Doug Campbell (RiP) Did the PFD GMHS Know or Ignore his Tried-and-True Campbell Prediction System? 2
This preferred Title replaces the Wix website size constraints version - "Doug Campbell (RiP) Did the Prescott FD Granite Mountain Hot Shots (GMHS) Even Know, Train In, or Ignore his Tried-and-True Campbell Prediction System leading up to and including their detriment on June 30, 2013? Part 2 of 2"
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Abbreviations used below: Wildland Firefighters (WFs) - Firefighters (FFs).
The author took the liberty of correcting some of the minor spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors in the sources provided; and also provided select links and / or hyper links as well throughout this post to the best of of the author's abilities. They will show up in an underlined, somewhat faded appearance. Clicking on the link twice will reveal a blue link which will take you to the source after clicking on it again.
Carried over from Part One - Doug Campbell passed away in Ojai, CA on July 13, 2021. This is a tribute to our self-avowed Politically Incorrect Hot Shot Friend and Brother, Mentor, Leader, Visionary, and Creator of the Campbell Prediction System (CPS). Doug Campbell (RiP) was truly a remarkable man with a wide range of wildland fire interests in fire behavior, leadership, and human factors; enhanced by always being grounded by family, friends, loved ones, and collegues. Whatever he did, he did it with eagerness, enthusiasm and enjoyment. He was always respectful and always logical. He was at ease "speaking truth to power" for the benefit of all WFs and FFs.
He taught us to think of the predicted fire behavior intuitively, in terms of logic. Doug was truly blessed with an incredibly brilliant mind, equipped to reach the highest intellect, and yet still able to identify with and relate the simple aspects of reading a wildfire's signature to discern what it was telling us. He died, much too soon. However, many of us were blessed to have attended his lectures and read and researched and applied his works. And this is what was to eventually become the Campbell Prediction System (CPS). We promise to pass this "Old School" work on to others. Thank you. We will miss you.
Figure 1. Doug Campbell (RiP) in his younger days in 1953 as a Tanker Truck Operator (TTO) on the Los Padres NF in California. Source. CPS Emxsys.com Preface
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11 (NKJV)
Consider now a trusted mentor, Chief John Hawkins reshared a post on leadership: One of the most important attributes of a leader is their ability to admit their mistakes. Leaders are called upon to make countless decisions, and sometimes things inevitably go wrong. Unfortunately, many people may see admitting a mistake as a sign of weakness, but the opposite is true in many instances. Remember that mistakes are vital to our growth; we often put way too much pressure on ourselves to seek some unrealistic ideal of perfection. As the leader, let your team know that there’s no shame in making mistakes, and most importantly, you have their back when they happen. I have seen people in eadership positions duck and throw their people under the bus when mistakes happen, and this leads to mistrust, lack of inspiration and the fear to try anything new. However, admitting your errors has the potential to strengthen your relationships with your team. Admitting your mistakes communicates in a powerful way that you believe in the relationships you’ve developed. The most extraordinary people in their felids have made countless mistakes; they didn’t give up. Instead, they persevered and inspired many people to follow their example; as Albert selEinstein puts it, a person who never made a mistake never tried anything new, and according to Steve Adubato, Ph.D., the sign of a superior leader is not that they avoid making mistakes; it’s that when they do, they are humble enough to admit it and learn from them.
Mr. Campbell (RiP) explaining the Genesis of what was to eventually become the Campbell Prediction System (CPS).
"I remember an incident that made me forever curious about forest fires. During the summer when I was about six years old, my mother drove our ’38 Chevrolet up the Donner Highway in Northern California. The roadway was lined with tall virgin pine and fir trees on both sides.
She stopped the car when we arrived at the edge of a forest fire that was raging on both sides of the road. I was notably impressed by the awesome spectacle that my young eyes beheld. In the roaring fire, entire trees were engulfed in flames. A shower of sparks fell on trees that would be the next to go.
Not knowing why my mother had stopped, I asked what we were doing here. She replied that she was bringing my father something he would need. When I asked where my father was, she waved toward the raging white-hot ball of flames that by now was devouring trees at a tremendous speed. “He’s in there somewhere,” she said. I was terrified that my father was in there. Surely he was burned up I thought. But through the swirling smoke and spark showers I saw him walking up a dirt road toward the car. “How did he do that?” I wondered.
In these few short moments, I had witnessed my first forest fire, had learned that my dad was in it, had concluded that we would surely never see him again, and had then witnessed a “miracle” when he walked out of the flames alive. That must have had some effect on me!
I grew up in California wildfire country, experiencing a normal childhood. I attended high school in Santa Ynez commuting from a little settlement named Paradise some 20 miles north of Santa Barbara. There I roamed the hills and river bottoms with local boyhood friends and spent some of the best hours of my life searching the Forest Service dump nearby.
Occasionally, we would find such treasures as an old fire tool, canteen or headlamp. Most were disabled or completely worn out, but we thought it was great fun to scavenge for these prizes.
On July 2, 1950, the day of my 16th birthday, I saw a large column of smoke above Santa Barbara. It was north of town, apparently near the community of Paradise. I was shopping with my mother at the time, although I hated going because it took me away from the forest haunts I loved much more than town.
I talked her into stopping in at the Los Prietos Ranger Station to inquire about the fire. There, I met one of my best pals, Ronnie Cline, who was also there to learn about the fire.
Somehow we were hired and assigned to a fire job on that fire. I remember when the initial excitement had worn off hours later, I wondered how I got way out here in the middle of nowhere walking behind a dozer that was cutting a fire break and covering Ronnie and me with a thick, choking coat of dirt. I didn’t know what we were supposed to do, and Ronnie did not seem to know any more than I. Sometime after dark, the cat stopped for fuel and we took a break from walking up the long ridges toward Pine Mountain. Atop a little knoll within the burn I spied a group of the regulars sitting around a fire with a 5-gallon can balanced on rocks emitting the delicious smell of coffee. These men were worn down from a 16-hour battle, and would have to get up and go after it again in a short time.
When I reached for the coffee can my foot dislodged one of the support stones that kept the can level, and the whole thing tipped over spilling the coveted coffee and putting the warming fire clear out. My hair stood on end as Ronnie punched me and said, “Run!” Frozen to the spot, I gathered in the different expressions of the now standing bunch of men and noted they were all unpleasant. I heard a few cuss words but I somehow survived my first encounter with the old line firefighters. Later that night, we were looking for a place to grab a few winks, but Ron and I had no gear for sleeping, just the clothes on our backs.
The tractor driver dug a ditch and parked the tractor over the top. We crawled under the tractor and spent the night snug in the hole until the morning light revealed numerous scorpions among us.
That is how my Forest Service career began. By the time I had completed high school, a year of college and a hitch in the U.S. navy as a weatherman, I had several fire seasons under my belt. Most of the training I received was hands-on and under the supervision of one of the crew bosses.
Jimmy Waller, one of my bosses, wanted to teach me how to heel a calf with a rope. He would get me to run around the station yard at San Marcos summit engine station and he would rope my feet. If he got one foot in the noose I would usually just hop on the other foot, but when he roped both feet in the noose, they were jerked out from under me and I hit the dirt and flopped in the yard like the calf I imitated.
Waller is still around the Santa Barbara area I guess. In those days he was a dandy dresser and was the spic-and-span ranger on the station. His cowboy boots were polished, his hair slicked back, his pants and shirt sported fine creases and his Forest Service badge was polished to a brilliant sheen. On Sundays, he was particularly neat and shiny.
One Sunday, as he strode by the corner of the old fire station, I swung the rope as he had taught me and roped his hind foot just as neat as you could imagine. I hauled back on the rope and flopped that dandy in the dirt right in front of the station. I did, however, spend the remainder of the day perched on the water tank with the ladder pulled up so he couldn’t climb up until he cooled off some.
It was on one of my first timber fires while assigned to an engine crew that Jimmy taught me about stump holes. We were sent to a fire on Figueroa Mountain in the summer of ’51 with the old Green Hornet fire engine. It was a 1948 Ford 1.5-ton truck with a bolt-on tank and pump. We arrived after a couple of hours on the road and when we approached the fire scene, I recall the fire was on the up-hill side of a narrow bench road above us. We were attempting to hold the fire above the road and were holding our own when some line boss on scene barked orders for us to bring the truck quickly to a slop-over below the road.
We rolled down there and positioned the truck in the middle of an inside turn in the crooked road above the slop-over. The chief who was yelling orders grabbed the live reel hose and dove over the bank directly toward the fire below. I started the pump and gave 100 pounds of water pressure to that line. When I looked over the road berm, the fire was running up the draw toward us and the guy manning the hose was gone! The hose he had taken over the side was abandoned. Before I could get my fear and confusion under control, I hosed down the sky. I saw Jimmy jump into the engine cab filled with smoke and the fire’s licking tongues of flame. He had guts that cowboy. Rolling the windows up, he ground on the starter. The truck was reluctant to start (you probably remember how Fords like to keep you in suspense), but after a few seconds more of grinding the truck engine caught and roared to life. I was covering the flame side, crouched beside the rear wheel weary of the fumes from the gas cap watching the paint beginning to blister spraying water like crazy from a 1/8-inch nozzle.
Jimmy got us out of there and saved the truck, but I never again saw the guy who jumped over the side into the flames of that slop over. Later, when things calmed down Jimmy taught me about hot stump holes. He pointed to a white ash circle among some pine trees and told me to take the hose and straight stream those little white ash circles to mop up the fire. I did as I was told and found that when I shot a stream of water under pressure into the ash, the stream blew the ash and coals up into the air and my face as well. Jimmy got a good laugh on me for that one.
In 1959 I was the Captain of an engine company on the Cleveland National Forest at Descanso Ranger Station. I was a believer in training the crew. We trained and trained developing skills and techniques to use the equipment to its fullest extent. I thought the crew was the best-trained and most able crew anywhere. I would find out later that I still had more to learn. The dispatch came one hot summer afternoon. We were driving to the edge of a wildfire along a dirt road at the top of a ridge. A water tender — we used to call them nurse tankers —was backing away from the fire and blocking our passage. The driver was older than I and though he was not as experienced as I at firefighting, he was a good truck driver and a part of my crew. He yelled for me to stop and retreat. The fire was making a run toward the road.
I didn’t recognize any danger from the scene before me and so continued in toward the advancing fire. Positioning the engine just off the road, we laid hose toward the fire with the intent of hitting the base of the flames as the fire topped the ridge in front of us. The fire enveloped me and my hose-man in a fiery wave, arcing over us and licking the truck behind us. The engineer was an aggressive young man named Chuck Mills. He was committed to keeping us in water, and to do that job he had to crouch under the truck for protection from the flames. Every few minutes he would roll out from under the truck to put out fires on the hose bed, only to dive back under the truck. Somehow we held the fire as planned and felt like we’d really done some good firefighting that day.
Later, the District Ranger, Ed Hielman, called me and gave me a cautionary lecture about being too aggressive on attacks. I was too proud of my crew to take it seriously, a rather common attitude among firefighters I think. Another life lesson was about to be given to me. One Saturday, Chuck Mills and I were fooling around the fire station where we both lived arguing about hydraulics or some such thing when a fire call came in. We were in T-shirts and jeans and thought nothing of jumping into the engine and rolling to the fire in street clothes.
We picked up a couple of crewmen who were in the barracks and tore off Code 3 to the scene. I positioned the truck on one flank and made the engine position safe. I started a hose lay through the spotty burned area to the other side of the fire where we would “Y-off” and lay hose both ways. Chuck Mills was the nozzle man and was squirting water and adding hose to the lay. It was near a large boulder surrounded by unburned brush where he signaled to cut off the flow of water so that he could add two gated Y’s to the end of an inch-and-a-half hose line. It would take 15 seconds according to our proficiency drills held in the station. As the water was cut off, the bush next to the large boulder flashed and the flames licked over Chuck. He gasped for air and inhaled hot gases. He dropped like he was tackled and started crawling toward the safety of the engine. I ran to him, pulling him out of the area and got him into a sheriff’s car for transportation to the emergency ward.
Chuck was almost killed that day. He did not have any burns, but the hot gases he inhaled almost did the job anyway. After that, he quit smoking saying he’d had enough smoke for a lifetime.
So I started to realize that there was some training missing. We knew our apparatus as well as any crew. We were strong and aggressive and could conquer most fires. Now there was doubt. A small flare-up almost cost me a good friend and companion.
I was becoming a little wiser and more cautious with each new experience. Winning another promotion, I accepted another kind of assignment. I was to be the Superintendent of the El Cariso Hot Shot Crew, based at El Cariso above Lake Elsinore, CA. In 1959, the El Cariso Hot Shots had been burned over on the Decker fire. Five firefighters were killed. I took over the position and vowed to remember the lessons of the past. I devoted my efforts to the safety of the crew for the two years I remained as Superintendent. During that two-year period between 1961 and 1962, Gordon King and I started to make fire line fire behavior predictions. We would go to an overlook where we could see the place where the crew was burned over on the Decker fire. We began to practice a discipline of making sure our tactics were developed after the fire line prediction was made. We had our share of close calls during the two years, but came out without any losses. I continued to climb the ladder of the Forest Service organization and in 1966 found myself the D.F.M.O. ([District] Fire Chief [Management Officer]) on a district of the Sequoia National Forest. That summer the El Cariso Hot Shot crew suffered another burn over situation loosing 13 good firemen to the flames. Gordon King, the crew leader, had extensive experience and had been on Hot Shot crews for 11 years. After the accident he was devastated, never recovering from his anguish. I think that I realized for the first time that if it could happen to Gordon King, it could happen to anyone!
More to Know—the Other Half of the Story
Figure 2. Doug Campbell "Teaching 1953". Source: CPS, Emxsys.com Preface
The importance of knowing the capabilities of the crew and equipment to fight fires is evident; but if you do not know what the fire is going to do it is just not enough.
The question before us now is, “How do firefighters engaged in operations on a wildfire maintain a safe work situation? Luck?” Surely the old timers who saw many of the historic fires would know. I knew such people. Stubby Mansfield was such a man. He had a feel for fire. He knew what to do and when to do it. I have seen him in action. In fact, a number of other seasoned firefighters seemed to know what the fire would do and over the long haul. They maintained a good safety record even with great exposure. What is it that they know, these Charley Caldwells, the Mark Linanes, and other long-enduring Hot Shot crew leaders?
And so began my search for fire line prediction knowledge. I found that the people who knew fire and could avoid trouble still had no language with which to communicate that knowledge to others. Think about this for a moment. How do you as a firefighter tell others what you think is about to change? Do you draw upon some past fire behavior training to do it? It’s not easy to relate the fire behavior training offered to on-the-spot predictions that would have saved Chuck Mills from injury, prevented Gordon and his crew from anguish and death, or averted the tragedy Danny Street faced when he lost men on the Decker fire. Were these fire behavior events predictable? Were these fire behavior changes predictable by on-the-line firefighters? I can’t help but think that some of the old timers would have avoided the danger.
Although I attended the fire behavior courses offered during the span of my career, I still did not find the answers I needed in the material. The fire behavior courses taught me the fire behavior perspective of a planner rather than a firefighter. And I had not seen any planners in accident reports of burn over situations. Rather, I needed to know how to predict changes in fire behavior while engaged in the work of fire suppression. And though I applied the fire behavior officer’s training while assigned to large forest fires, I never felt that predicting the least, greatest or average flame length or rate of spread to be particularly valuable to the users of the information. Even the prediction of the future fire perimeter was not especially important most of the time. It seemed more a curiosity for the operations chief.
So I continued on my search for an on-line fire behavior prediction system that could prevent accidents.
It was while I was reading a research paper written by Clive Countryman, a research forester working for the Forest Service, that I found some of the information that would lead to a whole new prediction system. The Concept of Fire Environment published in 1966 unveiled for me a methodology for the creation of the missing fire behavior language. From the day I read that paper to this point in time, I have worked to apply the basic idea of fuel temperature differences of various aspects and times to develop a predictive tool that the line firefighter, or anyone, can use.
In 1987 and 1988 after I had been retired from the Forest Service for four years, the dispatcher called to ask if I would be available to go to fires and serve as a Fire Behavior Analyst. I accepted but with some misgivings because of being out of active service for four years. I received travel orders and boarded a flight for Northern California. Before that assignment concluded, I had worked over 80 shifts on the fires of 1987. The next fire season, I was again called. This time my orders were for Yellowstone where I logged another 20 shifts as a Fire Behavior Analyst.
Since I had no computer to practice the Fire Behavior Analyst textbook procedures, I worked from the basis of my experience and used the new fire line behavior prediction system I was developing.
The personnel in Plans and on the fire line responded with encouragement. They were supportive and gave me great performance ratings for my work.
After the ’88 fire season ended, I started to write the training program that is now the Campbell Prediction System (CPS). The CPS reveals how burn over situations could have been predicted by the line firefighter, and incorporates a new language that until now was nonexistent.
My hope is to provide a basis for firefighters and others who are interested to be able to predict changes in fire behavior. If accurate predictions can be made of fire behavior change, then there should be no burn over situations. No firefighter should be so aggressive that he or she would risk burn over of themselves or their crews to protect any property. No firefighter should attack before predicting the fire behavior’s potential for change.
I do believe I know what those observations were that the seasoned firefighters used. And with a language, the prediction system becomes “teachable” at last.
The LORD is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. Psalm 145:18 (NKJV)
Wildland Fire LLC link for AZ Department of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) documented "Inspection Narrative" chronicle of their investigation. Worth readingfor a YH Fire and GMHS overview
Are we putting our firefighters in danger? Column - Tim Wendel (July 1, 2013) (all emphasis added)
"I had just come back from my first fire as a member of the Payson (Ariz.) Hotshots and, frankly, I felt lucky to be alive. Earlier in the day, our squad had been positioned along a ridge top. We were told to expect breezes out of the east and flame-lengths of five to seven feet. Instead the weather changed, as it often does, and the winds blew out of the west, causing flames three times as tall as a man to overrun our positions. It happened so quickly that for an hour or so after the firestorm swept over us we thought we had lost a member of our crew. But he had been lucky, finding a safe place as the flames edged past his position."
"I thought about that afternoon when I heard about Sunday's Prescott, Ariz., tragedy in which 19 firefighters had been killed. The [GMHS] Prescott (sic) crew was one of the best and part of the tight-knit world in Arizona, which included my former Payson crew, the outfits from Mormon Lake and up near the Grand Canyon."
"Fighting fire has been a rite of passage in the West for generations. Young men, and increasingly young women, sign on for the adventure and the chance for a rookie to make $1,000 a week with overtime and working away from your home forest."
"But after the Thirtymile Fire in northwest Washington in 2001, which saw four young firefighters die, leaders stressed that new safety guidelines and practices would be implemented. Yet those working in this field, on the fire-line, contend that longtime rules are too often ignored. For example, in the case of the Thirtymile Fire the crew was trapped on the wrong side of a dead-end road. Every one of the 10 standard orders, the rules for engagement, was broken."
"In the weeks and months ahead, we'll learn what happened at Yarnell Hill. We do know that the firefighters were placed in such a dangerous position that they needed to deploy their fire shelters, tent-like structures that are often the last hope against intense flames and heat."
"But I cannot help wondering, yet again, if something remains inherently wrong in what young firefighters are sometimes asked to do, the positions they are placed in. In the old days, if a forest fire raged out of control, it could be contained in the next valley over. 'Sometimes there's nothing you can do about it,' said Steve Hart, incident commander in Colorado, 'so you might as well sit back and have a Snickers and a Coke.'"
"We seem to make progress in a lot of areas of our lives thanks to our initiative and new technology, but keeping young people from dying on the fire-line somehow seems beyond us."
"That's why I was in the line for the pay phone that evening back in 1981. I reached my fiancée back East and told her to set a date for our wedding. I felt like I was lucky to be alive and I've never fought a fire again."
Tim Wendel is a writer in residence at Johns Hopkins and the author of 10 books, including Summer of '68, Habana Libre and the novel, Red Rain.
"Character is easier kept than recovered." The International movie quote
Consider now two articles by InvestigativeMEDIA investigative reporter John Dougherty that cover the questionable GMHS June 30, 2013, dispatch and accepted assignment. They basically dovetail each other. The points discussed within these articles should certainly be considered as causal factors in this YH Fire and GMHS debacle. And there must be something of substance to them because PFD Darrell Willis and the Southwest Coordination Center (SWCC) refused comment on the issue. And the timing and substance of the Dispatch logs to get the GMHS is instructive revealing a concerted effort to lock in on the GMHS.
Evidence mounts that Granite Mtn Hotshots shouldn't have deployed. August 21, 2013. John Dougherty. InvestigativeMEDIA. Tucson Sentinel
This article was also published on August 21, 2013, on the InvestigativeMEDIA website under this title: "Yarnell Hill Fire: The Granite Mountain Hotshots Never Should’ve Been Dispatched, Mounting Evidence Shows.
"The Granite Mountain Hotshots may have reached the maximum consecutive days for work before mandatory time off was required, although officials at the SWCC have declined to confirm or deny that or otherwise comment on why they turned down Arizona’s requests."
"Despite the refusal by the SWCC, records show, the state contacted Granite Mountain superintendent Eric Marsh directly via email on the evening of June 29 and requested that the crew proceed to Yarnell the next morning. The state Forestry Division declined to comment when asked whether it circumvented the SWCC by sending the dispatch order directly to Marsh."
"Prescott Fire Department officials, including Wildland Division chief Willis, also wouldn’t comment on this point."
"Before the Granite Mountain Hotshots even approached Yarnell Hill, a substantial amount of information shows, serious problems already had engulfed the crew. The personnel-related matters call into question whether the crew met minimum hotshot qualifications."
"The systemic crisis gripping an overworked crew — along with its baffling decision to leave a safe zone and move down a canyon through a treacherous, 10-foot-high thicket of unburned fuel toward a rapidly approaching wildfire — has raised fundamental questions about whether the nation’s only hotshot crew attached to a municipal fire department was a blueprint for disaster."
"On extended periods of activity while based at home, the crews have a minimum of one day off every 21 days, according to the ["Red Book"]."
"SWCC officials refused to respond to questions about whether Granite Mountain had reached its requirement for mandatory days off by June 30. But excerpts from the Arizona Interagency Dispatch Center log suggest its members had."
"At 8:10 p.m., Arizona dispatch contacted the SWCC again and stated: 'Placing order for Granite Mountain IHC. ... Three minutes later, the logs show that 'ALB' (short for Albuquerque, where the SWCC is located) responded with a terse message to Arizona dispatch: 'Can’t accept assignment.' ... The state continued to press for a second hotshot crew. At 8:49 p.m., Arizona dispatch contacted the SWCC and advised, 'We have pushed orders for another Type 1 crew.'”
"The dispatch logs show that the SWCC did not respond to this message.
Twelve minutes later, state dispatcher Havel notified state fire managers and other Arizona dispatchers assigned to the Yarnell Hill Fire that he had 'e-mailed a resource order to Eric Marsh for Granite Mountain Crew C-5.' Marsh was superintendent of the Granite Mountain Hotshots."
"The next day, about 8 a.m., the Granite Mountain Hotshots reported for duty in Yarnell."
"Although the certification checklist was required to be signed by the crew’s superintendent, Marsh did not sign the document. City personnel files show that Marsh was reassigned to light duty in mid-April for six to eight weeks and was not attached to the Granite Mountain Hotshots when the certification was signed."
"During his absence, Granite Mountain captain Jesse Steed became acting superintendent. Steed signed the certification checklist on April 23 and passed it up to his superiors. Willis and Fraijo signed the certification checklist on the same day. ... Willis declined in an email to answer questions concerning the certification checklist, and Fraijo did not respond to a request for comment. Neither did Prescott City Attorney Jon Paladini."
"Such an apparent misrepresentation on the certification checklist would be a breach of ethics, according to the Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crew Operations manual."
“It is the responsibility of the superintendent and first line supervisor to objectively assess their crew to see if [members] are meeting the intent of this document,” the manual states. “They are duty-bound to not misrepresent the IHC community. Leadership of the highest moral character is required during these decisions.”
The checklist isn’t the only problematic documentation issue.
As the problem-riddled Granite Mountain crew marched up Yarnell Hill on the morning of June 30, on what appears to have been a federally required day off, it was led by Marsh, a superintendent who had not been in the field all season.
Further complicating the situation, the Arizona Forestry Division did not assign an independent division supervisor to oversee Granite Mountain’s assignment to cut trees and shrubs to create a fire line on the southwest flank of the blaze. Instead, it had Marsh do it.
Though it is not unusual for hotshot superintendents to be assigned as division supervisors, former hotshot crew bosses say, it is unusual for them to then remain with crews.
The division supervisor is in charge of all operations in a designated geographic area and often acts as the lookout so he can make decisions based on the most current information about weather and fire conditions, former hotshots say.
“The division supervisor should have been the lookout,” says former Little Tujunga Hotshot Larry Sall. “The kid who was the lookout [Brendan McDonough, 21, the sole survivor among the Granite Mountain Hotshots] should have been on the line.”
"Authorities typically try to keep a tight lid on information related to fatalities involving wildland fire crews. But considerable information already is known about events leading to the burn-over that killed the Granite Mountain Hotshots."
"Because the fire occurred on state land and the victims were part of a city fire department, there has been much greater access to facts than normally occurs when only federal agencies are involved."
"In addition, there have been at least three important public statements by key figures since the incident. Willis’ July 23 press conference at the deployment site was followed a week later by statements from Deputy State Forester Payne, who said in a widely publicized interview that mistakes were made by Marsh that put the crew at risk."
During the earliest stages of the aftermath of the June 30, 2013, YH Fire and GMHS debacle, Deputy State Forester Mr. Payne really opened up about GMHS and Marsh boldly asserted what needed to be stated.
Consider now two videos titled Granite Mountain Hot Shots Deployment Site Yarnell, AZ Parts 1 and 2 news conference (July 23, 2013) where Wildlands Divsion Chief Darrell Willis discusses what might have happened to the 19-member GMHS in their final moments before they were engulfed in a wildfire on June 30, 2013.
How and why the City of Prescott ever allowed this man to say the things he says and reveals many aspects of the alleged "Prescott Way" of doing things is beyond this author's comprehension. However, we are certainly thankful that they did. It is also the feeling and conclusion of many experienced WFs and FFs - anger being the major one - as indicated in the comments from the July 24, 2013, IM GMHS "last stand" article below.
Moreover, the authors feel that these videos are especially instructive revealing all manner of PFD and GMHS attitudes, accepted and expected behaviors, and decison-making when it comes to the human factors and leadership of the PFD and GMHS. Many of these are recognized as "Human Factors Barriers to Situation Awareness" and used to be called "Hazardous Attitudes" in the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) Incident Response Pocket Guide (IRPG - April 2018 online version) on page xii, that ultimately resulted in their deaths.
Figure 3. IRPG Hazardous Attitudes screenshot page xii Source: NWCG IRPG (2018)
Figure 4. Cartoon image titled "Oh ye of little faith" revealing a small boatload of sheep with the apostole Peter "walking on water" in the upper right, while one of the other sheep attempts the same, while yet another one wearing a scuba tank, is about to join them. Source: Argus Communications
Several of the above Hazardous Attitudes applied to the GMHS decisions and outcomes leading up to and including that day, (i.e. Invulnerable - this can't happen to us; Impulsive - do something even if it's wrong; and without a doubt Groupthink - afraid to speak up or disagree. Were they Kool-Aid drinking Sheeple?
Brethren, do not be children in understanding; however, in malice be babes, but in understanding be mature. 1 Corinthians 14:20 (NKJV)
Figure 5. (upper) and Figure 5a (lower) Granite Mountain Hotshot Shelter Deployment Site, Yarnell, AZ (7- 23-2013) PFD Wildlands Divsion Chief Darrell Willis discusses what might have happened to the 19-member GMHS in their final moments before they were engulfed in a wildfire on June 30, 2013 Source: YouTube, InvestigativeMEDIA, Dougherty
"Payne said that it appears that Marsh violated several basic wildfire rules, including not knowing the location of the fire, not having a spotter observing [lookout] the fire, and leading his crew through thick unburned vegetation near a wildfire."
“'The division supervisor [Marsh] broke those rules and put those people at risk,' Payne said."
"'Every hotshot knows, experts say, that major mistakes have been made if emergency fire shelters are deployed. Shelter deployment is a big marker, a big red flag,' says Sall, the Little Tujunga Hotshot who served five years as a crew member. 'They should have never been in that situation to begin with.'”
"Payne’s and McDonough’s statements — along with Prescott personnel records and State Forestry Division, Yavapai County Sheriff’s Office, and Department of Public Safety reports (all released in response to public-records requests) — provide extensive details that have been discussed vigorously among wildfire experts."
"The huge unanswered question, of course, is why the [GMHS] left the safe area that already had been burned and hiked cross-country through the thick, unburned chaparral and down into the steep canyon as the powerful thunderstorm was pushing flames directly at them."
"Wildland Division chief Willis asserted that the Hotshots simply did what firefighters do."
“'My thought on it was they were in a safe location,' Willis said during the deployment-site press briefing. 'They were not satisfied, and no wildland firefighter is satisfied sitting there and watching the fire progress without doing, taking some action.'”
"Willis said he believes the Granite Mountain crew left its safe position in the charred area to protect the ranch that was on the outskirts of Yarnell, the same ranch that wound up spared because of the clearings the residents dug around it."
“'I believe [crew members] felt they weren’t doing good where they were at,' Willis said. 'They had to abandon their tactic of trying to anchor and flank the fire and go into what we call point protection, and that’s to move fire around the houses and to protect structures. I believe that was what their intent was.'”
"The Granite Mountain Hotshots took this action even though they left a ridge where they could see the fire and descended into the box canyon where they no longer could observe what it was doing."
“'You know, it’s all speculation at this point in time,' Willis said. 'But in my heart, I would know they are not protecting themselves … They are going to protect that ranch.'”
"Willis said the hotshots — equipped only with shovels, saws, and torches (with which to light backfires) — relied on instinct. ... I have thought about that a lot,' he said. 'It is ingrained in firefighters’ minds. Why do firefighters run into burning buildings when it’s just property?'”
"Willis’ assessment has outraged retired hotshots. In particular, his view that the [GMHS] were willing to risk their lives to protect structures conflicts with fundamental principles of wildland firefighting."
"Dick Mangan, the retired wildfire investigator who now runs a wildfire-consulting business in Missoula, Montana, says he never jeopardized the safety of his crew to save a structure or even an entire evacuated town of buildings."
“'The hell with the town of Yarnell,' Mangan says. 'If [it has] to burn up to keep my firefighters alive, then that’s what we’re going to do.'”
"In the seven years he spent on a crew, former [HS Supt.] Rod Wrench says, he did not worry about structural protection either. ... 'That’s why the hell [there is] fire insurance,' says Wrench, who served on the Del Rosa Hotshots from 1967 to 1970 before becoming superintendent of the Little Tujunga Hotshots in California’s Angeles National Forest through 1973."
"A former hotshot superintendent in Arizona who continues to fight wildfires says a wildland firefighter always must respect the fire he is facing, a principle he sums up with the expression: 'Let the big dog eat.'”
"Darrell Willis’ assertion that the [GMHS] attempted to reach a ranch to protect it from the fire reveals a fundamental problem of having a hotshot crew attached to a municipal fire department, says Gary Olson, the former hotshot supervisor and [BLM] criminal investigator."
"Olson fears the philosophy of structural firefighters that advocates protecting homes and property distorted the judgment of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, causing them to ignore fundamental principles of wildland firefighting during an extremely stressful situation."
"The trigger point, Olson suggests, came when the crew learned that Yarnell was under mandatory evacuation. Dispatch records show the evacuation order was issued about 3:40 p.m. An hour later, the Granite Mountain crew found itself trapped in the box canyon."
“'There is absolutely no other explanation that I can come up with, no matter how much I think about it, except that their priority mission was to protect structures,' Olson says. 'That may be what structural firefighters do, but there should be no way in hell that is what wildland firefighters do, especially when they are on foot and carrying hand tools.'”
"While Deputy State Forester Payne stated that Marsh erred in taking his crew out of 'the black' and through unburned chaparral, Olson is not so quick to blame Marsh. ... 'He made a seriously flawed decision,' Olson says. 'But he did what he was trained to do [save structures].'”
"Mangan, the retired wildfire serious-accident investigator, says he knows several members of the investigation team and believes they will provide an accurate assessment of what happened: 'I have confidence that they are going to do a good job and let the chips fall where they may.'”
"But many other current and former wildlands firefighters spoken to for this article aren’t so sure. They say they have never seen the complete truth told. ... William Riggles, a 12-year member of the Smokey Bear Hotshots based in New Mexico, states in a an e-mail that he got out of the business in 2008 because accident investigations 'never criticized any' management decisions.' ... Riggles says 'facts changed' during investigations, and 'what’s worse, everybody keeps their mouths shut and babbles the official story.'”
Was the AZ State Forestry going to allow one of its own to criticize Marsh and the GMHS decisions and outcomes? Hardly. The backlash was swift to condemn Payne for speaking the truth based on his accurate professional judgement. Kill the messenger! The AZ State Forestry called them "personal, unauthorized opinions" as the obsequious sycophants and Public Disinformation Officers dutifully spouted off as they were directed to do by upper management. Looking back, this was an early indication of where this whole YH Fire and GMHS debacle was headed.
Consider now the several news articles and the comments from angered officials, that are beside themselves in varying degrees over Payne's comments. This attitude and behavior is addressed in the Bible in the book of Acts when the apostle Paul is challenged in a similar manner
"Agrippa Parries Paul’s Challenge
Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”
But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason." (emphasis added) Acts 26:24-25 (NKJV)
Dennis Wagner and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez - The Arizona Republic (July 31, 2013)
"State forestry officials distanced themselves from comments by Arizona's deputy state forester in which he allegedly asserted that the supervisor of an elite firefighting team violated safety rules designed to keep his crew safe.
The comments attributed to Jerry Payne, deputy director of the Arizona State Forestry Division, prompted a barrage of criticism, infuriating fire officials in the Granite Mountain Hotshots' home base of Prescott, Ariz., and drawing condemnation from his own agency.
The Forestry Division issued a statement Tuesday saying the comments were "personal, unauthorized opinions" that should not have been made public because official investigations have not been completed.
Payne's agency, which was responsible for firefighting operations the day the men died, commissioned an investigation from a team of outside experts. Payne is not a member of the team, but he is a veteran wildfire commander with access to details about the tragedy.
Hours later, State Forester Scott Hunt disavowed the comments attributed to Payne.
"State Forestry apologizes for Mr. Payne's inappropriate expression of opinion as fact and unfounded speculation that prejudges the ultimate conclusion of the investigation," the statement said. Hunt said his agency has taken no position on causes of the deaths pending the outcome of independent investigations.
Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo angrily denounced the criticism against Marsh, whom he described as "one of the most intelligent and one of the hardest-working people" he has known."
I think that it's one of the most disgusting incidents that I've had in my entire career, for somebody that would give this kind of information," Fraijo said. "There's an investigation that is taking place, the investigation is not complete. ... (This) is so insensitive and, quite frankly to me, unethical."
Referring to Marsh, Fraijo added, "He was a person that took his profession to the science level. I can tell you, if he was here right now, I would do the same thing that most of our people would do — I would follow him anywhere. This is a terrible insult to him and his family, and it's unfounded."
Earlier Tuesday, before Hunt disavowed Payne's comments, forestry spokesman Jim Paxon assailed Dougherty's report as a "lie."
"Jerry Payne says he did not utter any words that condemned or pointed a finger at Eric Marsh," Paxon said. "Mr. Dougherty took extreme liberties and drew his own conclusions. ... This is a textbook example of yellow journalism."
Dougherty responded: "I didn't make that up. They are really trying to backpedal something that was easily expressed by Payne. I wasn't prying the stuff out of him."
The journalist said Payne called him Tuesday to request a technical clarification but did not say he was misquoted. He said Payne told him during the conversation, "'I may lose my job. I expect to hear from the Governor's Office.'"
"You can kind of see there were things done wrong," he said, referring to the Granite Mountain crew. "But I will tell you, in fighting fire, we've all done things wrong. ... I don't know why they left the black. It just doesn't make any sense to me."
Dougherty said he published his report not to point a finger of blame but to explain how 19 men got killed:
"If the state of Arizona is saying there was a problem with Granite Mountain's decision-making, that's important to know. What happened? And what can be done to keep it from happening again," Dougherty said. "If Payne loses his job because he was honest, there's something wrong with that."
Apology issued for statements Arizona state official made about Yarnell Hill Fire - Wildfire Today - Author Bill Gabbert Posted on July 31, 2013
One of the comments was interesting supporting our Disinformation Officer stances on our YHFR website.
This “Incident within an Incident” should be used in future ICS training classes as a classic example of why Agencies and IMTs should used qualified PIO’s to talk with the media: not because you want to cover up the truth, but rather you want to keep from confusing the facts with unfounded opinions and half-truths. Mr. Payne and Mr. Paxton are well-intentioned but not helping by making premature statements in advance of the official Investigation Report. “Better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than opening it and removing all doubts.”
Prescott Division Chief provides more information about fatalities at Yarnell Hill Fire - Author Bill Gabbert Posted on July 24, 2013
Joseph Hayes says:
With all due respect for Chief Willis, I must disagree that it is ingrained in firefighters to save structures. That is no doubt true of structural firefighters who go to work with engines, lots of water, bunker gear and SCBAs. But wildland firefighters have a different mission, i.e. to contain a small fire and prevent it from turning into a very large fire. The Granite Mountain Hotshots, as members of the Prescott FD, probably had been trained in structural firefighting, but were not equipped to do it that day. I’ve heard wildland fire officials state publicly for many years that no wildland firefighters will be put at risk to save structures. As a former hotshot, I never felt that it was my duty to save structures. The lives of the firefighters are always more important. That is true whether you are doing wildland or structural firefighting.
Jim Robertson says:
Firefighter Hayes has accurately stated a paradox that exists in the political vs tactical world of wildland firefighting: Federal firefighters protect federal lands; Local Government and State firefighters protect private lands. The statements by Chief Willis definitely apply outside federal jurisdictions. No Chief, no fireline supervisor, no crew or engine supervisor is going to expose their crew to unnecessary risk based on current conditions and experience of the supervisor. But if you live on or near federal lands do not expect your property to survive undamaged. If you live in private lands under local or state protection you can depend on the firefighters to make their best effort to protect your life and property. There are many documented incidents of wildland firefighters being entrapped while moving through the “green” during active fire behavior periods. All wildland firefighters should review and learn from these tragedies: Mann Gulch, Rattlesnake, Loop, Thirty Mile, etc, etc.
Consider now several more of these comments from angered, confused, experienced WFs and FFs that are beside themselves in varying degrees over Willis' comments in these IM videos contained in Figure 5. and Figure 5a. within this July 24, 2013, IM article titled: Granite Mountain Hotshot co-founder Darrell Willis describes 19-member crew’s last stand on Yarnell Hill
(all emphasis is added in the IM comments below)
"Little T says - August 7, 2013 at 11:38 pm
No amount of money or apology will ever be enough for the lost and their families. A gnashing of teeth and ringing of hands will be the life sentence for the leadership in this incident. Chief Willis is obviously over his head as a wild land firefighter and I know he is hurting but he shouldn’t have given the press briefing (see video) after all he’d been through. His pot bellied associate wandering into this video only compounded the problem. I’ve seen this to (sic) many times as a Hot Shot and as a friend to suffering survivors of the 1966 El Cariso Hot Shots. Lessons have NOT been learned and the need to deploy fire shelters in the first place reeks of poor leadership. The speed and rate of spread observed at the Yarnell Hill Fire is common to Southern California. Post Yarnell fire training should require all Hot Shot supervisors to have a minimum of two years firefighting experience in Southern California and attend US Forest Service Staff Rides every two years.
I also question the need for a backpack weighing forty five pounds to be carried by Hot Shot crew members. These packs are not essential for cutting fire line and may have hindered the Granite Mountain Hotshots from getting out of the brush they should have never been in to begin with.
Rest easy boys! 3rd Hook Little Tujunga Hot Shots 1970"
"Another Hotshot says
The more Darrel opens his mouth, the more damage he does. These comments are more off base than even those at the memorial. Maybe Joe Public eats this up, but anyone with fire experience is going to see right through his BS. I realize his judgment is clouded with grief, but it might be best to just let the report come out."
As I listened to this interview I couldn’t help but get angrier as it went on. As a wildland firefighter for many years now retired I can only tell you I would never trust this man’s judgement on an incident. I couldn’t believe his ill placed rationale for firefighters taking risks to save structures. It’s lives (including thier own) property, natural resources, in that order. I also couldn’t help counting the number of 10 Standards and 13 situations violated. I understand this is a sensitive situation and my heart grieves for those families, but we’ve got to get beyond protecting reputations and tell the truth."
Willis said on at least two occasions that LCES does not apply when one is “in transition” moving from one place on the fire to another and that it is “impossible to have predetermined escape routes and safety zones.” WRONG! This is wrong and a very dangerous attitude to foster because LCES applies on every fire, every time whether in transition or not.
Willis also made comments that no wildland firefighters are satisfied with sitting there and watching a fire progress without taking some action. WRONG again! This experienced wildland firefighter has done this many times as the fire raged, with absolutely no regrets. Staying in a viable safety zone as they had, would have been the correct thing to do.
He also said “They are going to prtoect the house and not yourselves. They protect themselves as a last resort.” WRONG once again! Life and property considers first YOUR life. I am deeply concerned about these structure type attitudes blending into the wildland fire realm."
William Riggles says
Cohesiveness goes so far. It’s the responsibility of every crew member to call out unsafe practices! But like Willis said, they do it all the time and they get away with it. ~~~~~~~ The lesson should be understanding COLD downslope air flows! You can’t see it coming, but we need to learn to read the signs that lead to these events.
Settling columns of cold air is like water pouring down through the canyons. As this heavy cold air travels over the fire, hot air is trapped next to the ground, preheating fuels ahead of the fire.
On the Little Bear Fire, I watched it RUN downhill at night with the downslope winds. The people evacuating ahead of it before daylight said the thermometers in their cars were reading above 100 degrees!!!
Lessons Learned Center, needs to address this phenomenon. I hear very little about it!
"Steve Delgadillo says
I worked for the old California Dept. of Forestry and Fire Protection (now Cal Fire) and retired after 27 years. I worked wildland stations as a firefighter, Engineer, and Captain. I worked helitack, I supervised hand crews, and worked in a municipal contract where I served as the Fire Marshal for 8 years. I was assigned to a Type I Incident Management team for years.
The events where these firefighters were killed is a great tragedy. My heart goes out to the families of these men. It remains to be seen what the official report of the accident will reveal. I know from my extensive knowledge of wildland fires that mistakes were made. The risk verses gain aspect of their actions has to be looked at heavily. The decision to go into 10′ tall green which Chief Willis said had manzanita in it downhill with drainage upslope to the spot where they deployed was at best a decision that needs to be explored extensively. I learned very early in my firefighting career that there isn’t a piece of brush worth a persons life the same goes for a structure. I surely don’t want to say anything bad about the men that gave their lives that day but from my experience someone made a very bad decision that cost lives. He mentioned Storm King, there is a firefighter that survived deployment at Storm King and has stated in interviews that he has deployed his shelter 3 times. REALLY! Don’t you think something is wrong with that. I sure do. I always told all the firefighters that I supervised that if I had us deploy fire shelters and we lived through it I would retire right then because I screwed up somewhere. There is a feeling out there by many firefighters that we beat fire all the time. The reality is that fire goes where it wants to and we just mop up it’s wake. Think, be safe first and always, my brothers and sisters because we don’t need to have these kind of tragedies".
"Pat Byrnes says
Prescott division chief Willis’ briefing, while admittedly speculative in parts, contained a remark that troubled me. If I heard right, he seems to think that it is very frequently the case thatwildland fire fighters, especially when hiking to or from fire line, must often forego being anywhere near a viable safety zone. With unstable weather that the fire crew didn’t seem to have full awareness of, and a lookout in a vulnerable place who had to evacuate, it seems that the crew rapidly found themselves in a situation without the basic protection of LCES — lookouts, communications, escape routes, safety zones. It might also be a bit troubling if they gave up good safe black in order to try to re-engage the fire as it was blowing up and escaping any hope of immediate confinement. I hope this isn’t like the disastrous attempt at re-engaging an out-of-control fire without good lookout or fire knowledge that happened in the30 Mile fire near the Canadian border.
Dumb question — does a heavy load of dried-out chaparral burn really hot so as to have a high chance of defeating shelters?"
"George Atwood says
“Point protection?” With hand tools? Granted, I left the agency 10 years ago, but in my 23 years, I never heard of such a tactic. Is Mr Willis saying that perhaps they had intended to fire out around the ranch? He spoke of them doing their assignment, then describes them leaving the ridge to go do something else that was not communicated on the radio. Is he describing independent action?
I can’t imagine how terrible he must feel about this, but Willis is not making it any better. Maybe he’s not trying to, maybe he recognizes the lessons here are more valuable than trying to protect anyones reputation. Sooner or later some real hard truths are going to come out of this that need to come out so others remember the mistakes made here before committing their crew to do something like this. Yeah I said it. Somebody sure as heck needs to. His video describes 18 men being led by 1 down hill into a box like canyon with brush 4′ over their head. A death route with no safety zones. The fire obviously wasn’t visible under that brush, but the building cells must of been.
I’m sorry, but like many other current & former Hot Shots, I am very upset by this."
"Brian T. Miller says
I can’t help but agree. I have been horrified by the entire incident and can’t help but think human factors will play out as a major contibutor to this tragedy. I just can’t fathom what would have made them leave the black and descend into a box canyon. Over 22 years, I was a hotshot, helitack, smokejumper, and municipal fire officer. The pictures of the entrapment site just scream out at me as being untenable. I so mourn their loss but agree that an unscrubbed assessment of what went down is the only way to make sure this doesn’t happen again."
After years of delay, the Granite Mountain Hotshot autopsy records are released. December 9, 2013. John Dougherty. InvestigativeMEDIA (all emphasis is added)
Consider now the GMHS autopsy and toxicology reports. It is the professional opinion of this author and many other WFs and FFs that wildland fire autopsy reports of burnovers, entrapments, shelter deployments should be required reading for each Wildland Fire training course and each year thereafter during WF and FF Critical Training. This would be to show WFs and FFs the reality of what can potentially occcur if one does not know, follow, and abide by the Basic Wildland Firefighting Rules and Guidelines, i.e. (Fire Orders & Watch Out Situations & LCES).
"The two state investigations into the deaths of 19 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots released to the public in 2013 did not include the complete autopsy and toxicology reports of the men who were killed on June 30, 2013 in the Yarnell Hill Fire."
"One of the most potentially significant, but easily misunderstood, findings in the toxicology reports is the presence of alcohol in the blood of 13 of the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots ranging from .01 to .09 percent. A person is legally drunk in Arizona at .08%. Another hotshot had several drugs of abuse in his blood, but no alcohol."
"Neither the Serious Accident Investigation Report nor the wrongful death inquiry by the ADOSH examined what the men were doing the night before they were sent to Yarnell on what was supposed to be their first of two days off after working 28 of the previous 30 days including 26 days on fires and had just come off a 12-hour shift."
"Published reports state at least three hotshots were drinking in a local Prescott bar on the evening of June 29. These included Zuppiger, Christopher MacKenzie and the crew’s sole survivor, Brendan McDonough."
"The hotshots were drinking 'at the Whiskey Row Pub, a dive in Prescott’s historic downtown,' according to 2013 story in Outside Magazine. “When the hotshots came to drink in groups, as they often did on rare days off, bartender Jeff Bunch gave them a discount. His son was a former crew member.”
"Statements from an eyewitness who saw the crew on the morning of June 30 while ascending the Weaver Mountains raise questions about the physical condition of the men."
“'What I saw was a group of men (who) were totally spent,' says Sonny Gilligan, an experienced hiker and former miner and cowboy who saw the crew hiking up a two-track trail at about 9:18 a.m. 'They looked like they were tired. They weren’t somebody you would want to fight a fire. They needed rest.'”
"The complete autopsy and toxicology reports are posted [in this blue] link here. There are detailed descriptions of the conditions of the bodies that may be disturbing."
Gary Olson says
And I’m not discounting the possibility that Whitted’s head injuries might have been self inflicted shortly before his death. I mean…if I was being burned alive and I was coughing up chunks of my charred lung tissue so hard that I dislocated my tongue from the back of my throat, I think I might try to knock myself out? I wrote that AGAIN just as a reminder to all of the people who are on that board just what this has all been about, because I think either they have forgotten or never knew exactly what the issue is.
Gary Olson says
I want to make the only issue that concerns me perfectly clear. The Granite Mountain Hotshots we’re coughing up chunks of their charred lungs so hard while they were being burned to death that they dislocated their tongues from the back of their mouths. And when they were found, their blackened, charred and swollen tongues were hanging out of their mouths. Any questions? Good.
Gary Olson says
July 22, 2017 at 9:42 am I’m sorry…I got just one more., “as long as you can breathe, you can survive?” Well…I suspose that is true to a certain point. The crew was still breathing when their were coughing up chunks of their burned lungs so hard they disconnected their tongues from the backs of their mouths, so they were found with all of their tongues hanging out…so surely that statement is correct only to a certain point of no return…right? I mean…how much charred lung can a firefighter cough up and still survive?
Robert the Second says December 6, 2015 at 10:53 am And one more thing. The moron McDonough was NOT tested for drugs or alcohol, a major error on the part on the SAIT. But not quite as much of an error as them NOT looking into these 19 GMHS results. It’s more likely that they did so intentionally, on purpose, because the results didn’t fit with their “NO INDICATION OF NEGLIGENCE, RECKLESS ACTIONS, OR VIOLATIONS OF POLICY OR PROTOCOL” conclusion. It’s NOT possible to everything right, and kill 19 men. Not f**king possible!
Thank you for digging out the facts. As a former Hotshot Supe. it comes down to leadership of the leader. I had the 10 fire orders and the 10 commandments that I always considered primary factors of my leadership. Heck in 1961 when I accepted the hotshot job that was about all we had."
You really have to ask yourselves why so many articles, videos, research papers, websites (i.e. Student of Fire) and such dealing with the YH Fire and GMHS debacle can no longer be located and / or retrieved. What was contained within them that made them disappear? You think it was anything to do with the truth maybe ...?
( http://emerge.staging.getdigits.io › manitoba-crime-vbhe ) This crew history was written by members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots for ... Doug Campbell, a retired Forest Service fire-management officer who's ...
Internet Archive Wayback Machine error messages regarding above article. "No URL has been captured for this domain" and "Hrm. Wayback Machine has not archived that URL. Click here to search for all archived pages under http://emerge.staging.getdigits.io/manitoba-crime-vbhe/fc5871-did-the-granite-mountain-hotshots-make-a-mistake"
Continuing on with CPS website data and links.
Appendix E—Related Reports
The Collapse of Decisionmaking and Organizational Structure on Storm King Mountain - Ted Putnam, Ph.D., Protective Clothing and Equipment Specialist, Missoula Technology and Development Center, May 1996
Definitely worth reading that classic research paper by Dr. Putnam. Some excerpts follow:
"Stress, fear, and panic predictably lead to the collapse of clear thinking and organizational structure. While these psychological and social processes have been well studied by the military and the aircraft industry (Cockpit Resource Management) (Weick 1990 and Wiener, Kanki, and Helmrich 1993), the wildland fire community has not supported similar research for the fireline. The fatal wildland fire entrapments of recent memory have a tragic common denominator — human error. The lesson is clear: studying the human side of fatal wildland fire accidents is overdue."
"Historically, wildland fire fatality investigations focus on external factors like fire behavior, fuels, weather, and equipment. Human and organizational failures are seldom discussed. When individual firefighters and support personnel are singled out, it's often to fix blame in the same way we blame fire behavior or fuels. This is wrong-headed and dangerous, because it ignores what I think is an underlying cause of firefighter deaths — the difficulty individuals have to consistently make good decisions under stress."
"There's no question individuals must be held accountable for their performance. But the fire community must begin determining at psychological and social levels why failures occur. The goal should not be to fix blame. Rather, it should be to give people a better understanding of how stress, fear, and panic combine to erode rational thinking and how to counter this process. Over the years, we've made substantial progress in modeling and understanding the external factors in wildland fire suppression, and too little in improving thinking, leadership, and crew interactions." Dr. Ted Putnam (all emphais added)
The author believes that Mr. Campbell (RiP) would also want us to discuss the following as it relates to the Yarnell Hill Fire as well as many other fatal wildfires. This is from the South Canyon Fire Investigation report and witness testimony, where we can find signs of collapse similar to those Weick identified in his analysis of Mann Gulch, including:
1) Leadership questioned and challenged.
2) Decisions questioned.
3) Most experienced people not consulted and locked out of decision process.
4) Poor communication concerning deteriorating conditions—espcially among groups.
5) Continued fragmentation into smaller groups.
6) Decreased talking within groups.
7) Failure to integrate vital, available information when changes occurred.
8) Failure to act on the weight of the evidence.
9) Underestimating the current and potential fire behavior.
Consider now Part one of a series of three Orange County Register articles about the YH Fire and GMHS debacle since three of the GMHS hailed from that area in California. By David Whiting | email@example.com | Orange County Register January 16, 2014 at 2:15 p.m.:
Figure 6. June 30, 2013, 1600+YH Fire and GMHS with agggressive fire behavior pushed by winds in the background below them based on flame lenghts and smoke column abagle, color, and volume. Source: GMHS Mackenzie, Press Enterprise
As the sun started its descent toward the horizon and thunder rumbled, lightning hit a lonely boulder-strewn peak in Arizona, sparking a fire so small that experts decided it didn’t deserve immediate attention.
Within two days, the chaparral-fueled wildfire took the lives of 19 firefighters – including three with Orange County roots.
But what went wrong in Arizona is less about wilderness and weather than it is about human error.
Pieced together from hundreds of pages of maps, photographs, reports, videos and findings, here is the story of what happened in the last days of June in the mountains near Prescott Valley, a town I visited with Orange County firefighters a week after the tragedy.
It is a tale of courage, honor and the ultimate in public service.
It also is a story of what can go terribly wrong when trying to control an unpredictable monster in rough terrain that is propelled by shifting winds with gusts exceeding 50 miles an hour – a combination starkly similar to three major wildfires in Orange County that destroyed hundreds of homes in the last two decades.
According to an Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigation released last month, tactics failed to adjust for changing circumstances; communication was poor; firefighters were required to defend “nondefensible” structures; a key supervisor abandoned his post; and leaders made decisions that endangered the lives of the very men they were responsible for protecting.
The chaos was so extreme that an air tanker twice snuffed out controlled burns made by the Hotshots who died.
The severe drought that grips Orange County and sucks moisture from leaves is the worst that local fire experts can remember. But conditions are even more threatening in other areas of the western United States.
Exactly three months before the beast was born in the Weaver Mountains, Arizona forestry officials knew they were in for a long, hot and very dangerous summer.
In a world in which “fuel” substitutes for what most of us call plants, this was the forestry’s spring report: “The chaparral vegetation type on state lands around Prescott, Yarnell, Mayer and Bagdad is expected to have a below average live fuel moisture that will lead to high fire potential.”
Change the names of the towns to Orange, Yorba Linda and Trabuco Canyon and the report is nearly identical to what I’ve heard from our own fire officials who call our wildland a “tinderbox.”
Yes, this also is a story about what could happen in Orange County.
The steep escarpments, 5,000-foot ridges, plunging canyons, often impenetrable chaparral and boulder-covered areas in the Weaver Mountains are eerily similar to the Santa Ana range.
Consider that it was only six years ago when a dozen firefighters in Santiago Canyon huddled under last-ditch fire-retardant sacks, the same type of sacks the Hotshots died in.
Fortunately, the men in Santiago Canyon lived.
• • •
After the lightning bolt hit 3 miles from the town of Yarnell on June 28, a plane scouted the area.
The Yarnell Hill Fire was less than a half-acre. With no vehicle access and dusk setting in, according to Forestry Service as well as Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health documents, officials decided to postpone what firefighters call suppression activities until daylight.
On the morning of June 29, a Bureau of Land Management official flew over the site, estimated the blaze at about 8 acres and developed a battle plan with the incident commander, a man who had worked 28 straight days and would continue working for the next 30 hours.
Of fatigue, safety documents advise: “Going 24 hours without sleep affects your decision-making ability the same way a blood-alcohol content of 0.10 would.” State law says .10 is drunk.
Single-engine air tankers dropped fire retardant on the fire’s south and west flanks. A two-track road secured the eastern flank. A helicopter dropped off seven firefighters to secure the ridge on the north. At the same time, six firefighters hiked toward the blaze in temeratures reaching 116 degrees.
By lunch, the fire had dwindled to 2 acres, and by midafternoon, it appeared contained. With another fire burning, one of two air tankers was dispatched elsewhere. But around 4:30 p.m., despite low winds, the Yarnell Hill fire jumped the two-track road.
A Bureau of Land Management official offered to take over the fire. Arizona forestry officials declined the offer. Dispatch offered a DC-10 VLAT, a very large air tanker. That offer also was declined.
Within the next two hours, everything changed – as should have been expected when blistering heat in arid lands starts to cool. Wind gusts shot to 20 mph. Flames grew to 20 feet. The fire spread over 100 acres.
By sunset, the fire was 1 mile from a village called Peeples Valley, population 375, and just 2.5 miles from Yarnell with 360 homes and 650 people.
The motto on Yarnell’s welcome sign: “Where a desert breeze meets the mountain air.”
• • •
As darkness gathered, several firefighting crews were called. One was a group dubbed the Granite Mountain Hotshots.
Its 20 members included the three young men with Orange County connections: Kevin Woyjeck, 21, of Seal Beach; Grant McKee, 21, of Newport Beach; and Robert Caldwell, 23, McKee’s cousin.
They were a tight group who had grown tighter while training and serving as tough, elite first responders for wildfires.
Woyjeck became a firefighter explorer at age 15. His grandmother, Delores, says her grandson’s goal was to follow the example of his dad, a captain with the Los Angeles County Fire Department.
McKee was engaged to be married to Leah Fine, whom he’d met in Prescott.
Caldwell was married to a woman named Claire, and the couple had a 5-year-old son, Zion.
Around midnight, a small gathering of experts went over plans for the next day, a Sunday. Along with the Hotshots, supervisors ordered 14 engines, six water tenders, two bulldozers and air support.
Thirteen firefighters stayed in the field through the night.
One supervisor later told investigators, “You could still see a lot of flames until about 0600. Could see light smoke, but that’s a deceptive thing. If you’re around fire much, you know that there’s still a lot of heat out there.”
• • •
At 7 a.m. June 30, the incident command post was set up at Model Creek School in Peeples Valley. After working every day in June but two, the Granite Mountain Hotshots were given their orders: “Establish the anchor (an advantageous spot to start a fire line) at the heel of the fire using direct and indirect attack.”
The crew discussed safety zones and escape routes including a “bomb proof” area in a place called Boulder Springs Ranch.
Still, the extensive independent investigation conducted by Wildland Fire Associates and commissioned by the occupational safety division notes that the team was offered little local knowledge about trails and roads and lacked maps or aerial photos to gauge distances, terrain, flora and additional escape routes.
At 8 a.m. Woyjeck, McKee, Caldwell and the rest of their crew headed into the unknown.
Figure 7. GMHS Andrew Ashcraft , wearing his white "Be Better" bracelet, and another GMHS, both with their sleeves rolled up, on the June 30, 2013, YH Fire with increasing fire behavior in the background based on flame lengths and smoke color and volume. Source: Press Enterprise
By David Whiting | firstname.lastname@example.org | Orange County Register January 20, 2014 at 11:55 p.m.: ARIZONA WILDFIRE:
Confusion, dereliction at top doomed hotshots, probe finds - (Part two in a three-part series)
"On the day of their deaths, 20 Arizona hotshot firefighters spent the morning carefully setting fires along a rugged two-track road to burn off fuel and create a perimeter for a growing wildfire.
But standing on a ridge high in the Weaver Mountains just before noon, the team supervisor couldn’t believe what he saw — a plane swooping down and twice dropping massive amounts of orange fire retardant on the crew’s back burns.
The reasons for snuffing out the controlled blazes? None. The Air Tactical Group supervisor was never told the purpose of the burns.
Immediately, the hotshot team’s 43-year-old supervisor, Eric Marsh, grabbed his radio and let it be known the drops were all wrong. But it was too late. With a fast-moving wildfire that would only move faster as winds increased, the damage was done.
Worse, the confusion and erroneous retardant drops were only part of a series of mistakes that day that doomed the young men on the team, including two with Riverside County roots.
According to 175 of pages of documents that distill more than 40 interviews commissioned by the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the morning of June 30, a Sunday, in the Weaver Mountains didn’t start well and only deteriorated.
Two hours before the retardant drops, there was a mandatory briefing at the Arizona Forestry Division’s emergency command post. In the words of the incident commander: “None of us were to go anywhere … until we got that briefing done at the school to give clear leader intent.”
But clear leader intent was never given to the Granite Mountain team because the crew — including Chris MacKenzie, 30, and William “Billy” Warneke, 25, who both attended Hemet High School — already had been sent into the field.
The commander later admitted to investigators that he was unaware that Granite Mountain Hotshots weren’t at the briefing.
The occupational safety investigation released only weeks ago also states that the Forestry Service “failed to give clear management direction to the incoming (supervisor) because they had not completed” required escape plans.
These examples are only several of many life-threatening communication errors.
The report concludes: “The ultimate result was that (supervisors) failed to convey a coherent strategic plan for suppressing the fire that was uniformly understood by ground and air resources from initial attack through the entrapment (of the Hotshots) and burnover.”
By the time of the erroneous fire drops, the fire had grown to 500 acres. “There was a line of fire a mile-and-a-half,” a supervisor later told investigators. “There were 40- to 50-foot flames.”
Facing a wildfire higher than a four-story building, MacKenize, Warneke and the 18 other hotshots could do little more than grab axlike hand tools to directly battle the beast.
But according to the occupational safety investigation, such tactics are effective only when flames are waist-high.
Of the crew’s actions, the investigation cites a wildland fires textbook: “Direct attack on a fast-moving desert or brush fire is seldom successful.” The documents add there was no evidence that any supervisor assessed the hotshots’ chances for success — or assessed their risk.
During the noon hour, supervisors huddled in the field. They agreed there were radio problems and drove one of the hotshots down to the site of an old mechanical grader to serve as lookout.
That decision proved to be the only save of the day. But it was more out of luck that the lookout¸ Brendan McDonough, eventually graced the stage at the mass funeral in Prescott Valley.
About 1 p.m. June 30, District Forester Jim Downey and Incident Commander Roy Hall hammered out a fire-complexity analysis. But safety division records state: “It was more than a day late and resulted in the exposure of hundreds of firefighters to complex fire hazards that may have otherwise been controlled.”
About this time, one of the most egregious decisions made by management, according to the investigation, came when the [DIVS Z Marquez] supervisor for the area north of Yarnell abandoned his post.
After assessing the situation as problematic and following a disagreement with hotshots supervisor Marsh, the report states, the supervisor left at 1:30 p.m. and never returned.
“As a result,” the investigation concludes, “the following were not performed: use of risk management process to ensure fighter safety … coordination of activities … conducting safety briefings … assignment of specific work tasks … ensuring assigned personnel and equipment get on and off the fireline in a timely manner.”
By mid-afternoon, the wildfire threatened the command post at Peeples Valley Model Creek School, “Home of the Nighthawks.” Both the post and the village were evacuated.
While reinforcing the fire line, the hotshots discussed reports of incoming thunderstorms and the possibility of gale-force winds. They had good reason to focus on weather.
Modern firefighting is more science than art, and data are critical for safety. Experts consider the angle of slopes. They measure moisture content in leaves — extremely dry in Arizona, severely dry in Southern California. They review wind speed. The information allows analysts to predict how quickly a fire will move as well as the height of flames.
Winds of 40 mph, for example, result in fires moving at speeds of 12 mph, with flames reaching 51 feet. To outrun such a fire in wildlands is impossible.
At 3 p.m., the first of two safety officers arrived. The order had gone out the night before.
A safety officer’s role is different from that of those focusing on putting out fires — and it’s a critical one. Safety officers focus on “monitoring and assessing hazardous and unsafe situations and developing measures for assessing personnel safety.”
Other forestry and emergency personnel arrived late to their posts, particularly on the incident-management team. The investigation by Wildland Fire Associates, commissioned by the occupational health division, concludes that short-staffing “led to an organization that lacked the initial cohesion needed to successfully take over a complex fire.”
At 3:26 p.m., a fire-behavior analyst learned from the National Weather Service that winds would continue to come from the north-northwest and could increase to 50 mph.
But four minutes later, the wind shifted and came from the south. Within 10 minutes it swung back 90 degrees. Now, it was the town of Yarnell that went on evacuation alert.
The moment the winds shot up and started whipping around was the tipping point in a day of challenges, confusion and fatal mistakes.
It also was the exact moment that tactics should have switched from firefighters standing their ground to a series of retreats. But nothing changed.
Consider the early media reports that erroneously indicated Granite Mountain Hotshots were sacrificed while protecting the Double Bar Ranch. In fact, it was a different group of firefighters that was nearly sacrificed protecting the Double Bar and, as with McDonough, it was only last-minute luck that saved them.
Of the Double Bar team, the safety report concludes, “Despite fire management’s knowledge of existing conditions, the impending hazard, failure to control or suppress active fire and the known futility of attempting to protect non-defensible structures, (management permitted) burnout operations until the last moments before escape.”
Along with the Double Bar team, the investigation states, those at the Granite Mountain lookout should have been evacuated at 3:30 p.m. — as well as the entire Granite Mountain Hotshots crew.
The report says the forestry division “chose to evacuate the incident command post but allowed the Granite Mountain (Hotshots) to work downwind of a rapidly progressing wind-driven fire.
“What should have been a planned retreat became entrapment.”
By 4 p.m., while the hotshots worked on a ridgetop in triple-digit temperatures, weather conditions were brewing an even more ferocious change in winds.
Consider now David Whiting | email@example.com | Orange County Register January 18, 2014 at 12:00 a.m. Part three of three articles titled:
Figure 8. (left) American flags are draped over the remains of GMHS shortly after they were found dead in the Deployment Zone turned fatality site. Source: USA Today
Facing hundreds of acres of wildfire, dry chaparral and gusts of wind nearly strong enough to knock him over, the Granite Mountain Hotshots firefighter supervisor concluded his ridge was no longer the place to be.
Eric Marsh radioed that winds were “squirrely” and reported his crew was “going to make our way through our escape route.”
But it was 4 p.m. on June 30 near Yarnell, Ariz., and the situation was far more precarious than Marsh could know.
Wind speeds soon would skyrocket and dramatically change direction. Trucks that earlier had ferried Marsh’s Hotshots were in the fire’s path and had to be evacuated. No one outside of the crew knew their escape route.
Worse, according to an Arizona Division of Occupational Safety and Health investigation, confusion, lousy communication and a deadly lack of leadership reigned over the entire 300-firefighter operation.
• • •
In the wilderness, things can break bad within seconds – especially when there are gale-force winds.
As Marsh, 43, radioed his plans, the Granite Mountain Hotshot who served as the crew’s lookout reported that flames were closing in on his “trigger point” – a previously determined location that, when fire crosses, firefighters leave.
Confident that it was move or die, Brendan McDonough headed toward a clearing near an old grader. As the 21-year-old, nicknamed “Donut,” reached the grader, a supervisor driving a utility terrain vehicle spotted McDonough and picked him up.
McDonough was fortunate. Within 15 minutes, his tiny clearing was consumed by 40-foot flames.
The lookout reported that he understood his Hotshot brothers to be in a “black zone” – a safe area already burned. An operational-section chief understood the same thing, confirming the crew was “in a good place.”
But a five-month investigation by the occupational safety division concluded that confusion wasn’t only at the top management levels. It was in the ranks.
Shortly before 4 p.m., Hotshot Scott Norris texted his mother a photo of a massive wall of flames. The 28-year-old wrote, “The fire is running at Yarnell!”
But the flames weren’t only heading toward Yarnell. Changing conditions would turn winds toward the 19 Granite Mountain Hotshots, including Grant McKee, 21, of Newport Beach; Robert Caldwell, 23, McKee’s cousin; and Kevin Woyjeck, 21, of Seal Beach.
• • •
Reviewing maps, photos, interviews and other data, it appears that the 19 Hotshots aimed to drop down 1.6 miles to a “bomb proof” safety zone at Boulder Springs Ranch.
Their plan may have been to re-engage the fire. It may have been to seek shelter. Regardless, the move meant hiking the ridge and then navigating boulder fields and chaparral while humping 35 pounds of gear, including chainsaws, in triple-digit heat. Protected by nothing more than black helmets and soot-covered yellow flame-resistant shirts, the team started descending.
For nearly 30 minutes, the Yarnell Hill Fire didn’t advance much on the Hotshots. But at 4:30, the area turned to hell.
Thunder exploded. Within 9 minutes, a wall of roiling smoke already higher than any mountain on the planet shot up to nearly 39,000 feet. Flames moved at 16 mph. Gusts estimated at 50 mph sent a hail of black ash and burning embers.
In minutes, the wildfire burned through much of the area the Hotshots had taken nearly a half-hour to push through. But 700 yards of boulders and brush still separated the men from the ranch’s safety.
At 4:39, radios crackled unintelligibly. Crowded frequencies had resulted in garbled transmissions. Then, a static-filled Hotshot voice came through: The crew needed air support. Now.
“We are in front of the flaming front.”
In one hour, the fire had nearly doubled in size, burning through some 2,500 acres.
With the sound of chainsaws in the background, Marsh broke in: “Our escape route has been cut off. We are preparing a deployment site and we are burning out around ourselves in the bush and I’ll give you a call when we are under the sh-, the shelters.”
McKee, Caldwell, Woyjeck and the rest of the crew started deploying their shelters. A wall of fire approached. It appears that some of the Hotshots didn’t have time to climb completely inside their sacks. But it didn’t matter.
The shelters reflect 95 percent of radiant heat. But aluminum foil and silica cloth are useless against convective heat from flames as well as hot gasses. As the wildfire swept over the Hotshots, temperatures exceeded 2,000 degrees. Helmets were partially melted.
While a fire-retardant air tanker searched for the crew, 19 Hotshots – sons, husbands, fathers, brothers, friends – perished.
Before the beast was controlled days later, it would burn 8,400 acres.
• • •
The safety division’s report lauded the Hotshots for staying alert, remaining calm, thinking clearly, taking decisive actions and monitoring weather.
Yet just as the exhaustive report examines the decisions of the living, it critiques the decisions of the dead. Understand, there are lessons in the Hotshots’ actions that could save the lives of others.
The investigation concludes that the team didn’t scout out, time or mark sufficient escape routes. It notes the Hotshots didn’t consider all escape routes, including dropping down to the west and connecting with Highway 89. It also says the crew didn’t notify anyone about their decision to leave their black safe area and report their new route.
“The confusion that surrounded the search for the crew after the entrapment and burnover,” investigators state, “illustrates the importance of notifying the supervisor.”
But those errors are minor compared with other mistakes.
• • •