Why is it that a group of 'Hybrid' Firefighters from the Sun City West Fire Department succe
Why is it that a group of 'Hybrid' Firefighters from the Sun City West Fire Department successfully and judiciously noticed the increased June 30, 2013, late afternoon fire behavior, and then proactively disengaged, but the Granite Mountain Hot Shots (GMHS) perished because they did neither?
2019-01-24 | Arizona Desert Walker Joy A. Collura and contributing other(s)
Views expressed to "the public at large” and "of public concern"
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“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” General Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army ( getlighthouse.com )
When you watch and listen to the 'Hybrid' Firefighter's (FF) video clips below you will readily acknowledge that they knew the right thing to do and then did it. Several of the Eighteen Watch Out Situations should come to mind as you view the photos and watch and listen to these video clips. You will clearly notice increasing fire behavior as seen in the flame lengths and dense black smoke columns, terrain and fuels that make escape to safety zones difficult, unburned fuel between you and the fire. These 'Hybrid' Firefighters only fight wildland fires on a part time, call-when-needed basis. They are primarily Municipal and Structural FFs that deal with residential and commercial structure fires, medicals, hazardous materials, technical rescues, inspections, education, occasional wildland fires, and a plethora of other duties. And yet, these 'Hybrid' FFs were able to apply their training and the Basic Wildland Firefighting Rules, observe and understand what they were observing, discern the urgency of the deteriorating situation and leave the area (disengage) in a timely fashion. The very same Basic Wildland Firefighting Rules the GMHS had been trained in.
These 'Hybrid' FFs learned the 'Old School' way of fighting wildfires. These were the same 'Hybrid' FFs that were completing the Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor dozer line by hand once the Yavapai County dozer operator Paul Morin was told by radio to leave the area. This was where Sun City West FD and others were in the Shrine area when the extremely strong downdrafts and ensuing extreme fire behavior were avoided when Task Force Leader ( TFLD ) Darby Starr noted rain drops and told his Task Force to withdraw to safety. While attending the AZ Wildlfire Academy in Prescott, AZ, FF Starr had recalled a story recounted from the Dude Fire where the very similar weather phenomenon and fire behavior were a causal factor in the deaths of six Perryville inmate Wildland Firefighters ( WFs ) on June 26, 1990.
What follows are excerpts from Daily News-Sun article regarding the Yarnell Hill Fire event briefly mentioned above. The link to this article was removed or moved or no longer viable.
“Sun City West Fire District employee Darby Starr wins national honor" Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 6:05 PM
Sun City West firefighter Darby Starr accepts the VFW’s National Firefighter of the Year award from Post 10695 Cmdr. Jim Katzenberger at the SCW Fire District administration building.
By Jeff Grant, DAILY NEWS-SUN Posted: Friday, July 18, 2014 7:42 am | Updated: 9:30 am, Fri Jul 18, 2014.
"The spritz of rain was the final warning sign for Darby Starr.
"As the Fire District of Sun City West’s engine boss for wildlands fire assignments, Starr and three colleagues — one each from Sun City West, Peoria and Glendale — had seen the late-afternoon winds become terribly erratic as they helped fight the Yarnell Hill blaze on June 30, 2013. Starr noticed what seemed to be fire moving in the opposite direction of where it had been headed all day. He even thought he heard some claps of thunder.
"Then came the spritz of rain.
“As soon as I felt that rain, that’s when I decided we needed to pull out,” he said.
"It was a decision colleagues believe prevented further loss of firefighter lives in the blaze that claimed 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots in the deadliest day for U.S. Forest Service firefighting since 1933.
It also earned Starr, 42, the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ National Firefighter of the Year Award, one of the VFW’s highest honors bestowed on public safety and public service workers throughout America. The VFW also recognizes police, paramedics and teachers each year, said Post 10695 Commander Jim Katzenberger following a ceremony Thursday honoring Starr at Sun City West Fire District headquarters.
“These people directly serve our communities, and keep us safe and sound. They’re the backbones who hold our country together,” Katzenberger said.
"Starr, fellow Sun City West firefighter Coy Boggler and two others — one each from Peoria and Glendale — were part of a 10-member task force called to Yarnell Hill early the morning of June 29, 2013, to join other firefighters from throughout the state, including the Granite Hill team and the Blue Ridge Hotshots, fighting the blaze.
"Initially, the team thought it would be there for two days at most. Then, conditions deteriorated rapidly the afternoon of June 30. The unpredictable winds, intense heat and shift in fire movement left the Granite Mountain team with nowhere to go but their deployed fire shelters, where they were overrun by the flames and heat.
"Assigned to cut fireline between homes and the flames, the Brush 103 crew worked on, unaware at first of the Granite Mountain team’s plight but with Starr taking note of conditions and becoming increasingly concerned for the men’s safety.
“I was at the front of the line, right against this hill. It was about 200 feet high. I kept watching fire that seemed to be moving in the opposite direction it had been moving all day. I set a ‘trigger point,’ which was when the fire topped the hill, it was time to go. Shortly after that, I heard thunder. I got that spritz in the face, I turned around, looked at the hill, and fire was over the hill. I told my guys, ‘Let’s go.’”
"As he led the team away from the scene along a planned escape route to a safety zone, the veteran of 20 years wildlands firefighting recalled conditions he had never seen.
“I’d never experienced that kind of fire heat. I’d never seen fire heat so violent. It was astonishing to see exactly how violent this could be and the rate it was moving at. Even in our safety zone, we were crouching behind our truck because of the heat waves we were getting.”
"Another veteran Sun City West firefighter and paramedic, Coy Boggler, recalled his team’s leader’s calm under “immense pressure,” instructing the crew to remain together as it made its way through dense brush toward the truck.
“The fire and smoke bore down on us, creating an incredibly tense trek. Captain Starr remained calm and collected. Had Captain Starr not ordered our expedited retreat to the truck, I believe we may have been trapped and would have to deploy our shelters,” Boggler stated in a written report.
“Both of the other two firefighters and myself feel Captain Starr prevented a second tragedy.”
"It was not until the next morning that the Brush 103 crew would learn officially that their colleagues from Granite Mountain had perished, although Starr said a lack of information on their status during the tense late-afternoon hours June 30 raised suspicions that something had gone wrong.
"Starr credited experience and training for his decision-making, including a story from a wildfire academy earlier last year, part of the Sun City West’s year-round wildlands-firefighter training.
"As the academy director addressed his class, he discussed June 1990’s Dude Fire near Payson, which killed six firefighters and until Yarnell Hill had stood as the worst loss of firefighter life in Arizona wildlands firefighting history.
“He was talking about the weather conditions he was experiencing, the fire behavior he was seeing. He mentioned he got spritzed with rain, and that was just strange enough for him to turn around and go back the other direction. He had been headed right for the guys who were burned over,” Starr recalled. “At the Yarnell Hill fire, I started seeing that strange fire behavior.”
"SCW Assistant Fire Chief Tim Van Scoter, another veteran wildlands firefighter, said Starr’s actions reflect on his leadership and recognize the kind of work done by many district members throughout the year.
“Firefighters don’t look for this recognition. It’s nice when it comes. That’s not why they did what they did that day. They didn’t even know it was going to be submitted.”
“I’m very honored,” said Starr. “We were just doing our job. I don’t feel like I did anything extraordinary. But to be recognized by my friends, my co-workers and the VFW is an honor,” he said.
"An organization formed 115 years ago to provide social, financial and emotional care to veterans returning from combat, the VFW includes 10,000 posts throughout the world. Each nominates an individual for the organization’s annual awards. Recipients are selected after careful review in a several-step process, said Katzenberger.” (all bolded emphasis added)
Firefighters hail gains fighting wildland blazes
By Tina Gamez, DAILY NEWS-SUN on Apr 24, 2014
Figure 1. Jerry Thompson photo IMG_1898 at 4:24 PM looking north-northwest; confirmed, indicating an unburned gap between two separate and distinct smoke columns, suggesting a firing operation Source:. Jerry Thompson Photos Videos (Sun City West FD). See Dropbox link below **.
In Figure 1., to the right (right smoke plume) is Harper Canyon and to the left is a gap with unburned fuel that shows two separate columns and leads to second column on the Sesame Street to Shrine Corridor area.
Link for IMG_1898.jpg photo above. Same as Figure image with Google Earth overlay and GPS coordinates ( https://www.dropbox.com/sh/02ue6bnjp6nazkm/AACjXUZXUTol5xdSHlORGsTqa/Photos%20and%20Video/Jerry%20Thompson%20Photos%20Videos?dl=0&preview=IMG_1898.jpg&subfolder_nav_tracking=1 )
What follows below are several of the Sun City West FD (SCW FD) firefighter Jerry Thompson ("Jerry Thompson Photos Videos") Dropbox of his June 30, 2013, late afternoon, four videos, three out of six photos, and respective explanatory and narrative texts. These four videos will also be shown individually below.
The four individual video clips from this Dropbox immediately below with narratives.
Video IMG_1101.3gp (18 seconds) June 30, 2013 at 3:24 PM video footage of FF sitting on a boulder watching the fire behavior and smoke column with FF radio traffic overheard and lots of wind in the microphone of the videographer.
Video IMG_1134.3gp (1:04 seconds) 4:27 PM video of very active lateral fire behavior in chaparral fuels. Narration with another FF talking in the background: "look at those flame lengths on the ridge; those are 200 foot flame lengths easy, those middle flames are 200 foot, 300 foot flame lengths in this stuff, Over here we got smoke that looks like it's trying to push itself down, heavy column above us, pretty good activity in here. So, we had thunder[storms] in here earlier. We were talking about plume dominated fire. It really doesn't seem to be pushing off, it seems to be pushing right at us all of a sudden, all the signs and symptoms of ah, multiply that times ten and it's time to get out of here. ... holy Jesus"
Video IMG_1135.3gp (19 seconds) silent video footage of active lateral and downslope fire behavior left to right
Video IMG_1136.3gp (10 seconds) video of active fire behavior with OPS Todd Abel radio transmissions overheard regarding moving tactical resources to "Cordes, down in Yarnell, he's getting pushed hard right now." FFs in the video saying "we're getting lot of ash" and another FF saying " "It's coming right at us, we gotta hike to the [trucks]."
The following three .txt messages are included in the Dropbox of the Sun City West FD for the videos/photos indicating documentation including times.
Note "who" they gave their photos and videos to as well.
Consider the (README.txt at 4:24PM) text message regarding the SCW FD videos and photos given to the Co-Team Leader Mike Dudley. "Jerry Thompson, who was on a brush rig during the fire, gave these June 30, 2013 photos to Mike Dudley, a member of the Accident Investigation Team. Jerry included text files with time stamps for each file. He also included this text file: 4:24pm Mike, this is Jerry Thompson from Sun City FD, I have time stamps to photo's and video." (emphasis added)
4:24pm Mike, this is Jerry Thompson from Sun City FD, I have time stamps to photo's and video. (_text_1.txt )
"4:30pm I took this last pic right before hiking to our truck and out to our safety zone, we are approx 3/4 mile south of Blue Ridge Hotshots at this point, they where working NW of the [S]hrine, and believe GM is 3/4of a mile southwest of us." (emphasis added) (README.txt) text message regarding the Sun City West FD photo (IMG_5682.txt )
Figure 2. .Photo IMG_8573 on June 30, 2013 at 4:13 PM indicating active fire behavior and darkened smoke columns. Source: Jerry Thompson (Sun City West FD)
( https://www.dropbox.com/sh/02ue6bnjp6nazkm/AACjXUZXUTol5xdSHlORGsTqa/Photos%20and%20Video/Jerry%20Thompson%20Photos%20Videos?dl=0&preview=IMG_8573.jpg&subfolder_nav_tracking=1 )
Figure 3. Photo IMG_8573 on June 30, 2013 at 4:13 PM indicating active fire behavior and darkened smoke columns. Source: Jerry Thompson (Sun City West FD)
( https://www.dropbox.com/sh/02ue6bnjp6nazkm/AACjXUZXUTol5xdSHlORGsTqa/Photos%20and%20Video/Jerry%20Thompson%20Photos%20Videos?dl=0&preview=IMG_3751.jpg&subfolder_nav_tracking=1 )
Figure 4. Photo IMG_1898.jpg indicating June 30, 2013 at 4:24 PM, active fire behavior, looking north-northwest, with two separate and distinct smoke columns in the Harper Canyon area suggesting a firing operation. Source: Jerry Thompson (Sun City West FD) and Joy A. Collura and Paint
Figure 5. Photo IMG_1898.jpg on June 30, 2013 at 4:24 PM indicating active fire behavior with two separate and distinct smoke columns in the area with GPS Coordinates at 4900' elevation as indicated in Figure 1. Source: Jerry Thompson (Sun City West FD) and Google Earth
Figure 6. Google Earth image of Sesame Street and Shrine Corridor in upper middle (red line); middle black square is Pat Bernard's place; upper right black square is Shrine Youth Camp (Chung's); and lowest black square is the Grotto area. Source: Google Earth, Joy A. Collura, Paint
This enhanced Google Earth image is to indicate specific key YH Fire areas from above where some of the WFs and FFs were located on June 30, 2013.
The reason why a group of 'Hybrid' Firefighters from the Sun City West Fire Department successfully and judiciously noticed the increased June 30, 2013, late afternoon fire behavior, and then proactively disengaged, but the Granite Mountain Hot Shots (GMHS) perished because they did neither is because the 'Hybrid' FFs knew the Basic Wildland Firefighting Rules and recognized and heeded and mitigated the Watch Out Situations, so blatantly obvious to themselves and so many others that afternoon. This should be a good take away lesson for all you WFs that think 'Hybrids' don't know what they are doing on wildland fires.
The Armor of God
10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. 11 Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. 13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. 14 Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, 15 and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. 16 In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. 17 Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.