Part 8 - Do our Wildland Fire (WF) Instructors foster "complete" lessons learned in the WF culture?
Authors: Douglas Fir, Joy A. Collura, and contributing others
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In this post, we have reached out to several WFs and FFs who worked on the Dude Fire as well as many of the loved ones of those deceased. We encourage anyone interested in sharing their June 1990 Dude Fire stories and the aftermath to reach us. There is newly revealed evidence and personal accounts in this post, and it is likely to be emotional and sensitive to some.
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There is a wealth of good information in these Plumas HS phone interview quotes. Specifically, on the evening of June 25, 1990, one of the Plumas HS Supervisors stated: "... almost directly [N]orth of the Bonita Estates ... the [C]rews worked there until they realized the fire was outflanking them in its run to the [S]outh and [E]ast. All the [C]rews abandoned this line. Prescott IHC had shown up by this time and Plumas and Prescott made the decision to pull out to the area where [the] vehicles were staged. They were directed to the Bonita Estates to do structure protection, (prep work and burnout operations). Plumas walked up Walk Moore Canyon when it was still a 2-track prior to the dozer line construction. They passed Perryville when they [were] clearing the powerline right-of-way up to the Estates. ... [Two] Division Supervisors showed up at [June 26, 1990] 0930 and directed Plumas to get the burnout show on the road. ... [Plumas] distinctly remembers having [two] DIVS and they were 'chomping at the bit' to get the fire going. ... The [two] DIVS he figures to be about 1/3 of a mile above where the dozer line intersected the road in Bonita Estates."
"Spotting was immediately occurring on a small scale. Plumas was able to handle this, but the spotting intensified to the point it became a problem. The [two] DIVS were pushing the burnout, but [Plumas] tried to slow it down to keep a handle on it. They lost a spot that was left alone, because OPS directed [the two] DIVS to leave it an they would get an airtanker later. This is reflected in one of the witness statements of one of the DIVS, although he says they would catch it with a dozer. The burnout started about 1000-1030, [off] to the [E]ast, not one of the parallel roads to the [N]orth."
"The burnout continued down to the [E]states road dozer line intersection, where the Redmond Hot Shots took over the burning from Plumas. Plumas remained on the line they burned out, but the spots that were left unattended continued to grow and move noticeable off to the [E]ast. While Plumas was still up on the line another DIVS showed up, but this time it was one of the Type 1 team DIVS. [Plumas] made sure [DIVS] knew what was going on with the spotfires, the spotting, and the line. The weather changed with a strong downhill wind. Smoke was laying on the ground. [Plumas] felt extremely uncomfortable with [the] situation outside the line and up the hill and moved his [C]rew down the line to the [E]state road area, where the [E]ngines and other people were. This was at approximately 1200."
"As the fire situation deteriorated Plumas began looking for a safety zone and with the dozer that came down the road (presumably the dozer that build the line up the hill from the [E]states) they constructed a mineral soil SZ (safety zone) in the black burnout to the [W]est of the [E]states."
See Figure 28c. below
Clearly a couple of pushy DIVS ignoring basic firing operations protocol, (e.g. you fire and hold according to the conditions and you deal with (read "suppress") spot fires and slop-overs immediately)!
What follows below is the scanned actual Plumas HS phone interview (excerpted above) on November 17, 1990, elaborating on the June 25-26, 1990 events, particularly the operations of the evening of June 25th and into the morning and afternoon of the June 26th burnout operation around Bonita Creek.
Figure 20b. Plumas HS phone interview on November 17, 1990, elaborating on the June 25-26, 1990 events, particularly the operations of the evening of June 25th and into the morning and afternoon of the June 26th burnout operation around Bonita Creek. Source: Schoeffler
The Plumas HS memo above content is corroborated by the Flathead HS supervisor recollections: "We were getting pushed to burn and bump ahead too quickly on the Dude Fire. ..."
Figure 21. Heading to Dude Fire Site Visit Fatality Area and stopped here to talk about the alleged Perryville Crew Lookout Source: Joy A Collura
During the 1999 initial Dude Fire Staff Ride, at the Fatality Site, (Figure 7a.) the Perryville Crew Rep stated that he was the Crew lookout. However, when asked whether he was the "designated" lookout, he said that he would occasionally hike up out of the canyon to look around at the fire and then back down to work with the Crew again.
Figure 21a. Dude Fire News Footage # - Raw news file footage from the 1990 Dude fire in Arizona. This video may include footage of the Bonita Creek Estates neighborhood before and after the fire. Source: WLF LC, YouTube
A designated lookout is just that - a lookout - specifically assigned and and staying in place throughout the operational period or whatever / wherever the supervisor needs them to be doing to properly perform their crucial task. Maybe this was on Mr. Gleason's mind when he established the LCES principle.
Figure 21b. Helicopter news photo snippet of burnt lowboy tractor trailer and Contractor Fuel Truck. Source:
Figure 22. Departing view (looking back) of the Dude Fire Fatality Area (red oval) Source: Joy A Collura
Figure 23. Discussion on Dude Fire Events that the retired Fire Chief never heard before. Source: Joy A Collura
Dude Fire documentation has the OPS and others observing benign backing fire into Walk Moore Canyon and thinking nothing of it. Was this during the same period that the Alpine HS Supt. was also noticing this kind of fire behavior/ The calm before the storm ...
Once again, during the 1999 initial Dude Fire Staff Ride, at the Fatality Site, the Perryville Crew Rep stated that the 'Navajo Scouts had run through their Crew telling them to get out, the fire was upon them.' Yet, they ignored that warning. Next, he stated that he had 'burning bark plates bouncing off my fire shirt' and ignored that too. Next, he stated that he had 'burning pine cones, sticks, and twigs bouncing off my fire shirt' and ignored that as well. And you're still there?
They finally started to head back down Walk Moore Canyon toward the Control Road when he noticed the aggressive fire behavior was entering down into Walk Moore thru numerous little saddles and chutes from "above them" to the West, and so they turned back up the canyon.
The WFLDP Guide states in much more graphic detail: "... at [approx.] 1415 ... Upon hearing and seeing the Navajo Scouts crew running past them, Perryville crewmembers started seeing the fire above them. They all began running down the line toward the Control Road. ... a Navajo Scout told him “don’t stop, the flame is on you." ... looked back at that point ... and saw what looked to him like a volcano. ... looked back and could see only a wall of flame. ... saw the crewmembers in front of him round a corner with fire crossing right behind them. ... LaTour ordered the Perryville crew to deploy shelters. ... ” (emphasis added) And finally, after all the warnings and indicators and aggressive fire behavior "LaTour ordered the Perryville crew to deploy shelters." That is just unf**king believable! Source: WFLDP Guide
A Payson Roundup new article has a similar take: "But back up the canyon, the flames had cut the Perryville crew in half, trapping most of them in the upper reaches of the canyon. Those cut off were only 15 or 20 seconds behind those who escaped. But halfway to the Control Road a terrifying wave of fire swept across their path."
"They staggered backward from the withering heat, then turned and ran back up the slope, away from the flames. LaTour saw them running up the hillside toward him. 'There was a solid wall of fire behind them. It was roaring and solid black,' he recalled later." (July 28, 2017)
See the Figure 28 + 28a. maps of the individual Crewmember positions and their respective gear indicates some panic and mayhem. The Investigators stated the fact that their gear was individually numbered to correspond with a specific WF made their accountability mapping much easier.
Figure 23a. Topographic map indicating June 26, 1990, hand-drawn fire perimeter and dozer line represented by dashed lines ("- - - -") between 1400 and 1500 hours. Source: AUSA Johns (RiP)
Figure 23b. Topographic map indicating June 26, 1990, hand-drawn ("x x x x") dozer lines, "Corner House with 4 Structure Engines," dozered Safety Zone, where the burnout stopped, and unsure if the dozer fireline ("x x x x") continued to the north. It correctly notes that the line"was not anchored at the top." I recall that some claimed on June 25-26 that it was "tied [anchored] into a water tank" Source: Flathead HS
Have you been wondering: Where was the Perryville Crew Boss during all this? According to the WFLDP Staff Ride Field Guide: "[Perryville] Crew Boss Larry Terra took crewmember Fred Hill left the fireline to get supplies, leaving Assistant Crew Boss Sandra Bachman in charge with the Crew Representative LaTour." This was Bachman's first wildfire. Did LaTour and Bachman know that he was gone? Did he leave Bachman a radio? Did he really take someone else with him? It says he "left the fireline to get supplies." Yes indeed he did, so there's more to this story.
Some excellent advice and lessons learned on protecting your airways. Investigator Dr. Ted Putnam has several photos of individual inmates' fire shirts that clearly indicated significant scorch from the waist up to the collars. So, he said that the FFs' chests acted like a virtual slope funneling hot gases directly into their face and airways. He stressed that if they had laid down on the ground, that they likely would have survived with only burns. Always protect your airways!
When Dr. Putnam allows us the privilege, we will post the photos of those scorched fire shirts.
Fortuitously - some would say providentially - the initial attack TNF Payson RD Model 70 Engine had been working a hoselay along the Walk Moore Canyon two-track road. They had a flat tire on one of the outside duals and decided to wait until they headed out to the Control Road to change it. Similarly, around 1300, there was a PRD Timber employee tasked with delivering water with an ATV to the WFs within Walk Moore Canyon. He made a run, wondered if he had enough ATV fuel for another load, then decided to load his ATV into the back of his pickup truck.
Fortuitously again - some would again say providentially - as the aggressive downhill fire behavior loomed, the Navajo Scouts and Perryville Crew were attempting escape, and the Model 70 Engine and the Timber employee with the ATV loaded pickup provided a means for several of them to get inside and / or crawl atop these vehicles as a means of escape.
They reached the Control Road just ahead of the flames and jumped onto fire trucks already starting to move. (Payson Roundup) I (DF) recall these guys telling me that the powerful radiant and convective HRV-induced heat melted the tail lenses on the Model 70 Engine as it drove out.
Figure 24. Heading back down-canyon to the Ellis fatality area Source: Joy A Collura
Figure 25. Flagged and identified hazards - metal fence posts and wire gabbions to assist in reducing erosion Source: Joy A Collura
Figure 26. Integration Phase at Dude Fire Trailhead on May 23, 2020 at 2:45PM Source: Joy A Collura
The third and final Integration Phase is a formal or informal opportunity for students and faculty to "bring all the parts together" and reflect on the impressions and lessons learned. The second most important key to a successful Staff Ride or Site Visit is that "there must be a complete integration of the preliminary study phase and the field study portion of the course. Without the integration, the preliminary study phase is merely a battle analysis, and the field study portion is simply a historical battlefield tour. While either one is sufficient to derive lessons, the two activities integrated together generate optimal understanding and analytical thought." (emphasis added) Source: Conduct of the Staff Ride. Tactics Division, Amphibious Warfare School - Quantico, VA
At the Ranger Station, after the Dude Fire, I (DF) recall seeing several photographs of the aftermath result of Horizontal Roll Vortices (HRV) fire behavior that was readily apparent in Walk Moore Canyon with branches and limbs wrapped/ frozen in place. And the two to three on Roberts Mesa Rd area in the form of residual long tree islands, referred to as "crown streets" by Haines (1982) from HRV activity. However, the many photographs of HRV I saw at the PRD Office quickly disappeared.
Figure 27. Bass Lake Fire (1977) Pine Barrens State Forest / Park in New Jersey clearly exhibiting Horizontal Roll Vortices fire behavior. All four of the FFs in the photo died. Source: NIFC
Always Remember ( https://www.wlfalwaysremember.org/incident-lists/200-bass-river-2.html ) The objective of Always Remember is to provide a place to research and collect the information, then share it in a user friendly manner to honor the fallen and to foster lessons learned discussion. ( https://www.wlfalwaysremember.org/about-always-remember.html )
Figure 27a. Bass Lake Fire (1977) Pine Barrens State Forest / Park in New Jersey. Black arrows clearly delineate the Horizontal Roll Vortices fire behavior. All four of the FFs in the photo died. Source: Haines, D. (2003) HRV and the New Miner Fire. Fire Mgmt. Today, 63
The caption under the above photo states: "A vortex with a diameter of about 15 feet (4.6 m) on the flank of the fire. Implied airflow is outlined by the curving arrows. Flames are moving out of the main body of the fire at 30- to 50-degree angles and making 'rolls' back into the fire. The ambient wind is blowing from right to left in the photograph." (emphasis added) Photo: Donald Krohn, Nekoosa Paper, Inc. , Port Edwards, WI.
Figure 27b. Black and white photo of the "tree-crown streets" resulting from the escaped RX Burn turned Mack Lake Fire in Michigan (1980 ) Source: Haines - HRV and Crown Fires (1982)
Earlier that morning on June 26th, I (DF) had scouted the fire perimeter on the ridgeline above the Bonita Creek subdivision. It consisted of a very hot, continuous thick chaparral understory fire edge. This later intensified and flared up as the R6 HS Crew escaped "head-fire" burnout operation fire behavior rolled upslope toward the Bonita Creek Subdivision. I believe that this later rolled down into the Bonita Creek subdivision and combined with the several HS Crews' Walk Moore Canyon burnout operation, and was then intensified by fire behavior that funneled through a small saddle Northeast of the Bonita Creek subdivision. I surmise that it flared up and intensified once everything aligned and came together.
The 1345 spot fire across the Control Road diverted everyone's attention and was a distraction. Was it just the same spot fire from the night before June 25th?
"At approximately 1330, it was discovered that Bonita Creek Estates was surrounded by fire and resources could not leave. Two dozers were then directed to build a safety zone within the burn-out which remained very hot from heavy fuels burning. At 1345 a spot fire was reported below the Control Road on the west side. The 1400 Alpine IHC weather observations recorded 87 degrees and 21% RH. At approximately 1410, JP Mattingly, Alpine IHC Superintendent programmed the tactical frequency into LaTour's radio that was being used by the Type I IMT. Large drops of icy cold rain were felt by crews, and briefly mistaken for water from the engine hoses used for structure protection. Tony Sciacca, Foreman of the Prescott IHC, noticed that smoke was beginning to settle at the feet of the crews, this made him uncomfortable and decided to pull their crew out and into the safety zone. They walked past Alpine on the way to the safety zone and told Alpine crewmembers they were pulling out. Prescott was the first crew in Walk Moore to reach the road at approximately 1415, just minutes after Perryville Crew had resupplied with water and returned to work just off the dozer line, the Navajo Scouts lookout noticed the wind shift change to the east and the fire began to crown. The Navajo Scouts began running back down the line toward the Control Road. A member of the Navajo Scouts yelled at Perryville members as they ran past to “Get out!” The Perryville Crew was physically divided into a lower and upper group. ..." (emphasis added)
"The Feds in CHARGE were on the wrong radio frequency which is why we didn't all get out without deployment."
That may be partly true, however, the Navajo Scouts running through their Crew warning them to leave was verbal, no radio required there.
Figure 27c. Safety Zone that was dozer constructed in Walk Moore Canyon / Bonita Creek area with members of the Redmond Hotshots observing torching fire behavior Source: Tom Story. AZ Republic
Consider now the Figure 28 + 28a. maps below of the individual Crewmember positions and their respective gear indicates some panic and mayhem. The Investigators stated the fact that their gear was individually numbered to correspond with a specific WF made their accountability mapping much easier.
Figure 28. June 26, 1990 Dude Fire Walk Moore Canyon map of Perryville Crewmember "Deployment Positions" - including Hatch - from Control Road to Deployment / Fatality Site. Source: Investigation records, notes
Figure 28a. June 26, 1990 Dude Fire Walk Moore Canyon map of Perryville "Equipment Locations" - including Hatch - from Control Road to Deployment / Fatality Site. Source: Investigation records, notes
On a former Dude Fire Staff Ride, along the 1990 dozer line about halfway between the Western edge of the Bonita Creek subdivision and Walk Moore Canyon, one of the Plumas HS sawyers specifically recalled seeing the separate smoke column from the Fuller Creek area. This was where the R6 HS Crew burnout escaped and ran toward the Bonita Creek area. They eventually merged.
On the afternoon of June 26th about 1400 ?? or so, our DIVS directed us to pull out to the Control Road. While hiking out to the Control Road on the Fuller Creek two-track, I (DF) recall hearing over the radio on the TAC channel that the HS Crews' burnout had been lost. We then heard Zig Zag HS Supt. Gleason calling out over the radio on TAC about a burned WF. He then broadcast over the TAC channel a progression of various Perryville Crew fatalities and burn victims, totaling six.
While standing on the Fuller Creek Road and Control Road, (Figure 7a.) we observed an AZ Dept. of Corrections (DOC) vehicle driving back and forth as he could not get through to the East. The fire powerfully crossed the Control Road. As we left the two R6 HS Crews we had been working with, myself, and a Payson HS stopped this vehicle and asked the driver what was happening. The man inside, dressed in a yellow jump suit said with - "I should have never left my Crew." I (DF) noticed sodas and cigarettes on the seat next to him. I asked who his Crew was and he said "Perryville" and I told him that they were in a bad way. Once again, he said "I should have never left my Crew."
I (DF) inferred that this AZ State DOC Crew Boss had left his Crew to go to the nearby market at Mesa Del. Terra left Bachman with the responsibility of supervising the Crew even though the Dude Fire was her first wildfire assignment. Furthermore, several years later at a Payson, AZ Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin at Green Valley Park event I asked the visiting AZ Forestry and DOC personnel about Terra and they said he quit right after the Dude Fire. However, I have not verified that.
And what about the alleged Perryville inmate that supposedly was with Crew Boss Terra going for water? Many years later, the Globe HS Supt stated he had 'a son of the Perryville inmate' that supposedly was with Crew Boss Terra going for water. The son said his Father told him they had gotten 'some pot from some of the other Crews, and they were off by themselves smoking dope, and that's why they were separated from the rest of the Crew.' Look at the names and numbers of the Perryville Crew individuals and the map on Figure 28.
The day after the fatalities, at the Collins Ranch along the Roberts Mesa Road, the Payson HS and several helicopters were saving multiple structures by themselves because Crew Boss, who basically abandoned the Crew, was freaked about the deaths from the day before.
One of the tragic untold stories is about the Vietnam Veteran seasonal employee hired to be the Diamond Point Lookout, He was a Vietnam veteran apparently suffering from PTS, and the June 26th helicopters and air tankers, and the Perryville Inmate Crew deaths was the "trigger" reminded him of his likely stressful, painful Vietnam experiences. And so, he wigged out and quit. Unfortunately but not entirely a surprise, the USFS just abandoned him and left him adrift to deal with a work-related incident.
And to what levels with those that want to conceal the truth on these wildland fire fatalities?
Shortly after the Dude Fire fatalities had occurred and a Fatality Investigation Team was ordered, according to the TNF Dispatcher at the time - prior to the Investigation - both Fire Bosses took the fire package records to the TNF Supervisors Office in Phoenix and shredded fire package records. The Dispatcher and / or Center Manager told them that 'the Investigators would need those documents and records for their investigation,' According to the Dispatcher, the Fire Bosses allegedly told him: 'if you don't like it you can just leave.'
I (DF) was later tasked with the Dude Fire Staff Ride by USFS Staff Ride Coordinator Bequi Livingston to put one together. However, all the photos, documents, and records, mostly of fire behavior and the HRV after-effects of fire behavior in Walk Moore Canyon that I was familiar with were now gone. Bequi Livingston scheduled a Regional or National "Staff Ride Development Workshop" in Payson with product to be the Dude Fire Staff Ride. We had a copy of the investigative report provided by an anonymous source.
Figure 29. Snippet of Control Road (FR 64) and Mesa Del Road (FR 199) and Verde Glen Road (FR 199) junction between the "E" and "R" of River ( which historically extended north into a couple small subdivisions and still retains the FR 199 number). This is where the ADOT and Gila County dozers were staged all afternoon on June 30th, at the behest of the DFMO - Dude Fire Operations Advisor, according to the operators Source: USFS Tonto NF map
Please recall that on the night and early morning of June 25-26, I (DF) asked the DIVS several times to check on the dozers he had earlier ordered. The response to our DIVS all night was "they've been ordered." About 2100 on June 26th at the Control Rd and junction (mail boxes) were two large Gila County and ADOT dozers on flatbeds. I asked how long they had been there and they said 'All day, some guy named Velatto told us to stage here.' How about Velasco? 'Yea, that was him.' Days later, I asked Velasco why. His response was 'I thought that maybe the Class One Team might have other plans for them."
I told him 'No, you fight the going fire, we asked for them all night. We could have used them in Bonita Creek.'
And also recall that he said that he wouldn't change a thing in an anniversary local newspaper article. Consider now some June 21, 1991, local newspaper articles remembering the Dude Fire.
Figures 30a. + b. Dude Fire news articles with Velasco comments Source: Payson Roundup
Velasco, who had been assigned to the incoming Fire Team(s) as an 'Operations Advisor,' admitted in one of the newspaper interviews that he knew this fire would occur and he had planned for it for years. He said in one interview: "I've fought that fire over and over in my mind hundreds and thousands of times" and "Velasco has been reliving the painful details of the fire for almost one full year, but says he doesn't believe he would do anything different to control it than originally was done." (emphasis added)
Okay ... so let's slightly restate that "in the positive." 'Velasco has been reliving the painful details of the fire for almost one full year, and says he believes he would do everything the same to control it.'
And some of those decisions and actions he made (or failed to make) and /or agreed with were restricting a qualified and experienced fireline supervisor from any supervisory roles, including giving or making any tactical, or strategy decisions; discounting his professional opinion mentioned at a Planning / Strategy Meeting regarding the fire behavior timing on the AGF Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery; and finally his poor decision regarding placing the two dozers on standby rather than allowing them to perform needed work and then failing to inform the DIVS of that decision.
Velasco was using the old adage "the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over hoping for a different (better) outcome" has been attributed to the likes of Benjamin Franklin and Albert Einstein. It matters not the source - what matters is that he would do the same thing(s) all over again.
Consider now, we are that we are back on the Dude Fire Site Visit. While there at the Walk Moore Canyon parking area, we saw a lot of fire vehicles going red lights and siren passing by, including a Heli-Fuel truck and trailer that pulled into the Trailhead parking area on their way to the Ellison Fire East of us along the Control Road. Traffic was extremely busy and campers were everywhere, at any and every conceivable camping spot.
Figure 31. Ellison Fire staging area - May 23, 2020 at 3:45PM Dude Fire Site Visit Source: Joy A Collura
Yes indeed, a most bizarre Memorial Weekend event on public lands. This alleged "Public Servant" was quite incensed that someone had challenged him regarding the use of the VLATs (Very Large Air Tanker) on initial attacks. His supervisor would later stand by him and actually defend his behavior, stating that I (DF) had "baited him" by me making a comment about "our Federal tax dollars." And then he segued into telling me something like - 'the YH Fire is seven years old and to let it go, people were tired of talking about it.' I had to disagree with him and told him that people - especially WFs - were starving for information about all of it - yes indeed - even seven years later. And that we were finding new information on a regular basis.
Figure 31a. Ellison Fire staging area - May 23, 2020 at 3:45PM Dude Fire Site Visit Source: Joy A Collura
Figure 32. Haught Cabin and former Zane Grey Cabin areas Source: Joy A Collura
The photo above is the site of the historic Haught Cabin hidden in the trees to the left and the former, historic Zane Gray Cabin site is in the trees to the right. In the afternoon of June 27, 1990, because we (WFs and others) had no radio repeaters set up for communication back to Fire Camp near Payson, I (DF) had to go to nearby Kohl's Ranch to use their phone to call the Plans personnel and brief them on the historical area situation. I informed them of my location and told them there was no fire resources there. He replied: 'There should be.' I was now accompanied by several TNF PRD employees and a contractor with a dump truck while we attempted independent action here, however, because of aggressive fire behavior above us, our supervisor kinda wigged out and ordered us to disengage. We could hear propane tanks blowing up / off as we left the area.
Figure 32a. Former Zane Grey Cabin. Note the unburned tress are still in place indicating it did not burn in a passing fire front. It indicates it burned slowly, from embers. Source: Northern Gila County Historical Society
Figure 32b. Former Zane Grey Cabin. Note the unburned tress are still in place indicating it did not burn in a passing fire front. It indicates it burned slowly, from embers. Source: Northern Gila County Historical Society
As the fire approached the Haught Cabin and Zane Grey Cabin areas I recall intense lateral fire spread from the West above us preceded by some bizarre fire behavior. I watched small vine-like firewhirls wrapping around tree stems, then torching the trees out, propane bottles blowing off. I recall one of the helicopter pilots in the area that day commenting on the radio about that bizarre fire behavior as well.
I recall passing FMO Advisor Velasco and the Payson HS along the Roberts Mesa Rd and asked / told them to go to the Zane Grey Cabin as it was being threatened. They never went there. (Figure 32c. below)
Figure 32c. Photo of Payson HS along Roberts Mesa Rd. on our way to the Zane Grey Cabin. Source: Schoeffler
A short time after the Dude Fire, the Class 1 Fire Boss was interviewed in a Payson Roundup article shortly after the fire, about the historical cabin. Paraphrasing the Fire Boss, he lied and said something like: 'The firefighters had done everything they could to save Zane Grey's Cabin. They hosed it down and foamed it and it was overrun by fire about 1:30 in the morning.' Bald face lies! The trees that surrounded the cabin were scorched somewhat but still in place and unburned. The cabin burned down as a result of flying embers in the vent's eaves, overhangs, porches, etc. and burned from the top, down.
Figure 33. Burned water faucet at the former Zane Grey Cabin area Source: video
Figure 33a. Historic Clicquot Club wooden crate at former Zane Grey Cabin area. Source: video
The Clicquot Club Company, also known as Clicquot Club Beverages, was one of the largest national beverage companies. It started with a sparkling cider that was produced locally by Charles LaCroix of the LaCroix Fruit Farm. The farm was likely located somewhere on or neighboring the estate of Lansing Millis for whom the town of Millis, Mass. was ultimately named.
Sometime in the early 1880’s LaCroix partnered with Lansing Millis’s son, Henry Millis, and began bottling the cider under the name “Aqua Rex Bottling Works.” ( Clicquot Club – Bay Bottles )
Figure 33b. Burned relics in Former Zane Grey Cabin area Source: video
Figure 33. Lead Instructor takes Student and other Participants in Haught Cabin and Zane Grey cabin area where he was on the Dude Fire, June 26, 1990. Source: Joy A Collura
Figure 34. AGF Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery entrance - CLOSED on May 23, 2020 at 3:45PM Dude Fire Site Visit Source: Joy A Collura
Figure 35. AGF Tonto Creek Hatchery entrance on May 23, 2020 at 3:45PM - Dude Fire Site Visit Source: Joy A Collura
On the night of June 26 and long into the early morning hours of June 27, the Dude Fire made a significant thermal belt induced, 10,000 acre nighttime run to the East. It was a most impressive and memorable event.
The morning of June 27th, the Plans Chief told me (DF) early on before our briefing, to go to the top of The Rim and 'tie in with the Team on the Apache / Sitgreaves NF and find out what they were doing.' The Briefing or Strategy meeting later that morning was about a lot of stupid stuff, and they planned to put all their Resources at Tonto Village. Someone at the meeting mentioned the AGF Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery and someone on the Fire Team said it would be safe. I (DF) told them the fire would be there between 1230 and 1300. And "Operations Advisor" Velasco told them: 'don't to listen to him, he's exaggerating and doesn't know what he's talking about.' The AGF representative in the meeting followed me outside and asked me if I thought that was a possibility and I said absolutely. I missed it by half an hour.
After being thwarted from saving the Zane Grey Cabin the TNF PRD employees then initiated and safely and successfully accomplished further independent action at the AGF Hatchery. After scouting, we decided to fire our way down from the top around the three separate living quarters structures, including a propane tank. We had to disengage and re-engage three separate times due to our timid AFMO 'Lookout' getting nervous about our escape route being cut off. We lost two outbuildings and the canvas fish pond coverings suffered several burn holes.
Because of our successful "Independent Action" AGF Hatchery burnout operation that infuriated the District Ranger, he decided that he needed to seek disciplinary action against only me for what he characterized as "Threatening and endangering." Because the AGF was "truly grateful," they awarded each of us a nice plaque for our "quick thinking and brave performance" and this is what effectively emasculated the USFS from bringing any disciplinary actions against me.
Figures 35 a-b. New article (Sept. 1990 ) titled "Seven honored for saving hatchery" and the plaque we received "for your efforts during the Dude Fire 1990 ... you saved the Tonto Creek Hatchery" Source: Payson Roundup, AGF
Recall that Schoeffler was told by the DR that he was to do no supervision. Well that all changed when it was time for the Rehabilitation Phase. I (DF) was assigned as the Operations (OPS) supervising as many as eighty WFs and Contractors.
Fires result in loss of vegetation, exposure of soil to erosion, and increased water runoff that may lead to flooding, increased sediment, debris flow, and damage to critical natural and cultural resources.
To mitigate that, we created debris barriers in the drainages at the culverts and / or bridge crossings to keep the inevitable thousands of acres of burned logs, rocks, mud, and whatever else from clogging and / or damaging the existing structures once the Monsoons came in. The theory was that these ramp-like sloping structures would launch and debris out of the drainages and over the roadways instead of clogging the culverts which eventually washed out the roadways.
An interesting side-note is that every one of the older CCC-era bridges (i.e. Ellison Creek) withstood the floodwaters where the more modern ones flunked.
This will be a non-scientific layman's explanation of what occurs based on many years of experiencing and witnessing burn scars during monsoonal rains. The blackened footprint of the fire with its low albedo, which is the reflectivity of a surface will absorb a lot more heat than a lighter surface. Albedo is the reflectivity of a surface. A pure black object would absorb all radiation and have an albedo of 0%. With the low albedo, high absorption, the burnt, blackened burn scar would absorb much more solar radiation which triggers a massive thermal column due to convection. This massive thermal column then draws in the monsoonal thunderstorms right to that column; and the thunderstorms beeline right for them and then deluge their frog-choking thunderstorms. This occurs for at least three years.
Figure 36. Typical USFS warning sign regarding potential burned area hazards. Source: KPCC
Another untold chapter in the Dude Fire saga is the unethical and disingenuous USFS planting African Weeping Lovegrass (i.e. Weeping and Lehmann’s lovegrass Eragrostis curvula & E. Lehmanniana) on the burn scar even after the AZ Game & Fish Department, knowing the USFS had a pattern of using this invasive species, specifically told the District Ranger (DR) to refrain from doing so on this fire scar.
According to the AGF there was a "Gentleman's Agreement" this would be the case, and they even shook hands on it, even though the DR had already purchased the seed mix from the Soil and Conservation Service which contained the African Weeping Lovegrass seed mix. The AGF considered suing the USFS then chocked it up to a professional disagreement and just dropped it. The District Ranger eventually got a $10,000.00 Cash Award for all his (in)actions on the Dude Fire, and he was not even engaged in the fire until a few days later. This is a typical USFS response.
Consider now several professional sources and references of the Dude Fire and the use of African Weeping lovegrass.
Jackson M. Leonard; Alvin L. Medina; Daniel G. Neary; Aregai Tecle (2015) The influence of parent material on vegetation response 15 years after the Dude Fire, Arizona ( https://www.fs.usda.gov/treesearch/pubs/47800 )
"In addition, after the Dude Fire, weeping lovegrass (Eragrostis curvula Nees), a very aggressive non-native grass species, was used in rehabilitation efforts to decrease erosion (citations omitted). Recent studies have questioned the need and effectiveness of seeding wildland sites with grass species following fire (citations omitted). The practice has been found to negatively influence the diversity of native flora, be ineffective in erosion control, and exacerbate erosion due to community type conversion (citations omitted)."
"Nearly $2 million was spent on seeding and reforestation efforts between 1991 and 1995 to control erosion and aid vegetative recovery (Dude Fire Long Range Rehabilitation Implementation and Monitoring Plan 1991. (citation omitted)"
Environmental Assessment for Integrated Treatment of Noxious or Invasive Plants Tonto National Forest Gila, Maricopa, Pinal, and Yavapai Counties, Arizona ( https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=&ved=2ahUKEwiDzpOr-f7pAhXFGjQIHWQSD0oQFjABegQIAxAB&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.fs.usda.gov%2FInternet%2FFSE_DOCUMENTS%2Ffsbdev3_018696.pdf&usg=AOvVaw1DLg488JYjEnJOW2Qgf_qJ )
Invasive Weeds - Weeping and Lehmann's Lovegrass
Eragrostis curvula & E. Lehmanniana
Although there is a native lovegrass species (E. intermedia), these 2 species of Eragrostis are introduced from South Africa. ( https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/tonto/learning/nature-science/?cid=fsbdev3_018817 )
"Tonto NF Goals & Strategy: Both Eragrostis species are “C” species on the Tonto NF. They are extremely widespread due to past practices of including them in revegetation seed mixes. Current strategy is to not introduce additional infestations by requiring all seed mixes used on the Forest, to be checked for presence of Eragrostis seeds. If it is accidentally introduced, immediate measures will be taken to eradicate new populations. One pilot project on the Payson RD is using permitted cattle to concentrate grazing use on weeping lovegrass that was seeded after the Dude Fire, and encourage growth of native perennial grasses. Monitoring is ongoing."
"The area burned in during the Dude Fire has an altered fire regime. The area is in an early seral state with the mixed conifer and ponderosa pine vegetation replaced by alligator juniper, oaks, and manzanita with an understory of seeded, non-native weeping lovegrass. The Dude Fire area represents more than 99 percent of the mapped population of weeping lovegrass. In some places, the density weeping lovegrass could lead to an increased risk of wildfire, however, in most places within the Dude Fire, the cover of weeping lovegrass in (sic) decreasing (U.S.F.S., Tonto NF files, Dude Fire photo points 1990 to 2009), being reduced by competition with overstory trees and shrubs."
Figure 36. Heading to Christopher Kohl's FD for our AAR Source: Joy A Collura
Figure 37.Our AAR at Christopher Kohl's Fire Department Source: Joy A Collura
Patricia Andrews, fire behavior specialist at the Intermountain Forest and Range Experiment Station, in Ogden, Utah met with Alpine Hotshots foreman J.P. Mattingly. Like Gleason, Mattingly had seen and heard things that would stay with him forever ..."
In the interview, Mattingly also questioned the priorities of the incident commanders. "They seemed more concerned with saving structures," Andrews wrote in her log. She quoted Mattingly as saying, "Should we have been in there at all?"
Please take some time to read their report to better understand the fire weather, fuels, and terrain influences as well as the ensuing fire behavior on the June 1990 Dude Fire. And become Students of Fire Weather.
WEATHER AND FIRE BEHAVIOR FACTORS RELATED TO THE 1990 DUDE FIRE NEAR PAYSON, AZ
David W. Goens - National Weather Service Pocatello, Idaho
Patricia L. Andrews - Rocky Mountain Research Station, USDA Forest Service Missoula, Montana
Here is their summary:
"The behavior of the Dude Fire from its initiation on June 25 through its rapid spread on June 26 was not unusual considering fuel and weather conditions. The high probability of summer thunderstorms in the complex terrain of the western United States is well understood, even in fairly dry atmospheric regimes. The Haines Index (Haines, 1988; Werth and Ochoa, 1993) for both days indicate the extreme potential for rapid-fire growth and spread, and atmospheric profiles indicated the potential for dry microbursts. Fire Weather Forecasts for the area advertised some potential for thunderstorm activity both days. Predicting the exact location of thunderstorm formation is beyond the state of the science, however topographically, favored locations are usually easy to identify. Once the fire started and had spread to nearly 2000 ac (800 ha), it was reasonable to expect a well-developed convection column due to the favorable atmospheric dynamics and the additional impetus of the fire. Forecasting downburst winds is highly complicated, even more so in complex terrain. Complex terrain tends to channel the wind, often blocking or enhancing speed and direction (Whiteman, 1990). Because downburst winds tend to be cool and dense, the enhancement and channeling down slope that occurred in this case was not unusual. The occurrence of the short duration gust front, followed by 20 to 30 minutes of sustained strong wind, is again within the realm of reasonable experience. The extended period of high temperatures and dry weather preceding the fire had preconditioned fuels. Live fuels had low moisture content and fine dead fuels were tinder dry. Drought conditions exacerbated the situation, with large dead fuels so dry that they became a major contributing factor to the fire's intensity. The downburst winds caused the fire to change from a fire backing through the understory to a fire that spread rapidly through the overstory. This paper was undertaken: to further document the conditions that led to the entrapment and fatalities on the Dude Fire. Hopefully, it can also be used to heighten the awareness of the common denominators of tragedy fires (NWCG, 1996). It may also be used as a case study by those who are working to provide methods for better prediction of downbursts on fires.
Consider now some excerpts on our first Fire Order dealing with some specific germane Fire Weather from the Archives of "They Said" a former WF Blog:
From Archives of They Said It: Discussion starting on 6/28/06:
The Dude Fire is Still Smokin’
"The latest chapter in the Dude Fire story has been written by Dr. Brian E. Potter, Research Meteorologist & Team Leader, USDA Forest Service AirFIRE Team. Dr. Potter published an article in 2005 explaining how the water produced in a wildland fire enters the plume and affects the likelihood of causing a downburst. The Dude Fire was among the most dramatic examples of this downdraft / downburst phenomenon in his article.
“The role of released moisture in the atmospheric dynamics associated with wildland fires”. Potter, Brian E., International Journal of Wildland Fire, 2005, 14, 77-84. ( https://www.fs.fed.us/pnw/airfire/convectiveclim/references.html )
All emphasis is added below in Potters downdraft quotes
"The Dude Fire downburst article by Goens and Andrews is referenced in Dr. Potter’s work. Dr. Potter calculated the DCAPE - Downdraft Convective Available Potential Energy - and the Dude Fire DCAPE values were among the highest of the eleven severe fires examined. Dr. Potter states: “Released moisture is not only a contributing factor, but at times a controlling or critical factor in fire-atmosphere interactions on time and space scales important to fire behavior and fire-fighter safety.”
"One can infer that but for the fire-released water from the Dude Fire into the plume that day, on the order of 5 million kilograms by my estimate, the air would probably not have had sufficient water content to initiate and sustain the downburst.
"Dr. Potter explains the need to add this to our predictive models: “The traditional definition of fire behavior describes the controlling factors as fuels, atmosphere and topography. If released moisture is indeed an important factor controlling fire behavior, then it presents an area of fire behavior research that requires strong knowledge and understanding of both fuel conditions and the atmospheric conditions. The link between these two becomes a strong two-way interaction that cannot be studied or understood in separate fuel and atmospheric pieces.”Dr. Potter concludes with what needs to be done to put this knowledge to work on the fire ground: 'There are also implications of this work for management, though practical application is far down the road. If a manager knew that a certain rate of moisture release was a threshold for extreme fire behavior on a given fire and day, the manager may attempt to control rate of spread during a specific time period in the hope that the moisture release rate would stay below the threshold, thus preventing possible erratic behavior. Fuel managers could also begin considering fuel loads that would hold the possible released moisture down below a climatologically determined level that divided blow-up from well behaved fire probabilities.'”
Commenter "Still Out There":
6/29/06 Still Out There:
"Dr. Potter sent me his articles during our discussions of the subject. (See above studies)
"He agreed with my estimation that the 1500 acre fire (200 new acres that morning) would have added on the order of more than 5 Million kilograms of water into the column in an otherwise relatively dry air mass. The remaining issues include how it mixes and a lot of factors affecting downbursts. Fires as small as 100 acres can produce rain drops. Rain drops fell on Paul Gleason. Paul Linse, some of the Perryville crew, also at the Control road and at the subdivision before the downburst. In addition, Tony Sciacca and Nando Lucero [Prescott] noted the smoke laying down near the burnout further up Walk Moore Canyon, and decided to pull the Prescott Hotshots out, told the adjoining Alpine Hotshots, Jim Mattingly, and they both tried to call and contact Perryville but Perryville was already on the run escaping from the downslope run from the downburst further down the canyon. Paul Linse also noticed the area smoke in further up the canyon. The smoke laying down further up the canyon was not noticed until a few minutes after the burnover in the canyon below them. High winds did not involve the upper canyon until after the burnover below, from which Hatch walked out back up the canyon and was found by Gleason [Zig Zag], Linse [Flathead] and Mattingly [Alpine]
Figure 38. Closing Thoughts Source: Joy A Collura
He stores up sound wisdom for the upright; he is a shield to those who walk in integrity, ... Proverbs 2:7
Figure 39. Rowdy Muir Source: KRCC Leadership
I (DF) have always considered Rowdy Muir to be a good leader. He's been fair to me, and as far as I know, has always sided with the WFs on-the-ground and has maintained and supported an "Old School" ethic and work attitude.
Originally, we broached the question: "Do our Wildland Fire (WF) Instructors foster "complete" lessons learned in the WF culture?"
There is definitely an assortment of WF Instructors across the spectrum on this one. For the most part, I would say that most WF Instructors are likely uninformed or ignorant and merely need to be educated and brought up to speed. Others are just biding their time as a career employee and so prefer to avoid "rocking the boat," so they choose the obsequious, timid Party Liner path as a "Team Player" to "Go Along to Get Along." The truth may have been revealed to them, but it is of no concern to them. They make that a conscious choice. There are always going to be the Naysayers, the Pessimists, and the Brown-Nosers.
So then, take the path that is the one less traveled, the difficult right path.
In the weeks to follow be watchful for Parts 1 to 5 of "Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?"
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The Lord upholds all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down. Psalm 145:14
Authors: Douglas Fir, Joy A. Collura, and contributing others Views expressed to "the public at large” and "of public concern" DISCLAIMER: Please fullYarnell Hill Fire Revelations © (2018) Sheff LLC