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  • Fred J Schoeffler and Joy A Collura

Doug Campbell (RiP) Did the PFD GMHS Know or Ignore his Tried-and-True Campbell Prediction System?

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 1 of 2

Views expressed to "the public at large” and "of public concern"

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The authors and the blog are not responsible for misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this blog by others. The content even though we are presenting it public if being reused must get written permission in doing so due to copyrighted material. Thank you.

Abbreviations used below: Wildland Firefighters (WFs) - Firefighters (FFs).

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. Campbell Prediction System (CPS) website. Source: CPS, Bob Becker

Figure 2. Doug Campbell (RiP) news article unknown publication and date. Source: LinkedIn

Figure 3. CPS founder Doug Campbell (RiP) Tucson Sentinel article photo internet search. Photo not in actual online article. Source: Tucson Sentinel

A Song of Ascents. Of Solomon.

Unless the Lord builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the Lord guards the city, The watchman stays awake in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, To sit up late, To eat the bread of sorrows; For so He gives His beloved sleep.

Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, The fruit of the womb is a reward. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, So are the children of one’s youth. Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them; They shall not be ashamed, But shall speak with their enemies in the gate.

Psalm 127: 1-5 (NKJV)


“The search for truth implies a duty. One must not conceal any part of what one has recognized to be true.” Albert Einstein


In response to knowing of Mr. Campbell's passing, accolades like this one from an "Old School" Northern Rockies Hot Shot Supt. are common:

"Thanks for letting me know Fred. He was a good man and contributed a lot to ff safety. I learned more from him in one 8hr session than all the other fire behavior classes and lectures I attended through the years."

Here are several other from Wildfire Community Forum:

"FSFF - CPS is so simple and critical for a basic understanding of fire behavior. Thank you Doug for you (sic) innovation."

"Keestrokes - Got to spend time with him driving him around on the Aguanga fire in 84, my first season. Was like having a portable classroom for 10 days. Learned so much that a 40 hr would not even be in the same breath as training. He truly believed in the CPS and showed it worked every day. A true pioneer in Wildland Firefighting."


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.


The Campbell Prediction System - A Wildland Fire Prediction and Communication System - Fourth Edition - Author Doug Campbell


CPS Book Contents

Title Page - Preface - Introduction

Chapter 1: Predicting Change --

Chapter 2: Cause and Effect

Chapter 3: Solar Preheating

Chapter 5: Fire Signatures

Chapter 7: Now What Do I Do?

Chapter 9: New Tools

Part 2: CPS Rx

Chapter 11: CPS Rx – Prescriptive Burning

Chapter 12: CPS Rx – Alignment of Forces

Chapter 13: CPS Rx – Fire Behavior Observations

Chapter 14: CPS Rx – Fire Modeling


Recent CPS Posts

"Training, Readiness, Accountability & Proficiency (TRAP) - Fire Management in a nutshell: Hiring green people, putting them into various fire modules to protect the National Forest from wildfire damage is the reoccurring operation of fire management.

At first the crews are liabilities. Developing them into a cohesive protection force, following the guidelines of policy, forest objectives, and a Ranger’s changing focus is not a science. An old Chinese proverb is that “vision without action is a daydream and action without vision is a nightmare.” With a shared mission and vision statement proper accountability can create a better organization.

Journeymen fire technicians usually strive to gain the maximum protective capability and provide the margin of safety required early in the season. Rangers and management staff often overlook the value of and the need for the investment in training to accomplish this. TRAP is a program that displays the ingredients of a sensible fire management program and shows the relationship of influences upon that program. The program helps to foster an attitude of shared responsibility from the Line Officer and Staff to the firefighter crew-person.

At the start of fire season the Forest objective is to require proficient fire modules by July first. The Ranger wants a commitment from fire modules for project work during the formation of the modules. The DFMO knows there is not much accountability for the proficiency of the fire module but that the ramification of an under-trained crew of a wildfire could be life-threatening or the crew could easily become over-extended beyond their capabilities and fail to accomplish the assignment; thereby adding acres and threats to the crew.

The project on the other hand, is very visible and the Ranger can easily see accomplishment, or the lack of it. The trade-off of readiness for a project target is eminent [clear, obvious] The fire training and readiness is at a disadvantage in competing for priority. The right thing to do is obvious to the technician. The Ranger cannot see the concern because the background required visualizing the complexity is normally many years in the business of reading crews and fighting fires with them.

This kind of barrier to communication can be overcome. The ranger has little time to spend learning the intricacies, and needs a quick way to evaluate the whole situation so that he can make a good decision that the DFMO will accept without feeling he is responsible for an impossible situation.





The Cramer Incident - review of the 2003 Cramer Fire showing the similarities with the South Canyon Fire and demonstrating how the application of CPS using the Alignment of Forces concept could have prevented the two fatalities.

Figure 4. Image of CPS review of Cramer Fire fatalities consisting of 25 slides in PowerPoint format. Another Way to Prevent Reoccurrence. Source: CPS Cramer Fire

The July 22, 2003, Cramer Fire was "a tactical failure" and compares and contrasts the 1994 South Canyon Fire. Learning From the Past or Repeating it?

Visit the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center Cramer Fire fatal wildland fire entrapment (ID - SCF) Incident Review for further research requiring extreme, critical discernment. You need to do this with the well known knowledge that ALL such mishaps are cover-ups, lies, and whitewashes based on preconceived "conclusions" with select "facts" to support it.


When the Forest Service changed to a Politically Correct organization it resulted in hindering old standards of supervision. It took the authority to hire and fire away leaving the supervisors with the full responsibility of those peoples’ well-being and the safety of subordinates but less authority to act as before.

When selected as a Hot Shot superintendent I hired my temporary personnel. I made out the pay documents. I set the rules of behavior and let it be known that they would be enforced with discipline and at the worst-case termination. I found that this authority assured compliance and terminations were few.

As the District Fire staff on two districts I had occasion to terminate some who deserved it: One was a crew person who exposed his genitals to a Forest Service wife in the station compound. Two were guys found to be spreading fire as a crew was cutting fire line. Another was a firebug suspect who was finally caught in the act. The last person terminated directly was using drugs on duty, which was a firing offense. This was just before political correctness (PC) was implemented. How does one supervise someone if you cannot provide discipline when needed?

On some fire assignments some crew supervisors have taken their crew into high hazard situations and been run out. How many crew leaders have used a frightening situation to create a feeling in the crew of acceptance to follow the leader anywhere? Proper overseeing would be to sit the supervisor on a stump and tell the person to read the fire better and avoid these situations in the future. Do it again and you will be disciplined.

Fred Schoeffler’s paper [ Epic Human Failure on June 30, 2013 - AHFE (2018) ] has it right, that poor tactical actions that are risky but with no bad outcome are reoccurring with little proper oversight. What are the basic tools for proper supervision? Oversight is needed for the supervisor and by the supervisor. A weak link here is a potential built-in human factor problem.

I can just hear cries that we cannot go back to past procedures as PC makes things much better in the work place. Is it our vision is to abolish discipline administered by supervisors and replace it with write them up and report them to my superior? Crew supervisors need to have responsibility and authority to properly manage a group of firefighters. Supervision by “snitch” is just not acceptable as a viable control.

Crew supervisors and managers no longer provide common sense supervision practices under the current management program. Could failure of supervision be the unintended consequence of an agency attempting to become politically correct?

Providing appropriate supervision has been curtailed to the firefighters that deserve proper supervision. I think there is a lot more on this side of the problem to discuss but managing by PC may be a design fault. Unless proper authority to provide control to crew supervisors is restored the human factor accidents will continue to be a problem. It will not be fixed until this constraint of limited authority to properly manage firefighters is removed.

Supervisors should have oversight also. If a supervisor oversteps authority, the supervisor should be disciplined.

A reasonable recommendation would be to develop supervisors to use the authority properly. Depending on rules and guidelines like the ten’s and eighteens are necessary but not infallible. Crew supervisors usually prioritize the rules when sizing up an assignment. How important is my chosen escape route or my selected safe area today? If people misread the fire potential they cannot accurately predict fire changes that may be important. In high risk environments supervisors need to be competent.

We should not make heroes of victims of poor decisions; rather we should make heroes of people who do it right. The heroes are the people who lead crews in effective tactics and have no accidents in their past.

When Heroes are made of the firefighters who have been injured or killed what message does that send to the new hires? Do some think they too would like to be known as a hero? Why do we think that victims of accidental burnovers are heroes? Maybe we should seriously define our vision; that is, what one wants to become. Be careful what you wish for.

Many firefighters have made improvements to things within their control. These folks have gone beyond what was required and contributed improvements based on their experience and proven results.

Some examples are: Training, Readiness, Accountability and Proficiency (TRAP Drill programs) and IAP on I-pad. Wildfire Management Tool, “WMT”, which is a quick way to display weather values and BEHAVE calculations on a map using any mobile device. Another example is the Campbell Prediction System publication and training course. This was taught in many states in the United States, Canada, and Spain, accepted by field level management folks as a standard for how to read a wildfire and predict the changes in that arena.

This should be a goal for all firefighters and managers. Unfortunately, in this PC environment they face resistance to many good improvements. Sure, they can apply for an employee’s suggestion idea but that seems not enough.


Firefighters’ Concepts - A Questioning Exercise

Firefighters have some teaching that may lead to beliefs about information that is used to predict fire behavior changes. It is these believes (sic) that are responsible for many firefighters becoming trapped by unexpected changes in the fires behavior. In an effort to reduce the unexpected fire behavior situations this exercise using a questioning strategy is written. The purpose of this exercise is to combine your intuition and logic to fully explain what you believe.

The main question is: Do crew-leaders have enough fire behavior knowledge to predict normal variations in fire behavior to assure them of safe leadership on wildfire situations?

Fire danger the relative danger of a fire in an area. Fire behavior is the differences of fire signatures in a specific area of the fire ground and is time sensitive.


  • Which do you rely on, fire danger or fire behavior, to determine your assigned wildland fire tactic?

  • What are the causes of changes in fire behavior?

  • Where on the fire-ground does air temperature or humidity cause changes in fire behavior?

  • Does solar radiation have a larger effect on fuel moisture than humidity?

  • How would you call a difference between fuel in the sun and fuel in the shade?

  • Why do solar radiated forest fuels burn differently than shaded fuels?

  • Are tactics different between types of fires?

  • Can you describe a fire by type and use the appropriate tactical approach for suppression?

  • Why is timing of a tactical plan important?

  • At what time of day are there more extremes in fire behavior and why?

  • If you have a map of a fire perimeter, can you describe the future of the fire? “What is the fire telling you?”

  • When you fly or observe a wildland fire what information are you gathering and for what purpose?

  • Pick a map of a wildland fire showing perimeters or spread perimeters and describe what information you gain from the map.

  • How can you tell where the fire behavior changes will go beyond the threshold of control or safety?

  • Can you identify by a symbol or a word these points on a map?

  • Can you assign a word for a predicted head fire signature?

  • Can you make a fire behavior prediction on where and when the fire behavior thresholds of control will change?

  • Do you have a language to explain the cause of fire behavior change as well as the cause, timing and location of a potential run?

  • If you do not know how the fire behavior will change are you at risk?

  • If you cannot explain your prediction can you share your prediction effectively?

  • Should a designated lookout have the knowledge and experience to provide safety by the observations made?


Using the Experience of Wildland Firefighters

There are many experienced wildland firefighters who have learned the art of wildland fire fighting. These individuals have vital safety procedures and knowledge that could be made available.

Also, a number of important programs have been invented that, when implemented, add to the safety of wildland firefighters. Some of the programs are:

The Campbell Prediction System (CPS) that teaches how to think, and predict fire behavior changes and when an attack can prevail or fail.

Drill programs that assures crews and individuals can perform to an acceptable standard before dispatch.

The Wildland Management Tool (WMT) that improves calculations of BEHAVE and incorporates new language and concepts.

Field Leadership training improvements that establish valid and appropriate standards.

Mission and Vision [M & V] statements to guide decision making. The Mission is what you do, the Vision is what do you want to become. Establishing Mission and Vision statements for all who direct people should be a standard requirement. Supervisors should review and council their folks in order to school them in the necessity of acceptable statements. Some accidents can be traced back to the M & V of individuals who have poor missions and visions. Statements of “becoming the best” had better have a scale or that is simply a foolish wish.Do supervisors or accident investigators inquire as to the M & V of leadership folks?

Do all individuals know and demonstrate how they determine when and where a wildland fire will change and become subject to control or not? Can they name the training program they depend on to assure the action they propose to control wildland fire situations is safe and effective?

The administration–from the Supervisors level to the national centers of wildfire administration–does not incorporate these improvements. As they are presented to the administration, the ideas are resisted or discounted at one of the levels of the fire management system.

There seems to be no program to incorporate such improvements into the overall program. When the originators of any change of thinking retire or give up, the improvements are lost or halted at the next level above the ground troops.

This note is intended to bring this situation to light. There is no program to capture new and important information and incorporate it into the national system for all who fight the wildfires. All can benefit from knowledge gained over years of doing the job.

One thing that I have observed is that there is no oversight for the District unit management that helps the to bring their unit up to a known standard.

My mission and vision has been to improve and make wildland fire fighting and management safer for the firefighter and to employ the knowledge that has been developed by firefighters.

A recommended path to this mission and vision would be to employ a task force of people who have provided improvements to the system to gather the knowledge and implement the findings with the full support of the Secretary of Agriculture and the president of the United States of America.

The results of this plan will reduce the hazard to wildland firefighters. To disregard this is an admission by the agencies of a resistance to the changes needed to reduce wildfire accidents.


Consider now the first Fire Order and four (#4, 5, 14, and 15) of the Watch Out Situations, dealing with the Fire Weather aspect of wildland firefighting

Cliff Mass Weather Blog This blog discusses current weather, weather prediction, climate issues, and current events July 02, 2013 - The Yarnell Hill Fire: The Meteorological Origins

Two days after the June 30, 2013, Yarnell Hill Fire and GMHS debacle, Dr. Mass had this to say. "This morning I took a look at the meteorology associated with the Yarnell Hill fire in Arizona on Sunday, and the more I dug into it, the more disturbed I got. You will see why as I explain."

"The existence of the strong convective outflow winds is confirmed by an amazing video of the area from 4 to 4:20 PM ... . You will see strong winds picking up, an explosion of the fire, and then smoke pushing down towards the cam. You can see fire line explode along the crest."

Consider now some select Cliff Mass blog (YH Fire - Meteorological Origins) comments below from those with both wildland fire and wildland fire weather experience. Several are quite accurate and rather telling. The author took the liberty of correcting some of the minor grammar, spelling, punctuation, errors; and provided select links and / or hyper links as well.

I was involved in the formation of Prescott's very first hotshot crew back in the early 70's. It started out as a Type II crew then became a Type 1 hotshot crew in 1973 -all under the USFS. ..... One thing that is driving me crazy about the way the media is reporting this is exactly what you point out - that somehow the weather was all a big surprise. What people do not seem to realize is that the fire itself creates its own dynamics, this is well known and should be anticipated. Planning an attack on a wildfire starts out with a series of "IF" questions, the biggest of which is: "What IF what we think turns out to be wrong? If we go to position X, what do we do if the winds reverse or change? What do we do if things go to hell?" Over the years, a series of rules and methods have been developed that account for even the most extreme conditions. It is a well known pattern of tragedies that no single decision is the cause, it is a series of mistakes, miscalculations and misjudgments taken together that are the problem. This time it will be no different. Losing an entire hotshot crew means some bad thing happened at the response co-ordination level, weather communications being just one."

The storm wind change was no surprise at this time of year. ... I believe the hot shot comand (sic) should have known weather would be unstable by looking up at the large structured cumulus clouds push that Cold Air mass that naturally falls towards the heat below 1500 feet. Again, locals expect this storm, and the Yarnell hill fire exacerbates moisture towards heat and every local would tell you there would be strong winds and maybe rain coming an hour ahead of the front moving S. That fire had a bullseye on it expecting S to SW winds to blow with verga rain or rain with extreme hail, with the fire that was unlikely to see rain or hail, but strong winds and unstable rain at about 1500 to 1800 hours (mst) will very likely be seen. "

@ WXMAN42, <

> d) As Cliff meticulously pointed out, the technology existed to prevent the deadly "surprise" on the Fire Fighters. I agree that lessons can and will be learned from this disaster. My point is that we need not wait for death to learn lessons. Meteorological research and resources are a public good which MUST be financed by the public it supports. Yes, the process exists where if requested an IMET is assigned. It was not requested in this case. The ability to assist fire fighters in fires large AND small exists without dependency upon special requests. This ability is specifically not employed because of political budget constraints. The policy to wait until death necessitates change processes is a political budget decision, one which is demanded by one specific political party and ineffectively repudiated by the other.""

Thank you for your analysis Dr. Mass. I am an NWS Incident Meteorologist based in Anchorage, AK, ..... The reason there was no Incident Meteorologist at the Yarnell Hill fire when it blew up was that it was still a "Type 2" or "Type 3" fire, not large or complex enough for the "Type 1" rating at that point to require a larger Incident Management Team. Who almost always will request an Incident Meteorologist. No matter what we do as well, as Incident Meteorologists, there are some realities to face. For instance, while serving as an IMET on a fire near Stanley, ID in 2006 I forecast isolated dry thunderstorms to occur in the afternoon around the fire area. ... At 4 pm that day (9/02/2006) isolated thunderstorms developed over one of the fires in the complex, and a strong downburst wind pushed the fire toward 34 crewmembers. I was not able to warn for this, lightning detection just showed 1-2 strikes after the fact some miles away. ... Yet all 34 firefighters were able to run through their pre-defined escape route to their safety zone, and made it. They were out of radio contact with our base for 90 minutes while this was occurring! ... So it is the training and quick action of the firefighters following their standard orders, in addition to our weather support, that keeps everyone safe. Thank you, Michael Richmond"


> There are a couple of things bothering me at this time. Live and dead fuel moistures at the time of the event were at historic lows. Fuel loading was at historic highs. As Malcolm Gladwell would say; "this is an outlier". This type of weather is typical for this burning period. What was not typical was the state of the fuels. On any other year a red flag watch or warning would not be issued for this geographical area for the threat of thunderstorms. But on Sunday with the georgraphical (sic) area under extreme burning conditions maybe it least a red flag watch could have been posted. I don't want to armchair the weather office but it needs to be looked at. You don't want to be pulling the flag up unless it warrants it. South Canyon was issued a red flag warning in 1994. Chris Cuoco' message never made it to the fireline. That was the tragedy. There have been countless burnovers and close calls from thunderstorms. Hell,the dude fire did the same thing. Predictable is preventable. You you can count on a fire being unpreditable under such conditions. That's the thing. In the end it is predictable. ... You can bet on the lack of acting on intuition which brought flam[e] on there backs. Just like Mann Gulch and South Canyon. Assumptions of the person above you in rank or in other agencies who knows what they are doing and not wanting to question their actions. We will see."

The Wildfire Lessons Learned Center ( [] ) has a searchable database (Incident Reviews) of wildfire incidents going back many decades. The reviews of past incidents (in this case "entrapment" or "burnover") are very detailed and contain critical assessments and recommendations. Unfortunately, that database contains far too many similar incidents of entrapment due to sudden, but predictable, wind shifts. As mentioned the Dude Fire (Walk Moore Canyon in Payson, Arizona 1990) was very similar in cause and result with six fire fighters trapped and killed by a sudden wind shift due to convective activity. As a result of that incident many changes were instituted to diminish the potential for entrapment due to sudden, and somewhat predictable, wind shifts. The Australian Rural Firefighting organization produced a video in 2000

( youtube ) [The Dead Man Zone - the dead man zone is defined as the area that a fire can change direction in five mins] that documents the dangers due to sudden wind shifts. They detail many tragic events that have [o]ccurred during wildland fires in Australia. My understanding is that video is a required training item for all US wildland fire fighters. It is hard for me to understand how, with the strict standards set for US wildland fire fighters, especially LCES, and the modern understanding of the effect of rapidly moving convective activity on wildland fires, especially in steep terrain with many closed drainages how the Granite Mountain Hotshots were assigned the task that led them to their entrapment and how spot forecasts were not demanded by their superintendent, and how Yarnell Incident Command did not order their withdrawal when the convective activity moved so rapidly toward them. I am sure the Lessons Learned Center will do their usual good job of determining where the breakdown occurred in forecasting, or communicating, or on the ground decision making. ...

@WXMAN42 Is there some reason that a direct comparison couldn't be made between this fire and the Dude Ck Fire ( [] )? Sincerely, it appears that virtually the same situation occurred again, yet nobody had learned from the last one, so it was repeated. The USDA Forest Service has to understand that when forecasted weather conditions show the risk of extreme fire behavior, it is going to be awfully hard to explain why people were exposed to it merely to protect property, despite the increased risk. No fire on extreme fire days is routine and no one should send crews in assuming it will be routine. [OSHA] requires the provision of a safe work place. Any fire on extreme fire days is by definition, not a safe workplace. By all means, take risks if lives are at stake, even some risks if property is saveable, but on no account should risks be taken to save property or material that is shown by modeling to be unsaveable given the potential conditions. The rest of the world has adapted to reality and imposed virtually those same restrictions upon firefighter managers ... It is well past time that the US did the same. Anyone who willfully ignores the risk and flouts it, should be held to account, like any other manager, in the criminal courts."

[H]i Cliff - I read through your material and it fit exactly what occurred in Colorado Springs [Waldo Canyon Fire - June 26, 2012 - The Role of Convective Outflow in the Waldo Canyon Fire] { Meteorology of the Waldo Canyon Fire }] last year. I happened to be on I-25 just north of the Springs when the fire jumped the mountain and came down into town. ... The sudden shift in winds caught everybody off guard. Thankfully, no firefighters lost their lives. But, an unfortunate elderly couple were trapped and died in their home. I hope that the meteorological community becomes aware of the critical role they have to play in predicting forest fire activity. Thanks for your efforts." (all emphasis added in these comments)

Figure 4. June 30, 2013, Yarnell Hill Wildfire Time Lapse. Source: Matt Oss, YouTube

"Better de-flickered version - Wildfire. Viewed from the south off of highway 89, the flames reach the peak of the mountain. Created by Matt Oss Twitter - mattoss21 -Better de-flickered version - Edit - 4:30 PM is when the video starts and ends at 4:50 PM"

From the Vimeo version - Yarnell Hill Fire from Congress, AZ: A time-lapse shot on 6/30/13 at 4:30 PM of the Yarnell Hill Wildfire. Viewed from the south off of highway 89, the flames reach the peak of the mountain. Created by Matt Oss - Gallery of my photos from 6/30/13 - "John, looking back I would say I was looking directly north maybe 5 - 10 degrees to the east. This gives a great summary in the animation near the bottom. ( )" This NYT link requires a subscription to access the article.

This time lapse video clearly reveals the explosive fire behavior leading up to and including the GMHS entrapment, burnover, and fatalities that occured during this 1630 (4;30 PM) to 1650 (4;50 PM) timeframe. This is a stunning video. Consider now the WantsToKnowTheTruth (WTKTT) version March 12, 2019, with Google Earth below


Figure 5. Yarnell-Fire-Time-Lapse-Video-Yarnell-View-1. The 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire time-lapse video as seen from both the original Congress location and from the Yarnell side. Original time-lapse video credit: Matt Oss Photography. Source: Oss, YouTube, Google Earth, WTKTT

This is another one of the YH Fire amazing videos by WTKKK that puts this YH Fire into more of a proper perspective of the various BRHS and GMHS locations and the advancing fire perimeter from both sides of the Weaver Mountains, Yarnell and Congress.


Yarnell Hill Fire investigation ignored major mistakes by state. Posted Oct 18, 2013, 7:30 am. John Dougherty InvestigativeMEDIA

"The three key environmental factors affecting wildfire behavior fell into perfect alignment: wind, fuel, and topography. The drought-stricken desert scrub, combined with the thunderstorm's powerful winds, generated a wall of flame that surged across relatively flat ground at about 12 miles per hour — extraordinarily fast for a fire."

"The powerful wind bent the 80-foot-high flames nearly parallel to the ground as the fire approached the base of the Weavers. The intensity and speed of the fire accelerated as it entered several box canyons that served as funnels, further amplifying its fury."

"For reasons that remain unknown, the Granite Mountain Hotshots left their safe spot in a burned-over area on a ridge sometime after 4 p.m. and dropped down the side of the mountain. About 4:40 p.m., they hiked through dense chaparral at the base of one of the canyons, apparently attempting to reach Boulder Springs Ranch, which had been designated as a safety zone because the owners had cleared a wide swath of vegetation from around the property."

"Like tens of thousands of people who've closely examined the circumstances leading up to the hotshots' deaths, [former Yarnell FD Chief] Anderson [RiP] doesn't understand why the crew was in the box canyon in the first place, much less at a time of day when wildfires typically display their greatest intensity and when thunderstorm warnings had been issued."

"'Anybody who has ever taken a wild-lands class is warned about box canyons,' Andersen says. 'You might as well be standing in a fireplace with the flue open.'"

"The question of why the men were there haunts Andersen. And, he says, the lack of substantive conclusions in a report issued September 28 after a state-commissioned investigation into their deaths has left him unsatisfied."

"'I think it's a big cover-up, a big snow job,' he says. 'It tries to take any semblance of blame off anybody.'"


Please recall that the Serious Accident Investigation Team-Serious Accident Investigation Report (SAIT-SAIR) conclusion was: "'The judgments and decisions of the incident management organizations managing this fire were reasonable,' the report states. 'Firefighters performed within their scope of duty, as defined by their respective organizations. The Team found no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol.'"

So then, how is that even possible to do everything right and 19 men die in one fell swoop?


"'There appears to be a kinder, gentler, and softer approach' to enforcing the 10 Standard Fire Orders, says Dick Mangan, a retired wildfire accident investigator who has participated in many high-profile, wildfire-fatality reviews — including ones concerning the 1990 Dude Fire near Payson that killed six firefighters and the 1994 South Canyon fire in Colorado that claimed 14 lives.'"

"'I have a hard time understanding that everybody did everything right, and 19 people died,' he says."

"'Everybody's lawyering up,' says Doug Campbell, a retired Forest Service fire-management officer who's widely respected for developing a wildfire-prediction system used in more than 20 European countries but not formally adopted in the United States. 'That's why the report's written that way.'"

"Mangan, who had hoped before the report was released that it would 'let the chips fall where they may,' says the Yarnell Hill investigation fails to deliver clear lessons that could be used to prevent future fatal accidents. The report, he says, didn't analyze adequately the state's management of a complex series of events leading to the fatal incident to determine factors that contributed to it."

"'There's usually a chain of events — things that happened that shouldn't have happened' — that contribute to fatal wildfire incidents, he says. 'If you break the chain of events, then the accident doesn't happen.'"

"The art of understanding how a wildfire behaves and predicting what environmental factors can cause it to change suddenly is defined by professionals as 'situational awareness.'"

"Experts, including Doug Campbell, say a woeful lack of basic training in wildfire behavior has led to a lack of such awareness among firefighters on the front lines, as well as among managers directing operations."

"'If firefighters can make accurate predictions as to the specific time and place where fire-behavior changes will occur, then no attack should fail — no firefighter should lose [his] life or be injured by fire,' Campbell states in his book The Campbell Prediction System."

"The Yarnell Hill investigation report, Campbell and other experts say, fails to adequately address what was a clear lack of situational awareness by the state management team from the start of the fire. Instead, it focuses almost exclusively on dead firefighters whose actions and decisions cannot be explained."

"The report 'is a shell game in so many ways that it does a disservice to what we know about fire management,' says Paul Orozco, a retired U.S. Forest Service fire-management officer who participated in the investigation into the deaths of four firefighters in the 2001 Thirtymile Fire near Winthrop, Washington."

"It was up to Hall's understaffed Type 2 Short team to handle a fire that was rapidly overwhelming available resources. 'They were behind the curve,' says expert Doug Campbell."


This USA Today article that follows further complements and adds to what other sources concluded. Experts: Yarnell fire evacuation was flawed, chaotic. Anne Ryman and Sean Holstege. The Arizona Republic. Published and updated November 17, 2013

"They were ill-prepared and stayed behind the curve. That's pretty obvious," said Doug Campbell, a retired 40-year wildfire veteran and a fire-behavior analyst. "It left something to be desired. For a perfect evacuation, it could've been faster."

"But more than a dozen residents complain that the evacuation was flawed, and five wildfire experts with more than 150 years of combined experience found problems with the response. Dozens of interviews, 911 recordings, communications logbooks, official reports and public statements paint the picture of a chaotic evacuation that put lives at risk."

"Fire commanders underestimated how fast the fire was spreading and, according to some fire experts, waited too long to order mandatory evacuations."

"Forestry Division officials declined to comment, citing an ongoing worker-safety investigation of the fire. The agency's fire-incident commander, Roy Hall, explained in an interview last month that planning was complicated Sunday morning by a leadership hand-off."

"No fire-action plan was written until Monday, the day after the evacuations. Written plans, which include decision points for evacuations, are standard procedure early in a fire, said Will Spyrison, a 35-year wildfire veteran who has evaluated fire-commander candidates."

"According to the investigative report, a fire official who wasn't named said the evacuation trigger points were off by more than 50%, meaning the fire reached key points much faster than expected. 'The fire outperformed their expectations, even with many knowledgeable people there,' the report said."

"Fire veteran Campbell, whose system for predicting fires has been widely adopted, said there were clear warnings of a 'bad, bad fire.' He said fire officials didn't read the fire correctly. ... 'They were constantly behind the curve," he said, which led to a rushed evacuation."

"When [Bryan] Smith returned home, ash blanketed the property and his peaches had been baked on the tree. His tomatoes had withered on the vine. But his home was largely unscathed. ... The house actually looked like God put his hands down around it,' he said."


"The lack of sufficient management personnel forced the state to assign Granite Mountain Superintendent Eric Marsh as division supervisor for the southwest flank of the fire. Granite Mountain Captain Jesse Steed assumed immediate command of the crew."

"Wildfire accident-investigation expert Mangan believes this was a pivotal mistake that weakened fire managers' control and understanding of the hotshots' actions. Marsh, Mangan says, still was in direct charge of the crew as the Division A supervisor and wouldn't need to report to an independent division supervisor who may have challenged his decisions."

"'You have taken one link out of the [GMHS] chain of command,' Mangan says."

"Safety officers are principal advisers to incident commanders in fire-management operations. ... Among safety officers' primary concerns are extreme fire behavior, escape routes, and safe zones — the exact issues that Granite Mountain discussed but operational chiefs ignored or misunderstood. ... It's vital to note that a safety officer has authority to override chain of command when an immediate threat to life or risk of serious injury is evident."

"Expert Mangan, who offers training courses for safety officers, says Marsh's announcement that Granite Mountain was moving from its safe zone in the charred area should've prompted a safety officer, if one was present, to request that Marsh provide more information and possibly stop the crew from moving off the ridge."

"'The more people you have involved in a decision like that, the better chance you are going to come up with a better decision,' Mangan says.

The intensity and speed of the wildfire as it stormed toward Yarnell stunned the state's management team: 'The fire way-outperformed our expectations and surpassed any thoughts we had about our trigger points,' one of the two operations chiefs told investigators."

"'Granite Mountain also didn't predict the fire's eventual path. The hotshots had parked their two vans at the base of the mountain in an area that turned out to be directly in front of the fire after the thunderstorm reversed the inferno's direction 180 degrees. It's possible that the crew's decision to leave its safety zone atop the mountain was related to the threat on their vehicles.'"

"'The [SAIT-SAIR] states that at 3:50 p.m., an air-attack officer notified Marsh that the fire had reversed direction, was heading quickly toward Yarnell, and could arrive in one to two hours. The air-attack officer also told Marsh that the crew's vehicles may be in the path of the fire. Marsh told this officer that he had a plan to address the issue. The investigation report, however, doesn't elaborate on what Marsh's plan was.'"

"Sonny 'Tex' Gilligan and Joy A.Collura began their hike up the Weaver Mountains at 4 a.m. on Sunday, June 30. The avid hikers and part-time cave dwellers wanted to get a close look at the fire atop the mountain. They knew the backcountry inside out and were very familiar with the difficulty of hiking through dense desert shrubs."

"On their way up the mountain, they bushwhacked through the box canyon where the Granite Mountain crew later perished. The hikers already were at the top of the mountain when they saw the Granite Mountain Hotshots coming up a two-track trail about 9:18 a.m."

"Gilligan, an experienced outdoorsman and former cowboy and miner, was shocked at the hotshot crew's condition. ... What I saw was a group of men [who] were totally spent. They looked like they were tired. They weren't somebody you would want to fight a fire ... They needed rest.'"

Figure 6. You Tube video interview of the two YH Fire eyewitness hikers Sonny"Tex" Gilligan and Joy A. Collura Source: YouTube, IM, Dougherty

"Gilligan and Collura saw the fire take off about 12:30 p.m. as it swept over a hill below the mountain in about 14 minutes. Gilligan estimates that it covered about 300 acres in just a few minutes."

“'We were looking at . . . rolls of fire, fire jumping up 40, 50 feet in the air,' Gilligan recalls. 'No way are we were going to hang around there.'''

"Throughout the morning, the hikers watched thunderstorms building to the northeast, near Prescott. Gilligan knew the storms could affect the fire. 'When there’s a thunderstorm in an area like this, that wind can change quickly, and it can change fast,' .... 'That’s where the danger is.'”

Figure 7. Part 2 You Tube video interview of the two YH Fire eyewitness hikers Sonny"Tex" Gilligan and Joy A. Collura Source: YouTube, IM, Dougherty

"The investigation report doesn't mention what Gilligan and Collura observed about the fire's behavior or about the crew's condition, even though the hikers were the last people to see the Granite Mountain Hotshots alive. ..."

"'We don't know the condition of the crew [from the report],' says wildfire expert Campbell, noting that this is a crucial missing element in the investigation."


We do in fact know the condition of the GMHS. See the IM article below titled: "After years of delay, the Granite Mountain Hotshot autopsy records are released."

Some GMHS family, friends, and loved ones of Robert Caldwell state he was the regular lookout. The alleged "lookout" McDid-Not was assigned as lookout that day because he was the most affected from the night before.


"In any case, there's no question that Granite Mountain had only two days off in June and that the [YH Fire] was its 26th day in the month on a fire line. The hotshots spent two days working at the crew station or on 'fuels reduction.' The crew often worked 16-hour shifts, SWCC records state."

"Campbell believes fatigue may have been a major factor in the crew's decision to come off the mountain rather than remain in 'the black.' Campbell suggests that Marsh and Steed knew that the crew was tired, hungry, and low on water. The option of staying on the mountain all night wasn't appealing, nor was following the long trail down to Yarnell that the two hikers had taken safely a few hours earlier."

"Campbell believes the [GMHS] concluded that its best course of action — one that would allow members to rest and be ready to re-engage the fire the next day — was to get off the mountain as soon as possible by hiking through the box canyon to the ranch safety zone. 'They knew the rules were against them when they were going downhill in the green, ..."'

"But, he says, rules don't always stop hotshots from attempting to accomplish a mission. 'The culture of a hotshot crew is a problem,' Campbell says. 'They aren't one to hold back. They are braver than they ought to be.'" (all emphasis added)


Consider now a research paper below by the same group of Western US wildland fire and fire behavior experts discussing the June 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire and GMHS debacle. These Western wildland fire experts associated with the Utah Valley University (UVU), wrote this very detailed paper on the YH Fire and GMHS debacle and the detailed principles of CPS. The link to this UVU article is included within this paragraph.


All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are now getting. If we want different results, we must change the way we do things.Tom Northup, Leadership Change


"This is part of a series that describes the systematic failures occurring during the tragic Yarnell Fire in which nineteen young hotshots lost their lives. This article reflects the deliberations of a group of USFS fire managers, mostly retired, who reside in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Montana and Idaho. Collectively, our group has several hundred years of fire experience. Our thinking has been enriched by the contributions of fire experts still working for federal fire agencies who prefer to remain anonymous"

Author Biography: the authors of this article are a group of five wildfire experts from different geographic parts of the West: Doug Campbell, author of CPS and retired Fire Manager, USFS, R-5; Will Spyrison,

InciNotes Cofounder, Division Chief, USFS, R-5; Jerry Chonka, retired Fire Manager, USFS,R-2 & 3; Paul Orozco, retired Fire Manager, USFS, R-2 & 3; and a preferred to be anonymous retired Fire Manager, USFS,R-3 (reviewed fatality site). Each have a unique wildfire specialty and combined boast 200 years of combined fire experience. Ruth Harrison was the editor for this article.


Part One (A Cry For Help) and Part Two (An Examination of Workload and Tools to Predict Fire Severity) will be presented in this post due to Wix website size constraints

The Yarnell Fire – Part One: A Cry For Help

"The Granite Mountain Hotshots’ last moments, before they were overcome and perished in a wall of fire, were punctuated by a cry for help as they deployed fire shelters. This last cry for help is representative of the Yarnell Fire itself. Fire managers and leaders on the fire were also overwhelmed by the fast-moving and rapidly changing fire. From the start of the Yarnell Fire there was a sequence of lost management opportunities to keep up with or stay ahead of the fire, beginning with misreading the severity and potential of the fire environment, to not having enough right-place, right-time resources, and finally, not engaging in critical planning. In order to clearly identify how and when these missed opportunities might have mitigated the situation as it unfolded, we should first look at the sequence of events, followed by specific recommendations for more effective management considerations."

The Fire “Size Up”

"Immediately prior to the Yarnell Fire start, a large fire burning close by, the Doce Fire, offered important information about the current fire environment. The Yarnell area, along with the Doce area, had already been issued a red flag alert for extremely low live and dead fuel moistures.

When the Yarnell Fire was discovered, this was the 'size up' given by the air attack first over the scene: 'It’s one half acre in size and 80% out.' This incomplete size-up, the lack of recognition of the red flag alert, and the failure to gather critical information from the nearby Doce Fire were

significant oversights. Because of this inadequate size-up, the Yarnell Fire was determined to be a minor fire threat unnecessary to engage at night, since there was potential for a lightning hazard to firefighters. Due to the lightning risk and helicopter duty schedule, the fire was not engaged

until 17 hours later, despite the fact that easy access was available through a jeep trail leading to the initial fire start. (Ironically, with a growing awareness of the fire’s potential and need to contain the fire, and after failing to contain the blaze the next day, firefighters spent the following

night on the fire despite the same threat for lightning.)"

The Fire Escapes Control as Alignment Factors are Misread

"Later in the day of June 29, the Yarnell Fire escaped from the suppression efforts of 13 firefighters led by a lone Type IV Incident Commander. Even though the hottest part of the burning period for that day had passed, the fire continued to burn and move into better alignment with wind, slope, and preheated fuel. It grew quickly to 35 acres, increasing to an estimated 100 acres later that day. The Incident Commander on the fire requested a Type II Incident Management Team, noting that the fire would likely threaten the community of Yarnell. An order for a Short Type II Team was placed, scheduled to arrive the next morning."

"Once again, as the [YH Fire] escalated, information was added and situational awareness became clearer. The fire burned aggressively into the night, and by morning on June 30 was no longer a small fire, but a large fire with no anchor points. Remarkably, the fire had demonstrated out-of-alignment behavior by exhibiting aggressive growth at night despite the absence of heating from solar radiation. This atypical behavior of forces should have alerted management to expect radical fire growth when conditions were again aligned during the next burning period."


NOTE: Based on the principals involving high nighttime temeratures ensured that the YH Fire would indeed demonstrate out-of-alignment behavior by exhibiting aggressive growth at night despite the absence of heating from solar radiation. Bates' principal is 'The day following the highest nighttime temperature has the potential for aggressive fire behavior.' This is based on ten years of research by former USFS Tonto NF, Payson RD District Ranger Robert Bates (1962) titled : A Key to Blowup Conditions in the Southwest? in Fire Control Notes on pages 95-99.


"In addition, the fire was ruled by topography until the wind increased to the point it overcame the variations of slope and became a wind driven fire. The fire was now large enough to be aligned with fuels, slope, and wind from any direction. To make matters worse, the weather forecast for June 30 was for triple digit temperatures, with low relative humidity and thunderstorms, creating the possibility of dangerous, changeable winds. Additional alignment factors included the red flag alert for low live and dead fuel moistures as well as the ERC value in the 97th percentile, and alarmingly low thousand-hour-fuel-moisture readings from the nearby Stanton fire weather station. The resulting effect of this alignment of extreme thresholds contributed to the explosive fire behavior the afternoon of June 30. These extreme conditions had created a fire poised to explode into a major fire event and burn into the Yarnell community. The conditions necessitated a much greater response than a Short Type II Team to transition. Apparently, the magnitude of the situation was inaccurately assessed, resulting in management’s under-reaction. Efforts from the State’s fire management group and Short Type II Team to manage the [YH Fire] simply were too far behind the severe conditions and escalation of the fire. The Type II Team had not marshaled enough and the right kind of resources, which added to the confusion and cycle of missed opportunities that led to the entrapments and fatalities."

June 30: Transitioning Command in a Severe Fire Environment

"In response to the worsening situation, the incoming Fire Overhead Team, with its variety and number of fire suppression resources, brought hope that the Yarnell Fire would be controlled and become just another lightning-sparked wildfire statistic. In typical firefighter fashion, the crew looked forward to meeting an exciting challenge, while providing a public service in responding to a fire. However, the piecemeal way these fire resources came together would soon change the mood from enthusiasm to frustration. Evidently, two type II incident commanders, one operations section chief, and a logistics chief (to arrive at 1600 on June 30) were ordered as separate individual resources rather than as a unit to comprise the fire overhead team. We know the team’s briefing with the Arizona State Division of Forestry included only a few team members. The rest of the team members and resource orders would be filled and arrive at different times during the operational period. These additional resources coming in at different times would create briefing problems, in turn, leading to confusion and havoc out on the fire line."

"As the make-shift incident management team gathered and tried to organize, the fire continued to increase in size and intensity, responding to hotter and drier environment. Influenced by the alignment of severe fire conditions, the fire had grown during the night to an estimated 300 to 500 acres with no control points. Daybreak found the fire poised in full alignment with dense pockets of fuel, with steep slopes, canyons and ravines acting as chimneys, amplifying hotter and drier aspects. All these conditions signaled danger reminiscent of the Dude Fire, July 26, 1990, that claimed the lives of 6 of the 11 firefighters who deployed fire shelters on that day. In addition to the known conditions on the Yarnell Fire, the energy release component, coupled with live and dead fuel moistures, constituted extreme fire severity, but the values of these measurements were unknown to the incident management team and firefighters."

Confusion and Frustration

"Once incoming fire suppression resources began working on the fire, confusion, and frustration became the 'norm.' Below is an excerpt from the Arizona Republic article citing interview notes from Serious Accident Investigation conducted by the State of Arizona."

"Throughout the interviews, key figures in the fire-suppression effort criticized almost every aspect of planning, oversight and execution."

• "Members of the Blue Ridge crew said they dealt with a leadership dispute among supervisors and got no instructions, records show. They characterized the overall operation as 'total non-stop chaos''and 'Swiss cheese' because it was so full of holes."

• "The Blue Ridge members said that they witnessed 'a near miss' with aircraft, whose pilot and crew sounded, 'overwhelmed', adding, 'the air show seemed troublesome.'”

• "Blue Ridge described overhearing the last transmissions from Granite Mountain and then sitting in a truck to 'listen for anything on the radio.”'

• "At fire headquarters after the fatal burn-over, Blue Ridge hotshots had a

conversation with Roy Hall, the incident commander who had taken charge seven hours earlier. 'They never knew (he) was the IC'” an investigator noted. 'They never heard it over the radio'” (Wagner & Sanchez; Arizona Republic; December 13, 2013).

Reading the Fire Environment and Fire

"At this point in the narrative, we must acknowledge pockets of excellence within fire organizations that have demonstrated sensible responses under these circumstances, observing the highest professional standards for public and fire fighter safety. For example, even as the Yarnell Fire raged toward disaster, the Blue Ridge Hotshots successfully escorted both the Lookout stationed at Granite Mountain, and a dozer operator caught in harm’s way, to safe haven."

"Furthermore, the Superintendent of the Blue Ridge Hotshots questioned the Granite Mountain Hotshots about their escape route, out of concern for their safety. He worried that the Granite Mountain Hotshots’ escape path would lead them straight through the fire. Unfortunately, through

miscommunication, he felt satisfied that they had laid out a clear route to safety, and sadly, did not pursue the matter further."

"Meanwhile, Chuck Maxwell in Albuquerque, New Mexico, was poised to perform another lifesaving intervention, from his post leading the Regional Fire Behavior Predictive Center. From his remote location, he wondered if he should forcefully intervene, after seeing the alignment of

severe environmental factors which, when accelerated by predicted micro-bursts of out-flow winds from thunder storms, would make the Yarnell Fire explosively dangerous. However, due to management protocols, he could not offer his observations and concerns without a formal request from the proper officials. Previously the Fire Behavior Predictive Center had appropriately issued a red flag alert for extremely low live and dead fuel moistures, providing an added component in evaluating a severe fire environment, magnifying the risk for extremely dangerous fire behavior in the Yarnell area. While individual hotshots were aware of Maxwell’s warnings, management leadership failed to recognize his assessment."


"What went so wrong on the Yarnell Fire, where19 elite members of the Granite Mountain Hotshot crew died? Our team, which consists of five wildland experts from different geographic parts of the west, believes that to answer this question, it is necessary to examine whether fire

management and leaders were prepared to manage the severity of the fireand its environment. This sort of examination leads to learning from the fatality fire, andrepresents a departure from the traditional fire investigation process, which primarily focuses on the fatality event itself. This same fire team believes an effective analysis of the fire conditions and environment leads toproperly managed workloads, effective mitigationof fire risks and hazards, and an increased margin for error."

Fire Workload

We begin with the relationship between workload, management, and fire severity.We believe that increasing fire workload can lead to compromised management, which in turn increases hazards and risks, and reduces the margin for error in maintaining safety. Interestingly, a 1957 Forest Service Report illustrates an emphasis on management’s relationship to fatality fires, claiming that “fire fatalities are the result of a series of management misjudgments, errors,” and something they called “sins of omission that happen in a severe fire environment.” Simply put, the severity of the fire danger invariably leads to increased fire workloads. Without an adequate response to the increased workload, management oversights, errors, and omissions begin to surface. Therefore, it is critical to understand the severity of the fire and be able to quantify fire risk in order to effectively manage the workload, reduce hazards, and increase marginfor error.

“Reading” a Fire is Critical

Reading and understanding fire conditions in order to quantify hazards and develop mitigation tactics cannot be overemphasized. Why is it important to know the fire conditions? Doesn’t everyone already know about fire danger? Although we are all familiar with the ubiquitous

Smokey the Bear” fire danger signs, it is nevertheless apparent there are significant deficits in the ability to read the fire conditions and site-specific fire behavior. In the Yarnell fire, for instance, both the fire environment and the fire itself were grossly underestimated. The results

were catastrophic.


An important correction is in order. It is Smokey Bear. Not Smokey the Bear. The "official" USDA USFS Smokey Bear website. Can we really trust anything the USFS "officially" endorses?


"Knowing with accuracy the severity of the fire environment and intensity of the fire allows leaders to effectively match the management and fire strategies to the intensity of the fire. This, of course, ensures safety for firefighters and communities. On the other hand, failure to do so will likely result in missed opportunities to provide command and control for safety, as well as successful management of the fire. Once again, we saw this failure in the management of Yarnell."

"We believe [it is dangerous] not having a system or process to methodically read the fire’s risks and hazards compromises safety, particularly when fires become larger, hotter, and more explosive due to either climate cycles of drought or global warming."

"The current system of fire assessment, which uses mostly prior fire experiences and some academic training, has been somewhat effective in the past. This system has proven grossly inadequate, however, in managing current fires, which have increased in severity, intensity, and explosiveness as the result of long-term droughts."

Knowing Thresholds

"When working on the Thirty-Mile Fire Fatality Investigation Board of Review, one of our team members was asked to develop a set of thresholds that would accurately predict explosive fire danger in order to keep firefighters safe on the fire line. Unfortunately, it is not that simple. There

is no such set of magic thresholds which guarantee an accurate prediction of fire explosiveness, although some fire managers have tried to use temperature, relative humidity, and other environmental factors to determine when to “disengage” from an unsafe fire environment. The

challenge is that fire environments vary and change continually. Firefighters will always confront parts of any given fire that are relatively safe and other portions which are dangerous. In addition, the safety or danger of any particular section of a fire changes continually."

Energy Release Component: A Predictive Tool

"Regardless, it is obvious to us and most fire managers that tools to understand the fire environment and fire conditions are essential in effectively managing firefighting strategies and work load. We call the use of these tools fire preparedness. The best tool to accomplish this sort

of preparedness is the use of the National Fire Danger Rating System or (NFDRS). Without explaining details of NFDRS, we suggest that the system, although mandated procedurally, is not being used effectively nor universally. As an example, one component of the NFDRS is knowing

and responding to the Energy Release Component (ERC) value and using 'pocket cards' to indicate red flag fire dangers and fire season severity. Unfortunately, pocket cards are rarely used. We surmise a lack of training and understanding of ERC are to blame for the fact that fire managers and fighters do not use ERC information and pocket cards."

"The ERC (G model) was developed as a basic level of standard assessment of the fire environment. In some parts of the country, this model worked effectively. National fire policy mandated, however, that each agency, region, and unit find its own best predictors for the fire environment from NFDRS. This simply did not happen. As a result, the ERC model was not successful, since it was not systematically taught, enforced, nor adapted to local conditions. This is unfortunate, given the fact of knowing that intricacies of ERC offers a precise prediction tool for fire severity."



Fine Fuel Moistures and ERC Values

"Understanding this relationship of changing fine fuel moistures and ERC values is extremely helpful to fire managers. As firefighters know, fine fuel acts as kindling to start the fire. Whether fine fuel moisture is increasing or decreasing indicates a change in the severity of the fire environment, even though the ERC values may be the same. In this example of the ERC value at a 90th percentile, if fuel moistures are increasing (because a wet air mass arrives or a high dew point occurs), then the severity of the fire is declining despite the fact that the 90th percentile is itself a high value. In the Southwest, there have never been large fires when ERC values were dropping, even though the values themselves may be high."

"When fine fuel moisture values are examined in conjunction with historical ERC averages, the result is a much more precise prediction of fire severity. Fire policy mandates that fire managers compare current ERC values in a fire environment to historical averages. If a current measured ERC value is significantly higher than historical averages for that time of year, then it is extremely likely for fire conditions to be severe. Add the fine fuel moisture to this algorithm, and fire managers can quite accurately predict the severity of fires that are being battled on any given


"ERC values are just one of many fire danger threshold indicators, for indicating whether a fire will act with the force of a Sunday stroll or a speeding train. The US Forest Service threshold value for extreme fire danger is the 90th percentile ERC. So why is this information not being

used? The first Yarnell Fire Serious Accident Investigation (SAI) did not even mention ERC in its report. The Arizona Department of OSHA Yarnell Fire Investigation Report mentioned ERC values, but did not consciously link them to an alignment of forces that signaled precisely defined dangerous and explosive fire conditions."

Thousand Hour and Live Fuel Moistures

"Thousand hour fuel moisture values are another important environmental condition to monitor. Thousand hour fuel moisture values are a reliable threshold indicator for fire severity. Statistically, when thousand hour fuel moisture values in the Southwest are 12% or lower there is high probability for a large fire occurrence. Live herbaceous and woody fuel moistures are also important conditions to monitor. One of our team members has spent over thirty years developing and using a system to monitor live and dead herbaceous fuel moistures. In doing so, he has developed fuel moisture thresholds for when crown fire is most likely. For example, conifer <75% live fuel moisture corresponds to potential for independent crown fire when in alignment with wind and slope. There is also a corresponding live fuel moisture value for crown fire in brush to consider. (see appendix 1)"

"When ERC, live fuel moisture values, and dead fuel moisture values are in alignment, and determined to be more severe than historical averages, fire managers, leaders, and firefighters can assume without doubt that the fire will be dangerous and explosive."

Reading Site-Specific Fire Forces

"We have talked about how fire conditions set the stage for how a fire will burn. We want to remind readers that conditions influencing the fire environment, especially as measured by NFDRS, are mostly unseen. Conversely, once a fire begins, the forces affecting the fire, such as

fuels, slopes, shading, and aspects, are visible. Fire managers, leaders and firefighters know this and through experience get very good at reading the fire. Once again, the ability to read the fire is largely based on experience and some academic learning. Unfortunately, as we mentioned earlier, there appears to be no widespread systemic application of these skills and knowledge."

"The Campbell Prediction System (CPS) offers a systematic method to read the fire, as well as language to describe alignments and thresholds that affect the fire. Firefighters using CPS to methodically assess fire alignments and thresholds can more precisely predict where changes in

the fire will happen. In addition, CPS predictions provide coherent and consistent communication between firefighters, because all are using the same language to describe the fire."

"CPS works by looking at alignments of slope, fuel, and preheat (aspect, shading and or solar heating). In addition to CPS assessments, wind and weather must also be assessed, given their dramatic effects on the direction and force of fire. (We point to the Yarnell Fire, when strong

winds developed and disastrously altered the already severe fire environment, causing the fire to blow up on June 30, [2013].)"

CPS and the Yarnell Fire

"In CPS language, what was the Yarnell Fire saying as it escalated from a fairly docile fire to a deadly inferno the afternoon of June 30th? To begin, the aggressive fire growth the night before, without solar preheating, was revealing a signature, indicating the fire would threaten to significantly intensify the next day when alignment of slope and fuel would align with solar heating."

"CPS reads the fire head, flanks and heel. CPS looks for fire signatures on all sides of the fire [e]xamining the forces of solar preheating, fuel, and slope. Once a fire signature is observed, firefighters are able to infer the same fire behavior will likely occur under similar conditions. Had CPS been used during the Yarnell fire, managers and firefighters would have recognized predictive information about the fire as solar preheat increased. Fire behavior escalated dramatically on all sides of the fire as solar preheating intensified. These changes in fire behavior are clearly described by the [BRHS] in their testimony during the Yarnell Fire investigations (flame lengths increasing, fire chewing through retardant, winds increasing and changing directions, spot fires occurring, spot fires increasing in size and frequency, etc.). Firefighters will agree this is how the fire must be read to determine thresholds for safety.""

CPS descriptions of the fire signature also offer the ability to predict fire behavior if a wind shift occurs. For example, it is common knowledge among firefighters that if the fire head is making a strong explosive run with wind and a wind shift occurs to either flank of the fire, the same intense explosive fire behavior will occur if the fuel, slope, and solar preheat conditions remain the same. This is exactly what happened during the Yarnell Fire when wind shifts occurred. A less intense flanking fire turned into a deadly head fire as the winds from the outflow shifted directions."

The Yarnell Fire: An Absence of Fire Prediction and Assessment Tools

"In the wake of the Yarnell tragedy, the question on the minds of families, members of the fire community, and news services was, “What could have possibly gone so wrong?” Our team attempted to answer said question in Part I of this series, when we described the fire events and [d]ecisions made by managers and firefighters as they confronted the deadly fire."

"This article has taken a closer look at the fire assessment and predictive tools that should have been utilized by fire managers and firefighters in the Yarnell Fire. Clearly, before the Yarnell fire erupted, forest service personnel were aware of the severe drought conditions throughout the

entire area. Unfortunately, however, the Arizona State Forestry/Fire Management and the Type II Team seemed not to have recognized the extent to which those drought conditions had dangerously impacted the fuel bed and entire fire environment."

"The fire assessment tools we have described in this article, if utilized by the Yarnell fire team, would have offered opportunities to (a) control a harmless fire early on, or (b) maintain command and control of the fire later. There is no reasonable doubt that the initial fire could have and should have been easily extinguished. The fact that the early fire was growing significantly in size during the night offered a signature that cried out to be extinguished early on, in light of the severe fire environment."

"A study of the historical severity of the fire environment for the Yarnell area during the last week of June confirms the potential for an explosive fire for which a 'Short' Type II Team would be ill prepared to manage. (R-3 fire severity map) The confusion, mistakes, conflicts, and near misses that occurred when the Yarnell Fire blew upon June 30th confirm that the Short Type II Team was not using the tools necessary to maintain command, control, and safety for firefighters and the public. The peaking fire behavior and urgent need to protect the local communities simply and quickly overwhelmed the initial Type IV Team, Short Type II Team and Granite Mountain Hot Shots."

"In summary, a small fire began in the Yarnell area at a time when drought had created dangerously explosive conditions in local fuel beds. The explosive nature of the fire fuels was predictable, given standard fire predictive tools (ERC, thousand hour fuel moistures, etc.). Overnight the small fire morphed into an aggressive fast-running infernoas the typical forces we’ve described (solar pre-heat, fuels, topography, wind) aligned. The aforementioned transformation, too, was predictable, had fire assessment tools like CPS been utilized. In fact, the testimony of the Blue Ridge Hotshots indicated that their assessments of the fire had kept them

and others they notified safe. Finally, the devastating shift in fire direction, which eventually caught and overwhelmed the Granite Mountain Hot Shots, was also predicted. Chuck Maxwell, who led the Southwest Fire Behavior Predictive Center, had sent warnings of a bank of thunderheads likely collapsing, creating an outflow event, and sending the fire directly toward firefighters. The unfortunate point here is that every behavior of the devastating Yarnell fire was foreseeable, had fire assessment and predictive tools been better utilized."

"In Closing

We want to acknowledge once again the tremendous work and high level of professionalism of many fire managers, leaders, and firefighters. Many fire teams have successfully managed for fire safety in extreme fire environments. Our team will continue to question why effective fire

management cannot be assumed in all geographic areas, and in all fire environments. We believe systematic training, the consistent use of effective fire assessment tools, and the demand for a culture of professional learning from fire events are essential to improve safety. The probability of safety in stressful changing fire conditions depends upon an accurate assessment of fire hazards and risks."

"In addition, we recognize the importance of matching appropriate strategies and tactics to fire severity, as well as matching fire management teams to the fire workload. We therefore place great emphasis on transitioning fire teams effectively to meet an escalating fire, for maintaining command and control of the fire. In short, management of the fire must match the severity of the fire to ensure safety. An effective well-trained fire team, equipped with appropriate fire assessment tools, is capable of managing fire risks and hazards and safeguarding firefighter and community safety." (all emphasis added)

In Part III, our fire team will examine training models that equip fire teams to manage fire hazards and risks with measurable proficiency. This is part of a series that describes the systematic failures occurring during the tragic Yarnell Fire in which nineteen young hotshots lost their lives. This article reflects the deliberations of a group of USFS fire managers, mostly retired, who reside in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Montana and Idaho. Collectively, our group has several hundred years of fire experience. Our thinking has been enriched by the contributions of fire experts still working for federal fire agencies who prefer to remain anonymous.


The Yarnell Fire Part Three:

Straight and Simple Conclusions

All organizations are perfectly designed to get the results they are now getting. If we want different results, we must change the way we do things.

Tom Northup, Leadership Change

This is part of a series that describes the systematic failures occurring during the tragic Yarnell Fire in which nineteen young hotshots lost their lives. This article reflects the deliberations of a group of USFS fire managers, mostly retired, who reside in Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, California, Montana and Idaho. Collectively, our group has several hundred years of fire experience. Our thinking has been enriched by the contributions of fire experts still working for federal fire agencies who prefer to remain anonymous.


Our group recognizes that within the past two years, many changes and introductory improvements have occurred in support of wild land fire safety. Our series has not chronicled and incorporated these improvements, but instead, we offer valid conclusions about fire assessments based on the analysis of the misjudgments and subsequent poor decisions during the Yarnell Fire. We feel that we have enough experience, and have done enough research to comment on the present complex and fragmented fire prediction system, and to prescribe courses of action that will lead to greater safety margins on a fire, whether a wildfire or a prescribed burn project. It is not our intention to outline a detailed plan to redesign the current system. We believe, however, that significant improvements in policies, procedures and training for managing fire risks and hazards will improve wild land fire safety—especially in severe fire environments

A Brief Overview of our Work so far

In Part I of our series about the Yarnell Fire, we described in story fashion how the Yarnell Fire began with a critical underestimation of the fire. In addition we pointed out how the first state investigation missed two critical fire condition thresholds, (Energy Release Component and Thousand Hour Fuel Moisture) which were essential in order to accurately assess the Yarnell Fire’s potential threat.

In Part II of the Yarnell Series, we described in technical details how these threshold conditions translated into exceptional seasonal fire severity. In common language, June 30, 2013, the date of the Yarnell fatalities, fell during the most at-risk fire week, as well as possibly the most at-risk fire day, for the area. In addition, the exceptionally severe local values for Energy Release Component and Thousand Hour Fuel Moistures, along with the fire forces of fuels, topography and weather, were clear indicators of the potential for extreme fire behavior.

An effective approach to problem analysis is to start and end with the Whole in mind, rather than conducting a review of isolated pieces. This has been our approach in analyzing the Yarnell Fatality Fire. To view our analysis in its entirety to this point, please visit ( ). Our past commentaries about the Yarnell Fire reflect on the finding of a 1957 Forest Service Report which stated that fatality fires are caused by a sequence of reactions or misjudgments to a growing and peaking fire characterized by “sins of omission,” and by errors in fire management decisions. This article, and those which follow, will offer an honest assessment of those errors, along with corrective recommendations for the STATE AGENCY, the TYPE II FIRE TEAM, and the FIREFIGHTERS themselves.

Had to use the Internet Archive Wayback machine to retrieve this document from above as it registered a "404 error message".

Miscalculations At the Agency Level

We’ll start with a review of the fire conditions in the area at the moment of ignition of the Yarnell Fire. The state of Arizona was experiencing severe drought. The Regional U.S.F.S. Fire Predictive Center had issued a fire behavior alert for low live fuel moistures for the Yarnell Area. A large fire, the Doce Fire, was already burning in close proximity to the Yarnell Area. Although we do not offer a discussion of local fire agency preparedness, we can say the agencies were aware of the drought, the fire behavior alert for low fuel moisture conditions, and the large fire burning in the area.

When lightning ignited the Yarnell Fire, an Air Attack Group Supervisor working the Doce Fire was asked to fly over the fire and size it up for the Arizona State Forestry (the jurisdictional authority to manage or suppress the fire.) The Air Attack’s size-up described the fire as inconsequential, “It’s a half acre and 80% out.” This incomplete assessment did not recognize that the surrounding area offered the potential for an explosive fire.

In addition, the air attack and the Arizona State Forestry Agency missed the fact that the surrounding area was clearly under the threat of thunderstorms. Predictable high force winds from these thunderstorms, with the alignment of severe fire conditions and forces, would eventually be the game-changer in the struggle to keep the public and firefighters safe on the Yarnell Fire.

Radical miscalculations of the initial fire and surrounding conditions represent the beginning of a series of assessment and decision errors in the management of the Yarnell Fire. The poor assessment resulted in an inadequate response by the Arizona State Forestry, which decided to wait 17 hours to engage the fire. The error sequence continued when the State Agency chose initially to engage the fire with a prison and engine crew and a Type 4 Incident Commander. Another prison crew would be added for the initial attack. During the day, two single engine air tankers and Type 6 engines were added, mostly for standby. A type 3 helicopter was also assigned. The standby resources were released during the middle part of the burning period. The release of these resources demonstrated an obvious perpetuation of the error cycle, as the fire later escaped at approximately 1700.

To summarize initial errors, the Yarnell Fire’s potential was underestimated from the beginning, first during size-up, then continuing through the agency’s next decisions to wait to respond (without acquiring the appropriate resources), rather than recognizing the urgent necessity to control the fire by 10:00 a.m. the next day. The 10:00 a.m. deadline is an essential and characteristic practice for managing fires in severe fire environments where high values such as public life and property, as well as firefighter safety, are at risk.

REMEDIATIONS FOR THE AGENCY: Take Action Before the Fire

1. Know Fire Danger Levels, From Low to Extreme

· Plan, develop and use a process (like the federal fire agencies do) to record and appropriately respond to specific fire danger levels.

· Escalate or de-escalate fire danger levels, in accordance with condition indicators that change fire danger. For the Southwest Area we recommend ERC, live and dead fuel moisture threshold values, and any other appropriate local threshold indicators.

2. Respond Correctly to Extreme Fire Conditions

· For any fire threatening life or property in “very high” or “extreme” fire danger circumstances, management must immediately use any necessary resources to control the fire by 10:00 a.m. the following day.

· The safety margin area for protecting high value collateral (life or property) would be determined by an analysis of fire behavior outputs such as rate of spread, flame length and intensity, and other observable traits.

3. Adopt this Process as Policy and Procedure

· This process would be documented, at minimum, in the Area Fire Management Plan, and become policy and procedure for responding to all severe fires which threaten life and property.

4. Develop Training For Agency Fire Administrators at both the State and Federal Levels

· Train administrators to read the alignment of environmental conditions that lead to highly dangerous fires.

· Develop policy so that State Fire Agencies routinely use ERC as a fire threshold indicator (as Federal Fire Agencies do).

· Improve the understanding and application of the ERC values and the NFDRS system to translate environmental conditions into predictions for fire potentials.

Miscalculations Continue Through the Local Fire Team

The Agency Type 4 Incident Commander also underestimated the fire, not recognizing that it would become explosive and resistant to control as it moved into heavier fuels aligned with the topography. The Incident Commander, because of this oversight, did not order the proper resources to attack the fire or to fully use the air tanker and ground engine resources on standby.

This alignment of severe fire environmental conditions and site-specific fire forces affecting fire behavior played a major part in the escape of the initial attack fire. Citing our last article, the threshold fire conditions were calculated by NFDRS, to help better determine fire danger and fire potential. In addition, our fire group advocates the Campbell Prediction System as the best systematic process to assess the alignment of site-specific forces affecting fire behavior.


1. Type 4 and 3 Initial Attack Incident Commanders need the same training as Agency Administrators in order to translate environmental conditions (as calculated by NFDRS) into a prediction of a fire’s potential. This training would specifically address fires occurring in severe fire environments. Just a basic knowledge of probability of ignition and spotting distance, coupled with the weather forecast for thunderstorm-induced winds would have signaled a dangerous watch-out situation for a fire that would also be resistant to control efforts. We prescribe this type of training because both the Agency Fire Administrator and consequent Incident Commander must plan how to engage the fire “unseen” before it has peaked or while it is peaking. The fire must be read for “peak” potential and then a plan for tactics and resources must match the fire’s potential to safely and successfully control or manage the fire.

2. We also prescribe the adoption of the Campbell Prediction System Training (CPS) for all fire line personnel from Incident Commander to firefighter. CPS planning is designed to match fire tactics to the fire’s potential. See more about the Campbell prediction System at -

Response to Existing Fire

The Appropriate Action

1. Fire Assessment

What is the fire saying?

How to predict changes, opportunities/danger

Understanding causes of the changes

Read and assess the fire using this information:

· Specific fuels

· Topography (e.g. slope and aspect)

· Solar heating

· Weather Forecasts and Wind

2. Tactical Planning

"How do we form a response?”

Match the tactic to the type of fire, using CPS:

· Draw the wind direction on a map

· Identify trigger points for change on a map

· Ask, what is the fire telling you?

· Ask, is the situation getting worse or easing?

· The forces that change fire are wind, slope, and preheat. When they align, step back and plan. When the fire goes out of alignment, attack. When weather is unstable, predict change and remain in a safe area.

3. Tactical Evaluation Steps

“What do we say to the fire?”

Plan these tactics to match the fire’s potential:

· Establish/adjust trigger points for change

· Time tag the tactic

· Identify in-alignment tracks

· Make fire signature* predictions

· Know where you are on the flammability-curve

· Plan according to the weather forecast

*A fire signature defines how a fire will burn based on observed fire behavior when the site specific forces are alike, and in alignment on the fire toe, flank, and head with the same fuel slope, solar preheat and weather-related local instability, such as wind or inversions.

As our series of articles continues, we will apply the combination of ERC, NFRDS and CPS to the known conditions during the Yarnell fire, as a way of demonstrating how effectively the behavior of that fire, or any severe fire, could have been predicted.

CPS in particular will forecast the burn path and time frame of a fire, based on the alignment of site-specific fire forces and weather. CPS provides a language to describe the fire, fire potential, fire risks and hazards. A basic knowledge of CPS coupled with NFRDS when assessing the severe conditions would have predicted the Yarnell Fire to be considerably more intense and resistant to control in “time and space” as it moved from the rocky top with sparse fuels into alignments with fuel, slope, solar heating and wind. CPS challenges the user to use observational skills identifying the variations causing the changes and alignments driving the fire over time and space.

More Insights to Come

We hope we have presented a detailed snapshot of how understanding an umbrella of conditional information (threshold alignments) and reading aligned, site-specific forces (determining intense fire behavior) could have led to decisions that better matched the Yarnell Fire’s potential. Matching tactics with the fire’s potential always increases fire safety margin, which unfortunately did not happen on the Yarnell Fire.

The misjudgments resulting in errors committed by the agency managing the Yarnell Fire were preventable. We have presented two very simple corrective recommendations that could have controlled the fire while it was small and in alignment with thresholds for control. This would have prevented the fatalities on the Yarnell Fire. Our next Yarnell Fire articles will continue making corrective recommendations for avoiding the errors made by the Arizona State Forestry, the “short” Type II Team and the Granite Mountain Hotshots.

In closing, we would like to consider the unofficial rumor that GMHS were coerced into leaving a good black safety zone to move to the ranch. Had the GMHS been adequately trained in reading the fire’s next dangerous move, would they have made the fateful decisions that led to their deaths. If all the firefighters had been equipped with the proper assessment training, Marsh or anyone else would not have been able to convince them to make the choice that they did.

There is factual credible evidence that this was actually the case with Marsh threatening Steed and attempting to coerce the GMHS off the hill and out of the safe black.


Photo source: Live Growth

Chief Techumseh's Prayer (1768-1813)

So live your life so the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their views, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and of service to your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a stranger if in a lonely place. Show respect to all people, but grovel to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life and strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies in yourself. Touch not the poisonous firewater that makes wise ones turn to fools and robs them of their visions. When your time comes to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home.” (emphasis added) Source: Michaels Seaver Life Coaching - Your Act of Valor

Live Life Without The Fear Of Death In Your Heart Heartstone Journey - Live courageously from your heart - April 19. 2016 Photo Credit: Pixby

The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, To all who call upon Him in truth. Psalm 145;18 (NKJV)

Stories constitute the single most powerful weapon in a leader’s arsenal.

—Dr. Howard Gardner, Prof. Harvard Univ.


Updates: Answering the post title: Did the PFD GMHS Know or Ignore his Tried-and-True Campbell Prediction System? The 2016 Hot Shot Operations Guide has no mention of CPS being a required training as shown in the cropped screenshot image below on page 8. Hence, one can conclude that GMHS training may or may not have included CPS because training records specific to that course are lacking. (August 1, 2021, 5:15 PM)


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