Was the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire a precursor for the "incomplete" lessons learned on June 30, 2013?
Figure 1. Dude Fire Fatality Site - Walk Moore Canyon Trailhead sign Source: NWCG, USFS
Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. Ephesians 4:25
"The only man who never makes a mistake is the man who never does anything." Teddy Roosevelt
Authors: Douglas Fir, Joy A. Collura, and contributing others
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What follows are some of the written records regarding the June 1990 Dude Fire, (e.g. emails, Incident Action Plan, maps, and very detailed US Attorney's Office "Dude Fire Chronology" (90+ pages) "prepared for the purpose of defending litigation against the United States." In order to forestall any cover-ups or whitewashes, because I, Douglas Fir, served as a Field Observer (FOBS) on the fire, my (DF) comments correct several repeated, questionable comments, errors, and outright falsehoods regarding the whereabouts of Perryville Crew Boss Larry Terra and the alleged Crew Representative (CREP ) status of Dave LaTour per the Overhead Resource Order form ("O-41 ordered 6-26-90 at 1755"), and /or clarification on some other points regarding fire weather and fire behavior.
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely, but whoever takes crooked paths will be found out. Proverbs 10:9
"Our difficulties and our dangers will not be removed by closing our eyes to them." Winston Churchill
This quote below is a very suitable and germane quote from the book that kicked off the High Reliability Organization (HRO) movement in the USFS. The book is titled "Managing the Unexpected - Resilient Performance in an Age of Uncertainty" by Karl E. Weick and Kathleen M. Sutcliffe (2007) concerning accurate, truthful, and complete lessons learned.
"[T]he period right after the chaos of battle ... there are truths lying around everywhere that may be picked up for the asking. This is the moment of learning. But it wasn't long before candor gives way to moments of normalizing that protect reputations, decisions, and styles of managing. As soon as official stories get 'straightened out' and repeated, learning stops." (emphasis added - p. 109)
The June 1990 Dude Fire and all other wildland fire fatalities fit squarely into the traps listed above.
"They" may think they are promoting and instilling true lessons learned in today’s WFs and FFs, but in reality they are threatening to raise future generations in darkness, ignorant of the wildfire culture’s complexity and doomed to repeat the same mistakes for which so many have paid such a high price.
What follows is a February 11, 2004, email and attached contour map with fire perimeter locations and times from U.S. Attorney's Office, Assistant US Attorney (AUSA) Mike Johns (RiP) to Schoeffler regarding the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire environmental and human factors and how they related to the eventual extreme fire behavior and WF fatalities in Walk Moore Canyon.
Figure 2. Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Michael A. Johns (RiP), February 11, 2004, email thread to Schoeffler regarding June 1990 Dude Fire fuels, weather, topography,Walk Moore Canyon, firing operations, and Dude Fire Staff Ride Source: Schoeffler
Figure 3. Unutilized Staff Ride map of fire perimeter estimates and times, dozer line locations, non-anchor point (Watch Out #8). Note 0800 to 1400 fire perimeter indicating minimal fire spread during that timeframe. Source: Schoeffler
As a former wildland firefighter (WF) but NOT an officially recognized former Payson Hot Shot Crew Boss as he had boldly claimed, AUSA Johns (RiP) was particularly well-versed in basic wildland fire. Thus, he has correctly pointed out that those involved on the firelines were tunneled in on the environmental factors while discounting the subtle warning signs in Walk Moore Canyon. However, I believe he may have missed the mark a bit with this statement: "No one was lulled by this because everyone knew the risk of blowup." I know the Hot Shot Crews knew the risk, but did the Perryville Crew Boss or Dave LaTour really know the risk of blowup?
He was spot on with his knowledge about "the downhill [fire] run the night before" being a "typical local phenomenon under The Rim."
His conclusion that they thought their burnout plan had "a good chance of success in keeping fire out of Bonita Creek" matches what the Alpine Supt. stated below (posted elsewhere on this website).
"With the support that was here, ... including six HS Crews; [there was] a plan in place to burn around the subdivision. Fire behavior that we were in observation of, at least what we could see, on the slope was non-threatening, really, it was actually working to our benefit ... if we could get this firing show around it [Bonita Creek Subdivision]. I felt like there was a pretty good probability of success ... at least this front of the subdivision. What we observed was very light. I estimated two, three, maybe four at best ... upslope, up canyon winds with a backing fire, and whether the burnout was progressing over there was affecting anything - from my perspective, no - it was not. That continued right on through 'til on my chronology, right about 1400 (2: PM) ..." (emphasis added)
Figure 4. Dude Fire Map with Control Road (64), Fuller Creek Road (4WD) and Walk Moore Canyon Road (4WD), and notations for Corner House, Dozer Line, Burnout Operation, Safety Zone, and the non-Anchor Point (Watch Out #8) Source: Flathead HS, Schoeffler, Record Files
What follows are two pages of what I (DF) refer to as AUSA Johns' (RiP) "Legal Version" of the Dude Fire Investigation Report. I call it the "legal version" because the Serious Accident Investigation Team did their own regarding the operational aspects. However, it was insufficient as a more formal legal document. The U.S. Attorney Office one was much more detailed, comprised of a chronological blending in all the sundry interviews, analyses and reports, witness statements, references and reference materials, conclusory and / or presumptive "comments" regarding the June 26, 1990, Perryville Crew Entrapment, Burnover, and Deployment from a "legal perspective" to defend in Court of Law.
Figure 5. AUSA Johns (RiP) Legal version of Dude Fire Investigation Report regarding the June 26th Perryville Crew Entrapment and Burnover and Deployment period (1418 to 1422) Source: AUSA, Schoeffler
Figure 6. (AUSA Johns (RiP) Legal version of Dude Fire Investigation Report regarding the June 26th Perryville Crew Entrapment and Burnover and Deployment period (1422 cont. to 1426) Source: Schoeffler / AUSA, Record Files
This paper by AUSA Johns (RiP) is well worth reading. What Was He Thinking? Beyond Bias - To Decision Making and Judging by AUSA and Senior Litigation Counsel Mike Johns (RiP). This paper was prepared for the 2007 Serious Accident Investigations course, BLM National Training Center, Phoenix, AZ.
He examines and discusses in quite some detail the following areas: "Cognitive Biases, Outcome Knowledge and Judging Quality of Decisions, Coherence Based Reasoning, Knowledge Structures and Schemas, Dispositionist Thinking and Judging - causation, responsibility and blame, Interpersonal and Intergroup Conflict, and Cultural Cognition."
What follows is the June 26, 1990, Dude Fire "Day Shift" Incident Action Plan (IAP), also formerly known as a Shift Plan.
Figure 7. Dude Fire Day Shift Plan 6-26-90 Cover Page Source: Schoeffler
Ages ago, they called these "Shift Plans." Today, they are called Incident Action Plans ( IAP ).
Figure 8. Dude Fire Day Shift Plan 6-26-90; Incident Objectives Source: Schoeffler
Figure 9. Dude Fire Day Shift Plan 6-26-90; Organization Assignment Sheet Source:Schoeffler
Note: In the six records that follow, I, Joy A. Collura (JAC) has over the years seen inconsistencies on Scott Hunt and in his real time positions on Wildland Fires, so my Public Records Requests asked for his "Job Titles" over the decades; and this is what I received:
Figure 10a-f. DFFM email thread between Bill Boyd and myself (JAC) June 9-10, 2020 regarding a May 29, 2020, Public Records Request (PRR) Source: Proton Email; Joy A Collura
Below is an email thread between Bill Boyd (Deputy Director of AZ State Forestry - Public Records), Martha McConnell / Laura Blandford (AZ State Archive Library) and Joy A Collura:
Friday, July 3, 2020 4:00 PM
To: William Boyd<firstname.lastname@example.org>
Good afternoon, Bill.
Have a loving 4th of July weekend.
This is the update-
So how do I access this area?
"From: Laura Blandford Sent: Monday, June 22, 2020 10:23 AM To: Martha McConnell <email@example.com>; Arizona.Desert.Walker <Arizona.Desert.Walker@protonmail.com> Subject: RE: Yarnell fire - Dude Fire Good morning Joy, I’ve reached out to the Department of Forestry and Fire Management to try and figure out what records Boyd is referencing. Our records do not show the State Archives as receiving anything in addition to the records you have already seen. I will keep you posted.
to then this...
Just a quick note to confirm that the State Archives does not have the records that Forestry is referencing. You have the finding guide to the only records we have received from them. I believe the confusion arises over the difference between records management and archives, both of which are overseen by our agency. With records management, our agency (LAPR) facilitates government agencies with the storage of their records but the agencies themselves have to provide access to the records as they still have legal custody. With archives, agencies transfer legal and physical custody of records to LAPR and we (the archives) provide access. It seems that the records you are seeking are still under the legal custody of Forestry and you will have to contact them about getting access.
Laura Palma-Blandford Deputy State Archivist Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Office: 602-926-3722"
Joy A Collura
Here are the 9g-m snippets (below) of the actual email thread:
Figure 10g-n. DFFM email thread between Bill Boyd, AZ State Archives Library, and myself (JAC) June 9-10, 2020 regarding a May 29, 2020, Public Records Request (PRR) Source: Proton Email; Joy A Collura
The June 26, 1990, IAP follows again (below). Divisions are used to divide an incident into geographical areas of operation. Groups are functional.
Figure 11. Dude Fire Day Shift Plan 6-26-90; Division Assignment (204) Div. A Source: Schoeffler
Figure 12. Dude Fire Day Shift Plan 6-26-90; Division Assignment (204) Div. B Source: Schoeffler
Figure 13. Dude Fire Day Shift Plan 6-26-90; Division Assignment (204) Div. C Source: Schoeffler
Figure 14. Dude Fire Day Shift Plan 6-26-90; Division Assignment (204) Div. D Source: Schoeffler
Figure 15. Dude Fire Day Shift Plan 6-26-90; Division Assignment (204) Div. E Source: Schoeffler
Consider now the IAP Division Assignment List for the Bonita Creek Subdivision as GROUP F, making it a functional versus geographic distinction. Groups are established to divide the incident into functional areas of operation. Groups are composed of resources assembled to perform a special function not necessarily within a single geographic division.
Figure 16. Dude Fire Day Shift Plan 6-26-90; Division Assignment (204) Group F Source: Schoeffler
Consider this from a Wildfire Today 2013 article, where a former WF claimed to be on the Dude Fire.
Commenter Ken says:
"As a young first year “Station Manager” (now called FOS, ADFMO, or Battalion Chief), I rolled into the Dude Fire as a TFLD with an engine in tow. We had driven all night and were supposed to be the 'fresh' crews for the day shift. As we rolled into the Dude Fire, things were going gunnysack." (emphasis added)
It was very common to get a fire assignment order late in the evening or early morning hours, and then drive all night to show up and be labeled as "fresh" crews. In addition, a Staff Ride a few years ago revealed a WF participant stating they were part of a Task Force of Engines from the North Kaibab that showed up in the Corner House area just as "things were going gunnysack."
And another one from a Zig Zag Hot Shot Commenter that sure looks like he was there. However, there is no other formally documented proof of what is claimed (i.e. the fire and hot gases rushing over them), based on some of the things Curtis Martin says:
"I was on the fire that day with Zig Zag hotshots working next to the Perryville crew. I handed a torch to them maybe 15 minutes before the thing blew up. Hot gas rushed over us. My lungs fried and I dropped to the ground to try sucking cooler air out of the dirt while Perryville burned. I had been discusted (sic) by the sticky red retardant that coated me from a tanker drop earlier. They had hit us directly and the goo ran down my back. That’s the only difference between my position and Perryville crew stringing down the valley from us. Many images remain burned in today. I remember the faces of Perryville as we met that morning on the trail. I remember the fellow that walked out of the fire in our direction. I forget if he lived or not. A few hours preceding the blow out I was convinced it was coming. I monitored weather. Noted the winds, the rain falling when humidity had been at 2%, all day. I said to those close to me 'it’s not good. Its going to blow.['] Were mid slope and not near the black. There must have been a hundred bad signs and clear failures to act according to rules and training. A few minutes later it came through the trees like a blast of toxic gas followed by exploding trees. We walked up slope and found the living. Then back down to watch a man walk out of the fire leaving the dead behind him. The whole week became madness as we went back in and faught (sic) the thing on the cliffs of the rim. I remember the town cobbler fixing my melted boors for free. It was an honor to be there with all those firefightes (sic) from.so many places and backgrounds. Its (sic) a thing that rarely fades. The sound. The speed that a spark would flash into a large spot fire. Instantly. Im (sic) all to often outraged as I read the yearly stories of more wildland firefighters burned to death in conditions they never should have been sent. The rules of engagement on the fire line are clear.and reasonable. Its (sic) shocking how frequently they are ignored. I wouldn’t trade that day for anything. But I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. Burning to death is an ugly thing so fitting to but contradicting the colors and beauty of a large fire. Craziest thing I’ll ever see. I miss those guys. (emphasis added)
Figure 17. Dude Fire Day Shift IAP 6-26-90; Air Operations Summary Source: Schoeffler
Figure 18. Dude Fire Day Shift IAP 6-26-90; Incident Radio Communication Plan Source: Schoeffler