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  • JOY A COLLURA

3 - Was the June 26,1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the incomplete lessons learned on June 30, 2013?


Authors: Douglas Fir, Joy A Collura, and other contributing authors

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Figure 1. June 26, 1990, early afternoon Dude Fire showing increasing, aggressive crown fire at the head of Walk Moore Canyon, taken from Bonita Creek Estates looking Westerly Source: NWCG.

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. Ephesians 6:12 (NIV)



The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it. Thucydides (Athenian historian and General).

In "Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" We closed the post with the "(Not for Public Release, FS Custodian of Accident Report) Accident Investigation Report," and the Dude Fire Incident Multiple Firefighter Fatality June 26, 1990, Southwestern Region, Tonto National Forest Figure 4. Narrative - page 3 from that post, in the copy of the larger scope "INVESTIGATION - A. Narrative B. Findings C. Causal Factors" report I found the additional (missing) Narrative page that was excluded as a page in the Dude Fire Accident Report. Here it is:

Figure 1a. Dude Fire Fatalities Page 4 (Narrative - The Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Record Files

Figure 2. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation Page 7 (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


Note midway (above) at: "(c) Equipment (6) Clothing degradation of four of the deceased indicates they were caught in a flame front prior to fully deploying [fire] shelters." (emphasis added) In the very near future, more will be further revealed with photographs of heavily scorched WF fire shirts from the waist up, to be located in the Part 5 Precursor post.


These fire weather warnings regarding wildland firefighting during thunderstorm activity and the associated winds continue to surface, and so they are worth heeding. These two were listed within Figure 2. (above). "d. Weather, June 26, 1990 - (5) A few sprinkles of rain occurred in the fire area around 1310-1315" and this warning was once included in Watch Out #15 regarding the winds. "(7) A definite calm occurred a few minutes before the blow-up" and "(9) A strong blast of wind preceded the fire front." (all emphasis added) We need to reinstate the calm or winds stop warning back into Watch Out #15 once again because it was a causal fire weather factor in both June 1990 and June 2013. In fact, this fire weather causal factor warning was instrumental in saving the lives of a "Hybrid" Engine Task Force in The Shrine area on June 30, 2013.


The sudden calm and the word "calm" in reference to the winds "prior to" the intense outflow downdraft winds is critical. It has somehow been discounted and forgotten by NWCG and many supervisors. It is, rarely, if ever mentioned in on-going required trainings and annual refreshers.

Figure 2a (left). Archive image of Watch Out Situation Number 15 - "YOU notice wind CHANGE!" poster Source: Wildfire Today


Wildfire Today Bill Gabbert posted this archive image on March 27, 2009, and stated: "The image above is the 10th one we have posted. It is similar to Situation #15 on the present day list of 18." (emphasis added)


I contend that it is "similar" only in the sense that it refers to the wind. Back in the day (1970s), I (DF) recall being taught that it included the wind stopping.

I (DF) recall U.S. AUSA Johns (RiP) asking me what the USFS policy was on firing operations during thunderstorms. My answer was that there is no such policy. So then, it defaults to our best professional discretion and judgement under the circumstances at the time.


For what follows now in order for the missing pages debacle to make sense, please consider the content from Part 2, Figure 10. page 11: "Just minutes after returning to work at about 1415 to 1420 hours, a Navajo crewmember yelled 'Get Out.' All of the Navajo and Perryville crewmembers realizing that the fire was blowing up, immediately began running down Walk Moore Canyon toward the Control Road. Part way down, 11 members of the Perryville Crew ... begin the remainder of this sentence that follows in Figure 3. Page 12 (below) "were cut off when the fire crossed the dozer line they turned around and began running back up the Canyon with orders to deploy their shelters." (emphasis added)


Please allow yourself the time to read the excerpts below regarding the progression of the Perryville Crew burnover, fire shelter deployments, injuries, and deaths that ensued. It will assist trying to make some sense of the Perryville Equipment Locations map in Part 2 in Figure 21. Be forewarned, many of these Perryville Crew experiences and recollections are quite emotional and may be considered by some to be disturbing or offensive.

Every word of God proves pure; he is a shield to those who take refuge in him. Proverbs 30.5 (KJV)


Figure 3. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation Page 12- Sequence of Events (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


This Figure 3. (above) document (p. 12) contains some details on the fire behavior, the Perryville Crew attempts to escape, several fire shelter deployment specifics, some specific fatalities mentioned, and eventual escape to safety for several onto the Control Road.

Figure 4. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation Page 19 appears to be a Witness contact List continued (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


As you progress down through the many informative WF MOIs and Witness Statements please pay heed to the unique Mogollon Rim thermal belt and high nighttime temperature fire weather phenomena influences of the increasingly aggressive to extreme exponential fire behavior that were witnessed and experienced throughout the June 25-27, 1990, Dude Fire. Watch Out #4 for those non-local WFs and FFs. (Robert Bates - 1962 - "A Key to Blow-up Conditions in the Southwest?" (See Fire Mgmt. Today, 63, Fall; The article is reprinted from Fire Control Notes 23(4) [Fall 1962]: 95–99) ( https://www.nwcg.gov/sites/default/files/wfldp/docs/sr-dude-blowup.pdf)

Figure 5. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation Page 21 Witness Statement Cover Page (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files

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What follows are the beginning of a series of Memorandum of Interviews (MOI). These are generally the result of an investigator interviewing a witness and then transcribing the details. The interviewee is supposed to be allowed to review their MOI for accuracy, sign it if accurate or else make any correction(s), then initial, and date them. The ethical investigator should then include those in the SAIR.


Unfortunately, there have been several cases of nefarious deeds by unethical investigators that had an unprincipled or devious agenda, (i.e. conclusion first, then facts to support it). The corrupt investigators would then submit as evidence those original MOIs that were false or inaccurate instead to support their disreputable agenda, rather than the one(s) corrected by the interviewee. This is criminal!

Consider now (Figure 6 - below) the Safety Officer Hall Ashcroft MOI that starts right out of the gate out with these remarkable observations, conclusions, and statements: "Went in to Bonito (sic) [Creek Estates] Monday night. ... several Engines with no communications in a potential death trap because they were located in a brush field. ... Tied in with [two] dozers which had came (sic) in without supervision. ... felt uneasy about putting in the dozer line. ... " (emphasis added)

Figure 6. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation. Memorandum of Interview (MOI) Safety Officer Hall Ashcraft One page - (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor ...?" Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files

Figure 6. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation. MOI Two pages 2 - Fire Weather IMET Robert Berkovitz (the Incident Management Missing page from"Part 2 - Was the June 26,1990, Dude Fire a precursor ...?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files

Figure 6a. NWS Forecaster Robert Berkovitz reflects back on June 26-27, 1990. He correctly noted the nighttime June 27, 1990, Mogollon Rim Thermal Belt induced fire behavior - "The fire was spreading rather fast through the night, even though upper winds over the fire were rather light." Source: NWS Berkovitz, Joy's Records Files


NWS IMET Berkovitz validated what I (DF) and others witnessed right through the night and early morning hours of June 26-27, 1990, as the fire raged across the Mogollon Rim (The Rim), from West to East above Bonita Creek toward Horton Creek. On June 27, 1990, it would threaten the Haught Cabin, while untended-to embers in eaves, vents, and wood shingled areas, etc. would burn the Zane Grey Cabin from the top, down. The advancing fire front would also imminently threaten the Tonto Creek Fire Hatchery.


According to our trusted stand-by Wikipedia, The Rim extends approximately 200 miles, starting in northern Yavapai County and running Eastward, ending near the border with New Mexico. It forms the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau in Arizona.


Consider now a brief NWCG, S-190 refresher on Thermal Belts and see Figure 6b. (below): "Nighttime inversions in mountainous regions increase in depth during the night. They form early in the evening at the canyon bottom or valley floor and at first are quite shallow. The cold layer gradually deepens, with the nighttime inversion coming in contact with and reaching farther up the slope below the main ridges. The warmest nighttime air temperatures in valleys are often found at the inversion top. The height of the warmest air temperature, at the top of the inversion, can be found by measuring temperature along the slope. From the top of the inversion, temperature decreases as one goes farther up or down the slope. This region of warmer air, typically found on the middle third of the slope, is called the THERMAL BELT. The thermal belt is characterized by the highest minimum temperature and the lowest nighttime relative humidity. Within the thermal belt, wildland fires can remain rather active throughout the night. Below the thermal belt, fires are in cool, humid, and stable air." (emphasis added)

Figure 6b. Thermal belt idealized image Snippet. Thermal belts usually occur in the middle third of slopes with warmer temperatures and lower relative humidities giving rise to more active nighttime fire behavior.The entire Mogollon Rim is a thermal belt. Source: Thomson Higher Education


Figure 6c. (below) June 25-26, 1990, nighttime fire behavior. Source: USA Today



Now consider this from the bottom of OPS Cooke's MOI in Figure 7 (below): "PRD DFMO Pat [Velasco] was providing intelligence for future suppression actions. ... A Strike Team of Type I Engines was protecting the structures. [DIVS] Whitney was to stay with the structure protection and burnout operations. ... Walked down toward Walk Moore Canyon ... and Velasco was walking up from the Control Road. Met with [Velasco] part of the way down." (emphasis added) You're kidding me, right? Velasco providing suppression intelligence? This is definitely both contradictory and incongruous.

Figure 7. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation MOI Page 3 OPS Dick Cooke (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


In OPS Cooke's MOI (Figure 8. below) he was apparently observant in some situations while lacking in others, like situational awareness when he noted: "At 1315-1330 ... no burnout was taking place. ... [the] fire was backing down across the canyon about 1/3 [of] the way from the top. ... Heard a radio conversation that the fire had crossed the Control Road on the West side. Arrive at the Control Road with Velasco about 2:15 [PM]. ... Was not aware of Air Attack (fixed wing) activity over the fire. ... Was not aware of any storm activity. ... [Cooke] believed he was never clearly transitioned responsibilities from VanTillborg. Had a very short time to interact with the Type II Team and consequently the transition did not go smoothly. However, didn't believe it caused the accident. ... Worst fire behavior in over 20 years of fire experience." (emphasis added) The improper transition may not have caused the event, however, it was definitely a primary causal factor, enough so that it should be included, and definitely addressed at Stand One of the Dude Fire Staff Ride and / or Site Visit. The out-of-place "accident" comment is addressed below and should also be addressed on site.


Pay heed to the short interaction time with the Type II Team members during the classic Southwestern Region, mid-day, high activity time, as well as his unsmooth transition comment. As stated above, the lack of interaction time definitely did not alone cause the "accident" but it was most assuredly a causal factor. And what about the similar "it was an accident ... one of those things that happens" comment made by PFD Wildland BC Willis during the July 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire - GMHS Deployment / Fatality Site News Conference?


By definition - accident is defined as - "an unfortunate incident that happens unexpectedly and unintentionally, typically resulting in damage or injury" or it is "an event that happens by chance or that is without apparent or deliberate cause." It is a widely accepted and known fact that wildland firefighter burnovers, entrapments, fire shelter deployments, and fatalities are definitely NOT accidents.

Teach me thy way, O Lord, that I may walk in thy truth; unite my heart to fear thy name. Psalm 86:11 (KJV)


Figure 8. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation. MOI Page 4- OPS Dick Cooke - page two of his account (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


What follows are several mostly illegible handwritten pages of copies of OPS Cook's top-spiral notebook - you will readily notice that a lot of his writing is very difficult to read, and very difficult to decipher. They generally concern the Bonita Creek and Walk Moore Canyon fire behavior, the Perryville Burnovers, Deployments, and eventual fatalities. Therefore, the readers are on their own here on these public records.

Figure 9. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation. Dick Cooke June 26, 1990, MOI supplement - Chronology spiral notebook copies Page 5- OPS Dick Cooke - page three of his account, chronology top-spiral notebook copies (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26,1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files

Figure 10. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation MOI supplement - top-spiral notebook Page 6- OPS Dick Cooke - page four of his account, chronology II (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26,1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files

Figure 11. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation MOI supplement - top-spiral handwritten notes Page 7- OPS Dick Cooke - page five of his account, chronology II (the Incident Management Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files

The MOIs of the Perryville Crew and / or those directly associated with them, are very limited to Crewmembers Davenport, Hoke, Harder, Smith, Love, Crew Boss Terra, and CREP LaTour. Surprisingly, Hatch was never interviewed. We believe that all of them should have been interviewed. What were the reason(s) they were not interviewed?


Consider now Perryville Crewmember William (Bill) Davenport's MOI in Figures 12. and 12a. (below):


'Perryville was mixed in with the Navajo Crew. One of the Navajo Crew yelled “Get Out.” All of the [Perryville] Crew started down the dozer line. Got cut off by flame coming across the line. Turned around and started running back up the dozer line. Love and LaTour were the only ones ahead. LaTour directed to deploy fire shelters as they were running. Took backpack off and took out his shelter.'

'Lost his glasses and Harley Davidson headband after the deployment. Deployed next to Love. Deployed down the hill from the H2O Jerry cans. Communicated with others … under the shelters. LaTour was directly behind. After the flame front hit I heard someone scream “I can’t take it anymore.” Davenport then screamed from fear. Was in fire shelter for about ½ hour. A branch dropped on his shelter and burned his legs. Burn on arms was from touching …’


So much for the CREP LaTour being a viable lookout for his Perryville Crew if you have to rely on another Crew running through yours warning you to "get out."


Figure 12. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation MOI Page 8 - WF William Davenport Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


Consider now Part 2 of Perryville Crewmember William (Bill) Davenport's MO (paraphrasing, uncertainty, and quotes) in Figure 12a. below: '… the side of the shelter. … during the deployment … radio (??) … but could not transmit (??) out of his shelter followed by Love and LaTour down the canyon. Came up (??) on Bachman. Chacon on Denny and then Contreras. Took their shelters with them. Met up with Hoke who was still in his shelter. Next met Ellis who was burned. First thing he said was that he was dead. He had his shelter around his forehead. Left all their shelters at the road. '

"Hat, goggles and glasses fell off when they came out of their shelters."


Figure 12a. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation MOI Page 8 - WF William Davenport Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


Please note in Figure 13. (below) that OPS Dundas stated: "There was a problem with the transition of the Division Sups because only [two] came out to the fire rather than three. The strategy was to burn out around Bonita [Estates]. ... the East side and the bottom. These were the critical [firing operation] areas. ... Slopovers were occurring from the start without a Southerly wind. Hot firing [operation] but successful. ... Flew the fire about 1300 ... winds were beginning to blow downslope, influenced by a thunderstorm." (emphasis added)


OPS Dundas - "the eyes in the sky" - observed all these crucial fire weather and fire behavior events, however, I (DF) do not recall him ever transmitting any of this to the WFs on the firelines. He may very well have done so, however, I don't recall any of these critical details being transmitted over the radio on Air-to-Ground or any of the TAC channels.


Figure 13. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation. MOI Page 9- OPS Glen Dundas - Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


"Pulled the Crews back from the firing operations on the West side at about 1315-1330, because of the fire behavior. ... various issues and problems with air resources ... At 1345 instructed [OPS VanTilborg] that the Control Road was no longer defensible as the fire had crossed it. [OPS VanTilborg] drove down to check it and determined the road was not passable. ... Remained frustrated because one of the Type I DIV Sups (Bead) had [NOT] come out to the fire to transition." (emphasis added) I (DF) recall hearing a lot of this radio traffic on the Command and TAC channels. I believe DIVS was lost, several canyons off to the East.

Figure 14. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation. MOI Page 10- OPS Glen Dundas page 2 - Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


Figure 15. Dude Fire Fatalities MOI Page 11- FBAN Alan Farnsworth - Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files


FBAN Farnsworth stated: "Everyone knew there were thunderstorms in the area' so he did not feel it was necessary to call the line with the information." (emphasis added) I (DF) was unaware of any thunderstorms overhead or in the area.

Figure 16. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation MOI Page 12- DIVS Bernal Gatewood - Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Source from Joy's Records Files

Figure 17. Dude Fire Fatalities Investigation. MOI Page 13 - Fire Weather Forecaster IMET Craig Ellis - Missing Page From"Part 2 - Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?" ) Source: Anonymous Sources from Joy's Records Files


Consider now the MOI from DIVS Phil Gil who was in charge of the Bonita Creek Estates Firing Operation in Figure 18. (below):, "as the Firing Boss. Began backfiring at 1100. ... Div Sup Whitney ... joined them about 10 to 1100. Zig Zag Crew was doing the firing. ... Had difficulty holding the line all morning. Lost a spot earlier which they planned to line with a dozer later in the day. ... They (Hot Shot Crews ??) left to return to camp at 2:00 to 2:15. ... When they tried to leave the [Bonita Creek] Subdivision they (HS Crews ??) found, to their surprise that it was surrounded by fire. They returned and had two dozers build a Safety Zone in the black. [OPS] Dundas had sounded some alarm about 2:00 in reporting the fire had crossed the Control Road which was supposed to be the last resort." (emphasis added)


Was DIVS Gil one of the two a