What Are The Known Fatal YH Fire Weather Factors Explaining What Led to the GMHS Fatalities? Pt. 3
Restating the post title beyond the limited Wix title allowance: What Are The Known Fatal Yarnell Hill Fire Weather Factors Explaining What Led Up To The June 30, 2013, GMHS Fatalities? Part 3 - ADOSH
Author Fred J. Schoeffler and other contributing authors
Views expressed to "the public at large” and "of public concern"
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Abbreviations used: Wildland Firefighters (WFs) - Firefighters (FFs).
He who trusts in his own heart is a fool,
But whoever walks wisely will be delivered.
Proverbs 28:26 (NKJV)
“Predicting the behavior of wildland ﬁres—among nature’s most potent forces—can save lives, money, and natural resources.”
Frank Albini (1984)
USFS fire behavior research scientist. USDA USFS
'There are a lot of things in life that only work when you commit. No dabbling. No half-in. I mean commit. Commitment means all in, all the time. ... If you’re half trustworthy, you’re untrustworthy. If you’re often reliable, you’re unreliable. If you’re mostly consistent, you’re inconsistent. The key to doing anything well is commitment. ... If committing sounds like a lot of work, it is. That’s why so many people are half-in. The problem with half-in and half-committed is that it rarely gets you the results you want. If you're uncommitted, get out. The committed person gets both the opportunity and the results. All in, all the time.' (edited and truncated Farnam Street #494 - 10/16/22)
This post will be about the Federally-funded USFS, Arizona Dept. of Occupational Safety (ADOSH) report titled "Granite Mountain IHC Entrapment and Burnover Investigation" prepared by the Wildland Fire Associates (dated Nov. 2013) and detailing mostly with the wildland fire weather information, hence the Part 3 in this title. We initially began this series of YH Fire, wildland fire weather posts with the What Are The Known Fatal Yarnell Hill Fire Weather Factors Explaining What Led Up To The June 30, 2013, GMHS Fatalities? Part 1 dealing with the numerous interested and knowledgeable academics, meteorologists, and several other well-known wildland fire weather aficionados and Nerds regarding the YH Fire. Then we progressed to the Federally-funded USFS Yarnell Hill Fire June 30. 2013. Serious Accident Investigation Report (SAIT-SAIR) Part 2. And finally we progressed to the current What Are The Known Fatal Yarnell Hill Fire Weather Factors Explaining What Led Up To The June 30, 2013, GMHS Fatalities? Part 3.
It is important to note that even though this was an Arizona State Forestry wildfire, both "investigations" were Federally-funded by the USFS and this was "factually" verified by two separate investigators, one from each of the two investigations. See Figure 14. below for USFS FOIA Request (FOIA 2019-FS-WO-04116-F) filed in May 2018. These diligent, virtuous ADOSH Investigators "borrowed" quite a lot from the SAIT-SAIR even though they were thwarted by the SAIT at almost every step of the way!
Reconsider now the two separate and distinct "investigations" from the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (WF LLC) Two More Chains article titled "What's Up With Incident Reviews?" dated Winter 2014 Vol. 3 Issue 4. It's actually fairly comprehensive and progresses from the 1937 Blackwater Fire (WY-Shoshone NF) and ends with the 2013 Yarnell Hill Fire (AZ - Private, State Forestry, and State Lands) while discussing the various investigative methods and outcomes, and the actual - or proposed - alleged "learning" and take-aways that are supposed to take place from those alleged "Learning Reviews."
A short SAIT-SAIR paragraph below and then on to the ADOSH report.
"2013 -Yarnell Hill Fire - 19 Firefighter Deaths"
“This report has two parts. Part One includes the fact-based Narrative of the incident and offers the Team’s Analysis, Conclusions, and Recommendations. Part Two, the Discussion section, is meant to prompt discussion and facilitate learning. It explores multiples concepts and
perspectives, in order to support the broader community seeking to make sense of the accident and to improve safety and resilience. ... The primary goal of this report is to facilitate learning from this tragedy, in order to reduce the likelihood of future accidents. ... [The SAIT-SAIR] does not identify causes in the traditional sense of pointing out errors, mistakes, and violations but approaches the accident from the perspective that risk is inherent in firefighting . . . In this report, the Team tries to minimize the common human trait of hindsight bias, which is often associated with traditional accident reviews and investigations . . . The Team finds no indication of negligence, reckless actions or violations of policy or protocol.” (pp. 4, 5, 46, and 60)
[Interestingly, the SAIT-SAIR boldly states on p. 46: "We challenge every wildland fire organization to identify issues and questions raised in this report that resonate within their organizations, and to initiate and facilitate ongoing discussions. ... [and] to continue the ongoing process of sensemaking." And so that is exactly what this author has been doing for the 'good of the cause' toward "complete lessons learned" albeit most often with mixed results, except for their alleged "Factual" part.]
Consider now the AZ Department of Occupational Safety and Health (ADOSH) portion from their own report. All the ADOSH fuels, weather, topography, fire behavior, human factors, leadership, and safety excerpts will generally be copied and pasted verbatim, mostly in plain red text, and bolded when it specifically addresses one of the above topics.
This ADOSH report clearly acknowledged: "Although GMIHC successfully followed most of the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders and LCES, this [Departure from Standard Practices] section discusses errors that were made by the [Granite Mountain IHC on the YH Fire]. ... The LCES checklist suggests that more than one escape route be available and that escape time and safety zone size requirements will change as fire behavior changes. ... There is no evidence that GMIHC had scouted and timed alternative escape routes or checked the escape route they used for loose soils, rocks or excessive vegetation. There is also no evidence that the crew had evaluated the escape time versus the potential rate of spread based upon the afternoon weather forecast." (ADOSH p. 41-42)
"A second error made by GMIHC is that they did not have a lookout when they made the descent to Boulder Springs Ranch [BSR]. ... Based upon interviews and incident documents, we could find no evidence that they requested a lookout as they traveled towards [the] BSR." (ADOSH p. 42)
"Finally, GMIHC had an obligation to notify their supervisor where they were moving and what route they would be traveling. The confusion that surrounded the search for the crew after the entrapment and burnover illustrates the importance of notifying the supervisor." (ADOSH p. 42)
This Part 3 post is where the Arizona Department of Occupational Safety (ADOSH) contracted with Wildland Fire Associates (WFA) and their report titled: "Granite Mountain IHC Entrapment and Burnover Investigation, Yarnell Hill Fire – June 30, 2013." The 2013 Wildfire Today link is once again utilized for the SAIT-SAIR. First off, within the WFA ADOSH report, the word "weather" generated 64 hits; the word "wind" generated 62 hits, and the word "outflow" generated 14 hits. In Part 1. this author focused on only key excerpts relative to the title, yet, in Part 2. this author found it necessary to branch out further. In Part 3. this author continues to branch out and uses a March 22, 2014, IM link, according to InvestigativeMEDIA (IM) Wants To Know The Truth (WTKTT) "The [WFA Report] never got much press ( or even much attention ). It has a narrative that reads a lot like the SAIR ( and, indeed, borrowed a lot of timeline verbatim from the SAIR ) … but it really was quite different from the SAIR." The current authors continue with that trend of branching out, however, the authors also give far more credence and trustworthiness to the more inquisitive and professional ADOSH investigation compared to the alleged bought-and-paid-for SAIT-SAIR, at a minimum, for these reasons:
Refreshingly, and thankfully, the ADOSH Investigation and Report actually compares and contrasts what the GMHS did and failed to do regarding the Fire Orders, Watch Outs. LCES, Rules of Engagement, etc. And in early September, the ADOSH team asked the two eyewitness hikers, (Joy A. Collura and Sonny Gilligan) to take them on the actual route that they hiked over that entire Friday to Sunday, June 28-30, 2013, weekend. And their route is basically the initial stages of the GMHS Memorial Trail route without admitting to that fact. The SAIT, on the other hand, merely did a phone interview in early August. The SAIT even denied certain individuals existed when factually seen and photographed by Collura. The one seen on the ridgetop on June 30, 2013, "around 0911" and wearing a full brim white hardhat (denoting a supervisor) and talking with GMHS / DIVS Marsh and Helitack Crewman Nate Peck, was appropriately nicknamed "Mystery Man" in our YHFR posts because of the SAIT's arrogant denial he was real.
See the Figure 2a. below for the "Mystery Man" photo image mentioned above from the Part 1 of 5 - Underneath every simple, obvious story about ‘human error,’ there is a deeper, more complex story - a story about the system in which people work. Will these formerly unrevealed public records change the account of what occurred on June 30, 2013?
It is important to shed light on the alleged GMHS mismanagement of their recurring safety deviations and the fatal decisions and outcome that followed. As noted by a senior NM HS Supt., during the October 2013 SW Area Hot Shot Crew AAR during the Integration Phase of a YH Fire and GMHS Deployment Zone Site Visit: "This was the final, fatal link in a long chain of bad decisions with good outcomes, we saw this coming for years." [And this was reverberated and solidified with over a half-dozen others stating that they had attempted peer pressure over the years to correct the GMHS bad decisions to no avail.]
Figure 1. Snippet of Decisions and Outcomes matrix Source: Schoeffler
"This was the final, fatal link in a long chain of
bad decisions with good outcomes,
we saw this coming for years."
(Senior NM HS Supt. - SWA HS AAR October 2013)
At first sight, the contrast is farfetched, but once the picture is painted there are similarities that make it useful related to the June 30, 2013, YH Fire weather that needs to be addressed. It demonstrates the impact of their point of no return and covers the SAIT-SAIR fuels, weather, topography, fire behavior, and what USFS PNW Risk Management Officer Matt Holmstrom refers to as human topography, i.e. human factors in his excellent International Association of Wildland Fire (IAWF) paper. In addition, there is also the amazingly accurate, useful, and verified (RiP) Doug Campbell Prediction System (CPS) to "Learn from the Past, Predict the Future" and his equally useful CPS Wildfire Management Tool excerpts while dealing with the conventional wisdom of the "Alignment of Forces" ("The three forces usually associated with fire behavior are Weather, Topography and Fuel, AKA the fire triangle") should also include the causal, human factors, because the September 2013 SAIT-SAIR deception with their bogus predetermined conclusion mindset. You will find that they boldly and falsely state that the SAIT-SAIR is a "Factual and Management Report" per the Delegation of Authority (below). This author's comments will be in this format enclosed within [Bold black brackets and italicized texts - This author will often provide corrective and / or explanatory text as well.] Please note that abbreviations will be utilized as much as possible and occasional sentence sequence liberties in order to save space and improve readability.
[Consider this lengthy excerpt regarding the military concept and term "Friendly Fire" used as an appropriate analog for this discussion - “This conflict of evidence is so wide that one is left with no other conclusion than someone is lying as part of a coverup. ... The conflict of evidence ... indicates that a cloak of secrecy has been drawn over this particular incident. ... Certainly, the authorities have gone to some lengths to conceal details ... Nothing is gained by coverups except delay; the truth cannot be permanently suppressed. ... unprepared to release the full facts."] pp. (3-21) (all emphasis added) Regan, G. (1995) Blue on Blue. A History of Friendly Fire. Avon Books.
[Continuing with the ADOSH narrative] "TIMELINE
"This timeline includes details from the 2013 Arizona Fire Season Outlook, as well as events as they occurred on the Yarnell Hill Fire from ignition to the time of the entrapment and burnover.
"PRE 2013 FIRE SEASON ACTIVITIES
"On March 28, 2013, the Arizona Fire Season Outlook was released by the Arizona State Forestry Division (ASFD). The area of Yavapai County that includes Yarnell was listed as having high fire potential due to low live fuel moistures, and the county as a whole was predicted to see a moderate increase in fire potential compared to the 2012 fire season:
“The chaparral vegetation type on State lands around Prescott, Yarnell, Mayer, and Bagdad is expected to have a below average live fuel moisture that will lead to high fire potential. Many of the chaparral stands are older with a high dead/live ratio that may prove resistant to control efforts due to the low live fuel moistures. Seasonal new fine fuel growth has been delayed due to the dry winter & late seasonal moisture.”
“Temperatures and ground moistures have not started the green up/growth of seasonal grasses. Grass loading is expected to be average in the perennial grasslands areas in the 3000 to 5000 foot elevations
near Cordes Junction, Mayer, Prescott Valley, Chino Valley, Verde Valley, and Peeples Valley. Fire potential is predicted to be moderate to high in these areas." (Source: 2013 Arizona Fire Season Outlook, Arizona State Forestry Division, March 28, 2013. page 10)
To everything there is a season,
A time for every purpose under heaven:
YARNELL HILL FIRE TIMELINE NARRATIVE (June 28, 2013)
On June 28 at approximately 1700 hours, the Yarnell Hill Fire was started by a lightning strike. The initial report was made to the Arizona Dispatch Center (ADC) at approximately1740by the volunteer fire department in Congress, Arizona (10 miles southwest of Yarnell, Arizona).
An ASFD Assistant Fire Management Officer (AFMO), who is also a qualified Incident Commander Type 3 (ICT3), traveled to Yarnell to be closer to the location of multiple new fire starts that resulted from the lightning activity.
Land jurisdiction in the Yarnell area includes private land, Arizona State Lands Department (for which Arizona State Forestry has fire suppression responsibilities) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The AFMO met with the BLM Fuels Specialist to coordinate actions on fires on either jurisdiction.
The Air Tactical Group Supervisor (ATGS) for the Doce Fire was requested to fly over the area to size-up the Yarnell Hill Fire and look for any more fires started by lightning. The ATGS stated that the Yarnell Hill Fire was in a boulder field with no vehicle access. The initial assessment was that the fire was less than a half-acre, only active in one corner and did not pose a threat to structures or people.
Based upon the initial assessment, the inaccessibility of the fire and concerns about being able to adequately support firefighters overnight, the AFMO, who had become the initial attack Incident Commander (ICT4) at approximately 1940, decided to delay initial attack of the fire until the following morning. The ICT4 planned for suppression activities the following morning and ordered two Arizona Department of Corrections (DOC) crews, a Type 6 engine and a Type 3 helicopter.
The strategy for the fire was full suppression. The tactic for the next day was to use a helicopter to transport people to and from the fire. A spot weather forecast was received at 2207.
June 29, 2013
At 0651, the ICT4 requested that the Single Engine Air Tanker Base at Wickenberg Airport be opened so that two Single Engine Air Tankers (SEATs) could be used. The plan was to use fire retardant on the north and south sides of the fire, but leave the west and east flanks open. There was a two-track road on the east side of the fire.
In the morning, a BLM Representative took a flight to update the status of the fire. The Yarnell Hill Fire was estimated to be approximately eight acres with little fire activity. From this assessment, the ICT4 and BLM Representative jointly developed an initial attack plan to put six firefighters from the DOC Lewis Crew and one helitack crewmember on the fire using the helicopter for transportation. ICT4 also planned to remove the firefighters from the fire by 1530 due to lightning risk from afternoon storms.
At 1011, ICT4 requested a helicopter to shuttle crews. The SEATs arrived mid-morning and dropped fire retardant on the flanks of the fire, each SEAT making two retardant drops to hold the fire perimeter.
At 1100, a BLM helicopter transported seven firefighters to the top of the ridge. The one helitack and six DOC Lewis Crew firefighters hiked in the
rest of the way into the fire.
At approximately 1225, the ICT4 reported the fire size was about two acres. The ATGS reported that the fire retardant had secured the south and west flanks, and indicated that a ridge flanked the fire to the north and that a two-track road secured the eastern flank.
Figure 1a. Snippet of ADOSH Figure 1.photo on two-track road early on 6/3//13 during test-fire operations indicating benign fire behavior influenced by light wind.. Source: ADOSH (p. 7).
At 1442, the ICT4 released the ATGS and the SEATs because the fire was holding on all four sides and no other fires ignited the previous day were still burning. The original plan by ICT4 was to fly crews down off the fire by 1530.
At 1500, a weather alert for thunderstorms was issued by the National Weather Service (NWS).
However, the storms dissipated prior to reaching the Yarnell Hill Fire.
At 1540, the ICT4 released the BLM brush engine and a local Peeples Valley fire engine that were being held in the event any new fires from the lightning on June 28 appeared. During the afternoon, the temperature reached a high of 116°F (recorded in Phoenix, Arizona).
At 1600, weather conditions were hot and dry. Winds from the west-southwest increased which led to increased fire activity.
At 1610, the ICT4 requested two SEATs and the ATGS to return to the Yarnell Hill Fire. The ADC sent one SEAT but held the second aircraft so that it could be available for the Dean Peak Fire.
About 1630, the Yarnell Hill Fire jumped the two-track road on
the east side of the fire, despite lack of winds associated with
thunderstorm activity. ICT4 indicated to ADC that there were
concerns about containment, and at 1655 ordered a Type 1
Heavy Helitanker and a Large Airtanker (LAT).
Figure 2. Snippet of ADOSH insert regarding strategy & tactics Source: ADOSH (p. 8).
[Air support by either helicopters and/or air tankers MUST be reinforced with some type of constructed fireline in order to be effective. Otherwise it is a total waste of time, effort, and our precious tax dollars.The BRHS, in their mostly unredacted statements, admitted that retardant drops were very uncoordinated and chaotic, including a near miss between a Type One Helicopter and a VLAT. There is even a video clip of that near miss.]
At 1730, 13 firefighters were assigned to contain the fire that
had jumped the two-track road. The Yarnell Hill Fire was
estimated at six acres. At some point near this time, the ICT4
learned that the DOC Lewis Crew was out of chainsaw gas which seriously hindered their effectiveness in chaparral.
Near the time the fire jumped the two-track road, approximately
1730, the BLM representative who was a qualified ICT3 made
an inquiry to the ICT4 whether the ICT4 wanted the BLM
representative to “take over the fire.” The ICT4 declined the offer.
At 1742, additional requested air resources declined dispatch due to high winds and severe weather between their home base and the fire location. The ICT4 continued to use SEATs to drop fire retardant on the Yarnell Hill Fire.
Soon after 1743, dispatch offered a Very Large Air Tanker (VLAT) from Albuquerque in place of a heavy air tanker that could not respond due to weather. Based on discussion with ATGS and the local BLM representative, the ICT4 declined the VLAT offer.
Between 1730 and 1924, the fire behavior and complexity continued to escalate. Based upon his interview and dispatch logs, ICT4 communicated a request to ADC for an Incident Commander Type 3 (ICT3), and then changed it to a State of Arizona Incident Management Team (IMT2) with the intention of having them take over the fire on June 30. ICT4 voiced concerns about potential threats to Peeples Valley and Yarnell, Arizona, in the following 24 to 48 hours. In addition, two structure group specialists
were requested (one for the north end of the fire at Model Creek and Peeples Valley, and one for the south end of the fire at Yarnell and Glen Ilah). The ICT4 also requested three Interagency Hotshot Crews (IHC). Three IHCs were assigned to the Yarnell Hill Fire: Blue Ridge IHC, Granite Mountain IHC, and Arroyo Grande IHC (who ultimately missed the assignment due to mechanical problems).
At 1924, the fire burned into chaparral to the north and northeast. Temperatures were above 100°F and relative humidity was 12%. Sustained winds of 10 miles per hour were reported with gusts up to 20 miles per hour out of the south and southwest. Estimated flame lengths were reported between 10 to 20 feet, and rate of spread was estimated at 5 to 10 chains per hour (1 chain = 66 feet.)
By 1938, the Yarnell Hill Fire was an estimated 100 acres. The fire was approximately one mile from structures in Peeples Valley and 2.5 miles from Yarnell, Arizona.
At 2200, the dispatch logs note that the ICT4 ordered additional resources including 14 engines, six water tenders, two Type 2 Hotshot Crews, two bulldozers, and numerous aircraft.
At approximately 2340, the Structure Protection Group 1 Supervisor (SPGS1) arrived. After a briefing from ICT4, SPGS1 was assigned to structure protection for Yarnell and began assessing infrastructure threats, including structures at risk, road networks and location of
safety zones, including Boulder Springs Ranch as well as other locations for structure protection personnel. The second Structure Protection Group 2 Supervisor (SPGS2) arrived late in the evening of June 29 and worked with SPGS1 and the ICT4 to order additional resources and start formulating a plan for June 30. SPGS2 described abnormally active fire behavior throughout the night. 13 firefighters remained on the fire.
Figure 3. Snippet of ADOSH insert regarding fire behavior and potential Source: ADOSH (p. 9).
June 30, 2013
On June 30, the ICT4, BLM Representative and SPGS1 met at 0100 to discuss using roads for indirect attack and the use of point protection strategy (a firefighting strategy that involves protecting specific points from the fire while not actively trying to line the entire fire’s edge (Footnote 2 ICS -09. p.2). [Indirect attack necessitates firing out the unburned fuel]
Between 0000-0400 minimum temperatures ranged from 70 to 80°F and maximum relative humidity ranged from 25 to 35%. [Bates paper below]
At 0300, the ICT4, SPGS1 and SPGS2 ordered additional resources.
Afterwards at 0330, the SPGS2 and ICT4 discussed the fire situation, very active fire behavior and probable outcomes for the strategy.
At 0700, a discussion between the ICT4, personnel from the previous shift, and incoming personnel occurred and continued as personnel moved to the Incident Command Post (ICP) at Model Creek School. The discussion included the incoming Incident Commander Type 2 (ICT2), two Operations
Section Chiefs (Planning OSC and Field OSC), SPGS1, a fire behavior analyst (FBAN), and deputies from the Yarnell County Sheriff’s Office. The Granite Mountain IHC (GMIHC) Superintendent, who had arrived prior to this meeting, listened in on much of the information sharing.
All personnel present were informed of the fire situation and tactics for June 30. The GMIHC Superintendent was assigned as the Alpha Division Supervisor (DIVS A), transferring leadership of the crew to the GMIHC Captain. The GMIHC were assigned to DIVS A with the task of establishing the anchor point at the heel of the fire, using direct and indirect attack.
After 0700 and before leaving for the ICP, the ICT2 informed everyone that the first priority was to have an air operations plan developed so that air resources could operate safely over the fire. ICT2 stated:
“ ... the second priority was that we had people at the school that were gathering and that there would be a briefing of those resources. And that none of us were to go anywhere including ICT4 until we got that briefing done at the school to give clear leader intent. (Footnote 3 ADOSH Interview with ICT2)”
This briefing occurred at 0930. GMIHC was not at the 0930 briefing at the ICP because they had already been given their assignment and had departed for the fire. The ICT2 stated in an interview that, at that time, he was unaware that the GMIHC had not been at the 0930 briefing.
At approximately 0800, the GMIHC arrived at the ICP. DIVS A received an operational briefing from the Field OSC which included a safety briefing and weather forecast. The SPGS1 took them through Yarnell and they stopped along Sesame Street. They discussed the location of the safety zone at the Boulder Springs Ranch, and the SPGS1 reminded the DIVS A that the crew also had the previously burned black area as a safety zone. In addition, during their internal crew briefing, all GMIHC crewmembers were told the escape routes would be into the burned area or back to the crew carriers.
At 0854, a VLAT was ordered by ICT4. The Incident Command Post (ICP) was designated at the Model Creek School in Peeples Valley.
At 0900, the Blue Ridge Interagency Hotshot Crew (BRIHC) arrived at the ICP and received a briefing.
Saying yes creates an obligation.
Saying yes commits you to something.
The things we say yes to have a habit of growing.
Farnum Street. Brain Food. No. 501 — Dec. 4, 2022. The Hidden Cost of Yes
The SPGS1 took them through Yarnell and they stopped along Sesame Street. They discussed the location of the safety zone at the [BSR], and the SPGS1 reminded the DIVS A that the crew also had the previously burned black area as a safety zone. In addition, during their internal crew briefing, all GMIHC crewmembers were told the escape routes would be into the burned area or back to the crew carriers. (See Figure 14. below)
Figure 4. Snippet of ADOSH Figure 2.photo on two-track road early on 6/3//13 during test-fire operations indicating increasing fire behavior with increased flames and darker smoke influenced by light wind. Source: ADOSH (p. 10).
At 0930, the incoming ICT2 and overhead team members and firefighters were briefed by ICT4 at the ICP. Immediately after the briefing, the Planning OSC assigned several resources to Structure Protection Group 2 to protect homes. Sometime after the briefing, the Planning OSC directed the SPGS1 to assess structures in the Yarnell area. SPGS1 confirmed that most homes were indefensible with available resources.
The BRIHC was instructed by Field OSC to drive to the fire area and to meet with the SPGS1 on their way to the fire. Soon after, DIVS A contacted BRIHC to discuss the fire.
At approximately 0930, DIVS A was briefed over the radio by a helitack crewmember who had been on the fire overnight. Weather and fire behavior observations were relayed to DIVS A along with a fire size
estimate of 500 acres. DIVS A was at the top of the ridge near a helispot.
SAIT "You never saw that man, he doesn't exist"
Figure 5. Snippet of YHFR post Part 1 of 5 - Underneath every simple, obvious story about ‘human error,’ there is a deeper, more complex story - a story about the system in which people work. Will these formerly unrevealed public records change the account of what occurred on June 30, 2013? Figure 12. dated 12/12/19 PDF JPEG image of "Mystery Man" and GMHS / DIVS Marsh photo talking on ridgetop above the fire June 30, 2013, approx. 0915-1015 Source: Schoeffler, Honda, Collura
At 1000, during a reconnaissance flight, a helicopter crewmember saw the GMIHC. The crew was about 100 yards from the fire’s edge, heading for the burned area. By this time, the BRIHC had been assigned to connect their line with GMIHC’s line. [See Collura photo in Figure 7. below]
Figure 5a. Snippet of SAIT-SAIR Figure 5.photo of the GMHS on two-track road early morning on June 30, 2013, approaching the fire's edge Source: Joy A. Collura, SAIT-SAIR (p. 17).
At 1022, formal transfer of command from ICT4 to ICT2 was announced via radio.
Around 1030, the BRIHC parked their crew carriers next to the GMIHC carriers. The BRIHC Superintendent and Captain unloaded their utility task vehicle (UTV) and continued along Sesame Street. They encounter SPGS1 who requested a Heavy Equipment Boss (HEQB) to manage a dozer. The dozer was to clear out the two-track road on both sides as far as possible to provide access and prepare for a possible burnout. BRIHC
assigned one of their squad leaders, a qualified HEQB, to help.
The BRIHC Superintendent and Captain scouted the fire edge while the HEQB took the dozer as far as an old abandoned grader to push a clear area around it. HEQB turned in the direction of the saddle near GMIHC’s anchor point, then planned to turn around and clear out the two-track road between Sesame Street and Shrine Road. During these operations, the remaining crewmembers of the BRIHC stayed with the crew carriers.
Figure 6. Snippet of ADOSH insert regarding increasing early morning extreme fire behavior, winds, and potential Source: ADOSH (p. 11).
Consider now the solid research and fire behavior indicators by former TNF PRD District Ranger Robert Bates' (1960) NWCG paper "A Key to Blow-up Conditions in the Southwest?" He postulated that nighttime temperatures above 7°C (45°F) portend critical condition potential; and when they rise above 10°C (50°F) blow-up condition potential will exist. He established these temperature thresholds (81°F (27°C) in the semi-deserts and 11°C (52°F) in the pines) from his analysis of wildland fires in the Southwest. He concluded that the day following the highest nighttime temperature generally revealed the most extreme fire behavior. From experience and research, This author has found this principle to be accurate nationally except for the Southeastern Region due to the usually associated high relative humidity values. This author gives this method high credence and uses the midnight to 0800 high nighttime temperatures based on current and/or archived (RAWS) Remote Access Weather data. Sources: Large wildfire growth and dry slots in the United States (Fred Schoeffler COF) Proceedings of 4th Fire Behavior and Fuels Conference, February 18–22, 2013, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA. Published by the International Association of Wildland Fire, Missoula, Montana, USA (pp. 254-280); Fire Management Today (Vol. 63, No. 3, Summer 2003. pp. 68-71)
The day following the highest nighttime temperature generally revealed the most extreme fire behavior.
At 1030, the SPGS2 described the head of the fire as a 1.5-mile line of fire at the north end towards Peeples Valley.
At 1045, the Yarnell County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation notices to the residents of Model Creek and the Double Bar A Ranch.
At 1100, the fire front in the basin was moving to the northeast. The tactics were to continue to use SEATs at the heel of fire. Fire activity continued to increase as the day got warmer and drier. Cumulus clouds built up to the north. Planning OSC contacted DIVS A via radio to determine if DIVS A could see the cloud formations. DIVS A indicated that he could see the clouds and would keep an eye on the weather.
By this time, the BRIHC Superintendent and Captain reached the old grader and were able to see GMIHC working on the east side of the ridge, slowly burning off the two-track road. Over the radio, the BRIHC Superintendent and Captain noted that the GMIHC was trying to get the fireline connected with the two-track road so the fire could not burn back up the ridge.
Based on the escalating fire danger, the ICT2 informed the State of Arizona FMO that the Yarnell Hill Fire needed a full IMT2.
At 1130, fire behavior became much more active. Fire personnel became engaged in structure protection.
Between 1130 and 1145, the GMIHC conducted burnout operations, and DIVS A and ATGS discussed tactical options. ATGS directed two SEAT drops at 1136 and 1145 directly onto the burnout operations.
DIVS A indicated via radio that the drops were not what he wanted. As a result of the drops, GMIHC shifted tactics from building indirect line to going direct along the fire edge. During this same period, a short squad of the GMIHC moved to the west side of the ridge and tied into the burned area and steep rocky terrain. DIVS A considered this connection a good anchor point.
At 1154, after driving the two-track road on a UTV, the BRIHC superintendent and Captain met DIVS A and the GMIHC Captain at the anchor point. Over the next half hour, they discussed tactics and agreed
to use a GMIHC crewmember as a lookout (GM Lookout). The GM Lookout identified a lookout spot down near the old grader at the bottom of the slope, and the GMIHC Captain agreed it would be a good vantage point. DIVS A and the GMIHC Captain discussed communication problems which included inappropriate tone guards on some radios with the BRIHC Superintendent and Captain.
Between 1200–1230, a weak southwest-northeast frontal boundary developed west of the fire locations.
Figure 7. Snippet of ADOSH Figure 3.Photo taken by a GMHS member on two-track road
early on June 30, 2013 during retardant drop on their burn out operations. Source: ADOSH (p. 12).
At 1204, ICT2 held a quick meeting with Command and General Staff, during which a VLAT was dropping retardant on the fire. On top of the ridge, the short squad of the GMIHC rejoined their crew on the east side of the ridge near the anchor point.
At 1210, Division Supervisor Zulu (DIVS Z) arrived at the BRIHC crew carriers and called DIVS A to discuss a division break and resource assignments. DIVS Z also had radio problems, so he used a BRIHC crew radio to talk with DIVS A over the Blue Ridge intra-crew frequency. DIVS A and DIVS Z could not agree on the division break location or associated supervisory responsibilities.
At 1227, the BRIHC Superintendent and Captain left the top of the ridge and brought the GM Lookout down to the old grader site and drop him
off to be a lookout for BRIHC and GMIHC. The BRIHC Superintendent and Captain continued to drive roads looking for a way to connect the
planned suppression action.
At 1230, radio communication frequency changed to Tactical Frequency 3 (TAC3) due to increased communication from SPGS2.
At 1239, the GM Lookout was dropped off at the old grader. After hiking to the lookout spot (roughly 120 yards north of the old grader), both DIVS A and the GM Lookout confirmed they had a good view of each other and the fire edge. At this time, the head of the fire had pushed north toward structures in Peeples Valley. The fire was also backing towards the GMIHC location. Drainages were located between the crew and the fire. The crew
anticipated the fire would become more active around mid-afternoon, and expected no additional support because the focus of aircraft and firefighters was at the head of the fire on the north end.
Consequently, the GMIHC planned to construct line directly along the fire edge. When GMIHC reached a rock face they stopped to eat lunch. After lunch, the crew worked their way back, reinforcing their line as they went, ensuring they had a good anchor point.
For lookouts, they had DIVS A on a knob, GM Lookout down by the grader and GMIHC Captain near the anchor or in the immediate vicinity of the crew. Each of these individuals had been looking out for the other two lookouts, the crew and the fire. In the event the fire changed direction, the GM Lookout had geographic trigger points established for the crew and for himself. The crew had on-going contact with the BRIHC, SPGS1, and Planning OSC and talked among themselves about the incoming
thunderstorms. They also contacted air resources and adjoining forces as needed.
Figure 8. Snippet of ADOSH Figure 4. Photo taken by a GMHS Crew member on two-track
road on June 30, 2013, indicating ready to go with fireline packs on. Note rolled-up sleeves, i.e.indicating Normalization of Deviance. Source. ADOSH (p. 13).
At 1300, the weak southwest-northeast frontal boundary sharpened and slowly moved over the fire area.
The ASFD District Forester and the ICT2 developed a complexity analysis. Based upon this analysis, the ICT2 recommended ordering a full Type 2 IMT. However, the District Forester and the State FMO changed the recommendation to a Type 1 IMT and placed the order through ADC.
By 1330, the fire had advanced towards the ICP and forced personnel to move vehicles to keep them from being burned.
At 1402, the FBAN received a weather update from the NWS. The FBAN was informed that thunderstorms were predicted to occur east of the fire and might produce wind gusts up to 35 to 45 miles per hour with winds out of the northeast.
This information was relayed to Planning OSC and Field OSC via Tactical Frequency 1 (TAC1).
At 1420, the resources assigned to Structure Protection Group 2 located north of the fire retreated due to the fire near the Double Bar A Ranch.
At1447, the second Aerial Supervision Module (ASM2) arrived to relieve ASM1. After a 10 minute briefing, ASM2 met an arriving VLAT and supported structure protection north of the fire. However, fire conditions changed which shifted priorities towards Yarnell. The ATGS was still on scene overhead.
At 1500, the outflow boundary originated from thunderstorms to the northeast of the fire area.
At 1526, the FBAN received an update from the NWS. North to northeast winds of up to 40 and 50 miles per hour were now expected from the thunderstorm outflows. This information was relayed to Planning OSC and Field OSC via TAC1.
At 1500, the outflow boundary originated from thunderstorms to the northeast of the fire area.
At 1530, winds changed course by 90° to the south-southwest. There was approximately three miles of an active flaming front. Between 1530 and 1545, Planning OSC and DIVS A discussed the thunderstorm cells both to the north and south of the fire. Also at this time, the wind picked up and shifted direction from the southwest to the west-northwest. There was spotting and heavy ash fell onto fire personnel working in the youth camp area. The two-mile flanking fire started to look like a head fire and was moving to the southeast.
At 1540, the fire reached the first geographic trigger point for SPGS1 and an evacuation of the city of Yarnell was requested. DIVS A called Planning OSC and communicated that the retardant line and dozer lines were compromised but that GMIHC was in the burned area.
Figure 9. Snippet of ADOSH SPGS2 interview regarding outflow winds Source: ADOSH (p. 14 )
At 1545, the SPGS1 met up with Field OSC. The Field OSC called
ASM2, indicating that the winds were getting erratic and
requested that ASM2 check on the GMIHC when they got a
At 1550, several communications occurred at or near the same
time. Field OSC called DIVS A by radio to make sure that DIVS A
was aware of the latest weather update. DIVS A confirmed the
update and noted that the winds were getting “squirrely” on the
ridge. DIVS A informed Field OSC that GMIHC moving off the top.
At around the same time, the ATGS informs DIVS A that the fire was headed toward Yarnell and could reach the town in one to two hours. In addition, the GMIHC’s crew carriers were in the path of the fire.
DIVS A acknowledged this information and planned to address the problem. [This was a clear example of the GMHS Normalization of Deviance! - and in fact - the THIRD time someone else had to "save" the GMHS Crew Carriers! First time - Sunflower Fire (AZ TNF-2001), second time - Holloway Fire (aka "Nevada Fire - NV & OR BLM 2012) Watch the Vimeo video in Figure 12a. below. ("We saved the GMHS buggies from burning up") go to this 2013 Vimeo video by Colby Drake (2:40 to 3:25 timeframe). When the helmet cam video pans to the left, in the upper left of the frame, freeze-framing the video will reveal a black hardhat GMHS running down the handline toward their Crew Carriers. This was the second time someone else "saved" the GMHS Crew Carriers.]
Figure 10. Snippet of June 30, 2013, 3:36 PM (1536) aggressive fire behavior with GMHS Crew Carriers in an unburned opening (bottom left) Source: Kurt Florman
Figure 11. Holloway Fire (NV & OR) 2013 Vimeo video by Engine Boss Colby Drake showing this Contract Engine Crew "saving" the GMHS Crew Carriers Source: Vimeo, YouTube
At about 1550, the GM Lookout was taking weather observations when the GMIHC Captain called to relay the weather update. GM Lookout acknowledged the message and continued to take weather
observations. By the time the GM Lookout completed the weather observations and scanned the surroundings as well as the crew location, the fire had started building and the wind was beginning to shift. GM Lookout recognized the fire had hit the first trigger point established for his safety. After informing the GMIHC Captain, GM Lookout moved towards the open area at the old grader. The GMIHC Captain received the information relatively calmly.
InvestigativeMEDIA photo link of AZ State Forestry DropBox of GMHS alleged "lookout" McDonough photos and videos "Brendan McDonough took these photos on June 30, 2013. He provided them to the Accident investigation Team." (https://www.dropbox.com/sh/mmb98r3j53s2urp/AAByKsspNPJQ24ujuVzMxjf9a)
As the GM Lookout hiked toward the grader, he noted the options open to himself including an alternate lookout spot further up the road, a possible shelter deployment site near the grader, and a little clearing just down from his original lookout spot where he could deploy his fire shelter if needed. The BRIHC Superintendent was driving back to meet DIVS A for a face-to-face meeting. He met with the GM Lookout as he reached the grader. [This was a completely unplanned event]
The BRIHC Superintendent and Captain picked up GM Lookout with their UTV, and called GMIHC on the radio. GMIHC informed BRIHC Superintendent and Captain that they had good visibility, they were
in the burned area and they were assessing their situation. As GM Lookout departed the lookout spot, he believed the GMIHC was in the black and were watching the fire and that DIVS A was scouting 4 (ADOSH Interview with GM Lookout.)
Between 1550 and 1554, some GMIHC crewmembers took photos of the fire and sent text messages to family members about the fire.
At 1555, fire was burning along the ridge north of Yarnell. The SPGS1 lost use of an air-to-ground radio frequency, and communication was interrupted. The BRIHC Superintendent dropped the GM Lookout
off at the GMIHC Superintendents truck. The GMIHC crew carriers were moved. On the GMIHC intra-crew frequency, GM Lookout heard the DIVS A and GMIHC Captain discussing the options of whether to stay in the black or to move (5. ADOSH Interview with GM Lookout). ["On his way down to [the] old grader [he] looks at a spot that he might use as a deployment site to his right [and] decides its to (sic) small and continues to [the] area of [the] old grader"]
Figure 12 Snippet of SAIT GMHS alleged "lookout" McDonough interview regarding fire weather update from GMHS Steed, spot wx forecast, trigger point, and BRHS interactions Source: SAIT, IM
Figure 12a. Snippet of SAIT GMHS alleged "lookout" McDonough interview regarding fire weather update from GMHS Steed, spot wx forecast, trigger point, and BRHS interactions Source: SAIT, IM
At 1558, ATGS abruptly leaves the fire and goes to Deer Valley. He turned air tactical operations over to ASM2 who was busy dealing with lead plane duties at the time. ASM2 got a very brief update from ATGS that did not include division breaks locations and the location of the on-the-ground firefighters 6. (ADOSH Interview with ASM2.
ASM2 had been ordered as a lead plane because ATGS functions were covered.
At 1600, the fire reached Yarnell, Arizona and evacuations were underway. About this time, the ASM2 overhears radio communication referring to a safety zone. ASM2 contacted Field OSC to clarify the exchange. Planning OSC confirmed that the GMIHC was in “a good place,” in the burned area. ASM2 was asked to check on the crew, but it was not an urgent request. Soon after, ASM2 communicated directly with DIVS A. DIVS A informed ASM2 that they were moving and indicated that everything was okay.
Figure 13.. Snippet of ADOSH Figure 5. of Matt Oss June 30, 2013, fire behavior time-lapse video Source: Matt Oss, ADOSH