned to within 2 miles of town.

    Stiff wind pushed the fire toward Bonneville Power Administration power lines during the night, Foster said.

    The power lines might have to be switched off if dense smoke threatens to create short circuits between the wires and the ground, endangering firefighters, she said.

    Two outbuildings had burned.

    Fire managers said Sunday they hoped to stop the fire from creeping down a hillside toward The Dalles. However, the town was not considered threatened.

    In California's Sierra Nevada, a blaze in and around Giant Sequoia National Monument had grown to 66,000 acres Sunday, after burning an additional 1,600 acres during the night.

    The ancient sequoia trees weren't completely safe but firefighters had minimized the threat, said fire information officer Jill Slater.

    "They're really getting a handle on it,'' she said.

    The wildfire was 30 percent contained.

    There was no telling when residents evacuated from Ponderosa, Johnsondale and other areas near the sequoias might be able to return, fire officials said. At least 10 structures had burned and 200 were threatened.

    A woman was arraigned Friday on charges of starting the fire, about 130 miles north of Los Angeles, while cooking over an illegal campfire.

    Thirty-one major fires still active on Sunday around the West and in Alaska had burned about 491,000 acres, the National Interagency Fire Center reported.



    http://www.firehouse.com/lodd/2002/ca_jul28.html

  2. #2
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    Firefighters Salute Three Fallen Comrades

    Firefighters Salute Three Fallen Comrades
    Two Others Suffer Serious Injuries

    JEFF BARNARD
    Associated Press Writer

    HAPPY CAMP, Calif. (AP) -- A flag over the fire camp was lowered to half-staff and U.S. Forest Service members wore black bands in tribute to three firefighters killed when their truck plunged down a mountainside.

    In the latest tragic turn of a fire season that has become one of the deadliest in recent memory, three people were killed Sunday when the Forest Service fire truck drove off a narrow, smoke-shrouded road in the dark of night and plunged 800 feet. Two firefighters were injured.

    Officials suspect the conditions around the 1,500-acre fire in the Klamath National Forest some 20 miles south of the Oregon state line played a major role.

    ``The Forest Service is a family. When there is a tragedy, we all cry together,'' said Dave Poucher, a regional Forest Service safety officer. ``You may not know them, but all of a sudden you feel it in the back of the throat, like they are your brother or sister.''

    A memorial service was planned for Monday evening.

    The deaths brought to 14 the number of firefighters killed this summer as wildfires rage across the drought-stricken West. The National Interagency Fire Center reported that 32 major fires that were active Monday had burned 559,000 acres.

    In southern Oregon, firefighters ordered the evacuation of 4,000 to 5,000 people in the Black Butte Ranch Resort after stiff wind fanned a blaze that had burned about 3,700 acres.

    The crew that went off the road near Happy Camp was helping to watch over a 500-acre backfire set during the night, said Forest Service Incident Commander Howard Carlson. Their green crew-cab pickup _ equipped with a 500-gallon water tank _ was driving straight down the road at about 1:30 a.m., when two members of a fire crew saw one wheel go off the road. The truck rolled 800 feet down the steep slope and landed upside down.

    The Forest Service identified the dead as Steven Oustad, 51, of Westwood; Heather DePaolo, 29, of Redding; and John Self, 19, of Susanville.

    Ryan Smith, 20, and Alex Glover, 19, both of Susanville were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Redding, where Smith was in serious condition Monday with head injuries and Glover had been released, Forest Service spokeswoman Christie Kalkowski said.

    The fire they were fighting had forced the closure of a campground but threatened no homes. It was 20 percent contained, with full containment expected Sunday.

    In Oregon, the effort to prevent further damage to the evacuated Black Butte Ranch was complicated by stiff wind. The blaze had destroyed two homes and damaged two others.

    The ranch has a lodge, about 1,300 homes and two golf courses.

    Another major Oregon fire, near the Columbia River port of The Dalles, was about 60 percent contained Monday but an evacuation warning remained in effect for some 250 homes. The 12,000-acre fire had burned two outbuildings and damaged one home, officials said.

    Elsewhere in California, the fire raging near California's giant sequoias grew by 3,000 acres Sunday, but the ancient redwoods seemed to be largely out of trouble, fire officials said.

    More than 2,000 firefighters were at work on the western edge to protect 11 groves of sequoias from the blaze that has caused an estimated $9.1 million in damage.

    Five firefighters have died this summer in air-tanker crashes. Five others died in June when their van rolled on the freeway en route to a blaze in Colorado. A firefighter cutting down fire-damaged trees in Colorado was killed by a falling tree.


    http://www.firehouse.com/lodd/2002/ca_jul28a.html

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    Memorial Held for Fallen Firefighters

    Memorial Held for Fallen Firefighters

    KIM CURTIS
    Associated Press Writer

    HAPPY CAMP, Calif. (AP) -- Tears welled up in Jeremey DePaolo's eyes as he remembered his tough-as-nails sister, one of three firefighters who died battling a blaze near the Oregon state line.

    ``First, Heather fell in love with the West. Then she fell in love with fire,'' DePaolo said Monday. ``If she had to die in a tragic way, I'm glad it was doing what she loved.''

    Heather DePaolo, 29, died early Sunday when her truck plunged more than 1,000 feet down the side of a mountain. Also killed were John Self, 19, and Steven Oustad, 51.

    More than 200 people gathered Monday at a memorial service on an elementary school athletic field.

    Bagpipes played ``Amazing Grace'' and firefighters placed green glowsticks at the base of a flagpole. Gary Lake, a representative of the Karuk tribe, thanked the firefighters for their sacrifice.

    Ryan Smith, 20, and Alex Glover, 19, survived the crash. Glover suffered burns and bruises and was released Monday from a hospital. Smith remained hospitalized in serious condition with a head injury, said Klamath National Forest spokesman Brian Harris.

    The U.S. Forest Service crew was part of a five-engine strike force based at Lassen National Forest. The fire was ignited by lightning a week ago, and by late Monday had consumed 1,650 acres. It was 20 percent contained.

    Jeremey DePaolo, a volunteer firefighter, said his sister loved to snowboard in Montana in the winter and hike the Grand Canyon in the summer. She was behind the wheel of the truck when it slipped off the 11-foot-wide road in the dark.

    ``If that truck went over the cliff it wasn't because she wasn't trying to keep it on the road,'' said DePaolo. He said his sister fought her first fire several years ago as an AmeriCorps volunteer in South Carolina.

    Investigators got their first look at the accident scene Monday. Heavy flames and smoke had kept them away earlier.

    ``I don't know how anyone survived,'' said Robert Koetting, a California Highway Patrol investigator.


    http://www.firehouse.com/lodd/2002/ca_jul28b.html

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    DePaolo, Heather

    Age: 29
    Rank: Firefighter
    Status: Career
    Incident Date: 07/28/2002
    Incident Time: 01:30
    Death Date: 07/28/2002

    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Emergency Duty: Yes
    Duty Type: Fireground Operations
    Activity Type: Other
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    USDA Forest Service, Klamath National Forest
    1312 Fairlane Road
    Yreka, California 96097-9549
    Chief: Forest Supervisor Peg Boland

    Initial Summary:
    A wildland fire crew of 5 was monitoring a 500-acre backfire near Happy Camp, California, when their crew-cab pickup equipped with a 500-gallon water tank left the roadway and rolled 800 feet down a steep slope. Three firefighters were killed and two others injured in the incident.



    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1308

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    Oustad, Steven

    Age: 51
    Rank: Firefighter
    Status: Career
    Incident Date: 07/28/2002
    Incident Time: 01:30
    Death Date: 07/28/2002

    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Emergency Duty: Yes
    Duty Type: Fireground Operations
    Activity Type: Other
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    USDA Forest Service, Klamath National Forest
    1312 Fairlane Road
    Yreka, California 96097-9549
    Chief: Forest Supervisor Peg Boland

    Initial Summary:
    A wildland fire crew of 5 was monitoring a 500-acre backfire near Happy Camp, California, when their crew-cab pickup equipped with a 500-gallon water tank left the roadway and rolled 800 feet down a steep slope. Three firefighters were killed and two others injured in the incident.



    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1307

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    Self, John

    Age: 19
    Rank: Firefighter
    Status: Career
    Incident Date: 07/28/2002
    Incident Time: 01:30
    Death Date: 07/28/2002

    Cause of Death: Struck By/Contact with Object
    Nature of Death: Internal Trauma
    Emergency Duty: Yes
    Duty Type: Fireground Operations
    Activity Type: Other
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    USDA Forest Service, Klamath National Forest
    1312 Fairlane Road
    Yreka, California 96097-9549
    Chief: Forest Supervisor Peg Boland

    Initial Summary:
    A wildland fire crew of 5 was monitoring a 500-acre backfire near Happy Camp, California, when their crew-cab pickup equipped with a 500-gallon water tank left the roadway and rolled 800 feet down a steep slope. Three firefighters were killed and two others injured in the incident.


    http://www.usfa.fema.gov/application....cfm?p_id=1309

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    Road Blamed in Firefighter Accident

    Road Blamed in Firefighter Accident

    DON THOMPSON
    Associated Press


    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) -- Bad road conditions and driver inexperience contributed to an accident that killed three firefighters this summer, a U.S. Forest Service investigation found.

    The crew was battling a fire in rugged northern California terrain July 28 when their fire engine rolled 800 feet down a steep mountainside in the middle of the night.

    Three firefighters were ejected and killed; two survived.

    The report, released Tuesday by the Forest Service, found that Steven Oustad, 51, the captain of the five-member crew, decided to let Heather DePolo, 29, drive despite her lack of experience driving at night after long hours of working.

    DePolo, who was hired as a senior firefighter and being trained to become a fire engine operator, apparently moved the engine to the far left of the narrow road in order to pass two people on the shoulder when one wheel went off the narrow gravel road.

    Also contributing to the accident were poor driver visibility - the large front hood of the engine blocked the view directly in front of the vehicle - and extended nighttime driving.


    http://www.firehouse.com/wildfires/2002/10/30_APca.html

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