top of page
Search
  • Writer's pictureJOY A COLLURA

What Are The Known Fatal YH Fire Weather Factors Explaining What Led to the GMHS Fatalities? Pt. 3

What Are The Known Fatal YH Fire Weather Factors Explaining What Led to the GMHS Fatalities? Pt. 3

Author Fred J. Schoeffler and other contributing authors

 

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


DISCLAIMER: Please fully read the front page of the website (link below) before reading any of the posts ( www.yarnellhillfirerevelations.com )


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


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


 

"WHAT THEY LIKELY DID NOT KNOW AT POINT B:


• A large thunderstorm over 15 miles to the north and northeast was creating an outflow boundary that was going to cause a wind direction shift and increase in velocity, resulting in an increase in fire spread rates and a directional change to the south.

• This outflow boundary had reached the north end of the fire at 1618 according to Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar.

The crew’s possible rate of travel would be less than half of what it had been to this point due to lack of a defined trail, heavy vegetation, and rocky terrain between the crew and the Ranch.

• [BSR] was further away than it appeared.

• Other resources did not understand fully when the [GMHS] attempted to communicate their movement."

"FOUR COURSES OF ACTION AVAILABLE AT POINT B, AROUND 1620:


Course of Action B1: Descend here; move toward the Ranch through the box canyon


Appeared to be the most direct, shortest, and fastest path to the Ranch.

The fastest route was desirable because of the perceived threat to the community of Yarnell.


"The fire was not below them. They last saw it continuing parallel and away from them.


• Taking this action would cause them to change their travel direction more to the east then southeast.

The [BSR] seemed close.

They could see their destination and they would continue to see it as they descend. This would give a sense of security that the destination seemed reachable.

• They would lose sight of the fire quickly as they descended toward the Ranch. However, they would see the smoke and keep some idea what the fire is doing. [A clear violation of the Fire Orders and disregard for the Watch Out Situations]

• They lost the option to head off the backside of the ridge southwest toward Highway 89." (SAIT-SAIR p. 39)


"Course of Action B2: Continue along the two-track road


The road would permit easier travel than hiking through the brush.

Would keep them higher on the ridge and may provide better visibility of the fire and smoke column.

• Could keep open the option to move over the ridge, southwest toward Highway 89 allowing for a secondary escape route.

• Not the most direct route of travel to the Ranch.

• A longer route with longer hiking time would increase the time before they could reengage on the fire, reunite with their other crewmember and vehicles, and resupply."

 

[Consider now these Figures 16. to Figure 18. photographs and video of the two GMHS Crew Carriers. The YH Fire was the third time the GMHS left their Crew Carriers unattended in the unburned green without drivers, e.g (1) Sunflower Fire (AZ TNF) 2011, (2) Holloway Fire (NV BLM) 2012 - Vimeo video), and (3) Yarnell Hill Fire (AZ ASF) 2013]

Figure 16. GMHS Crew Carriers parked in a clearing on June 30, 2013. Source: Collura Gallery


Figure 17. GMHS Crew Carriers being "saved" by an OR Contract Engine Crew. Source: Vimeo


[Consider now an informative and insightful WantsToKnowTheTruth (WTKTT) video putting GMHS locations, travel routes. equipment, etc. into clearer perspective. Titled: MacKenzie-IMG-2738-035531PM. Date Created: August 12, 2019. Video Description: Crossfade from GMHS Christopher MacKenzie’s (RiP) iPhone 4S image IMG-2738, taken at 3:55:31 PM on Sunday, June 30, 2013, at the YH Fire, into the equivalent Google Earth terrain view. The YELLOW line represents the right-side edge of the image. Video link: (https://youtu.be/KCB1mcS22Ys)]


Figure 18. Crossfade from GMHS Christopher MacKenzie’s (RiP) iPhone 4S image IMG-2738, taken at 3:55:31 PM on Sunday, June 30, 201,3 at the YHll Fire, into the equivalent Google Earth terrain view. The Yellow line represents the right side edge of the image. Source: YouTube, Google Earth, WTKTT

 

"Course of Action B3: Go off the back side of the ridge, southwest toward Hwy 89 (SAIT-SAIR pp. 39-40)


Since this option had been available all along, there would need to be a compelling reason to take this option now as opposed to doing it earlier.

• Current position was not under imminent threat from fire.

• Lighter fuels on the backside of the ridge.

Moving away from the fire and from fire alignment with terrain.

• Consistent with normal practice in that part of country. Heading down and out is a typical path away from fire.

• Might become stranded in a remote location, further from being relevant to an ongoing threat.

• Would require transportation by others to return to Yarnell.

Would face a lengthy time before being able to re-engage in tactical operations.

• There was no tactical reason to move along this route."


"Course of Action B4: Return to the black (SAIT-SAIR p. 40)


Since this option was available all along, there would need to be a compelling reason to take this option now as opposed to doing it earlier.

Current position not under imminent threat from fire.

• If the black was a desired location and appropriate course of action, they could have just stayed there."


"COURSE OF ACTION TAKEN: B1


"Key Action C: The Granite Mountain IHC’s shelter deployment around 1642


"WHAT THEY LIKELY KNEW


"While they were descending the slope after about 1620, the Granite Mountain IHC likely knew or perceived:"


• The ridge, boulders, and brush sheltered them, so:


o They could no longer see the fire, including its direction and rate of spread.

o They lost the ability to feel or see wind changes

o They had a limited view of the smoke column, a lagging indicator of fire location and fire behavior."


[These are clear indicators of Fire Order violations and ignored and unheeded Watch Out Situations indicators of changing weather and imminent adverse fire behavior]


• The smoke is heading parallel to them and as an indicator of fire spread likely means that the fire is not headed toward them."


"As they reached a small opening in the brush and the terrain begins to flatten, at about 1639, the [GMHS] likely knew or perceived:"

 

[At this juncture, there is a definite need to clarify some details with what immediately follows. It's as if the SAIT-SAIR believes and is verifying that there were firing operations taking place and that the GMHS was aware of at least one of them, likely the one from the Sesame-Shrine Corridor. The "a view of smoke in front of them and coming over the ridge behind them" statement suggests why they used the sham SAIT-SAIR Figure 18. idealized image of the implied "fire above and fire below."]

 


• They suddenly had a view of smoke in front of them and coming over the ridge behind them.

• The smoke was blowing southward [a North wind]. Within minutes, flames were visible ahead of them and were coming over the ridge behind them.

• Winds were coming out of the north and had pushed the flaming front into the mouth of the canyon, and the fire was spreading directly towards them.

• They could not escape the box canyon before the fire reached them.

• They had limited time until the fire reached their location.

• They had very few options.

(SAIT-SAIR pp. 40-41)

 

[“The truth of the matter is that you always know the right thing to do. The hard part is doing it.” General Norman Schwarzkopf, U.S. Army] Military Leader quotes

 

"At this point, the [GMHS] descended from the two-track road, taking the most direct route toward the Boulder Springs Ranch." (SAIT-SAIR p. 40)

 

Figure 19. June 30, 2013, early morning hours photo of the unburned eventual GMHS Deployment and Fatality Site Source: Joy A. Collura Gallery

 

[Continuing with the SAIT-SAIR:] "Key Action C: The Granite Mountain IHC’s shelter deployment around 1642 (SAIT-SAIR p. 40)


"WHAT THEY LIKELY KNEW


"While they were descending the slope after about 1620, the [GMHS] likely knew or perceived:


"The ridge, boulders, and brush sheltered them, so:


"They could no longer see the fire, including its direction and rate of spread.

They lost the ability to feel or see wind changes

They had a limited view of the smoke column, a lagging indicator of fire location and fire behavior.


• The smoke is heading parallel to them and as an indicator of fire spread likely means that the fire is not headed toward them."


"As they reached a small opening in the brush and the terrain begins to flatten, at about 1639, the [GMHS] likely knew or perceived:"


They suddenly had a view of smoke in front of them and coming over the ridge behind them.

• Winds were coming out of the north and had pushed the flaming front into the mouth of the canyon, and the fire was spreading directly towards them.

• They could not escape the box canyon before the fire reached them.

• They had limited time until the fire reached their location.

• They had very few options." (SAIT-SAIR p. 41)


"COURSES OF ACTION AVAILABLE AT POINT C, AT 1639:


"Course of Action C1: Run away from this location, seek a safer location or move to another site to deploy fire shelters:


• No obvious safe locations were visible.

• Nearby rock piles appeared to have less vegetation.

• Rocky areas were about 120 yards uphill through heavy brush and there would not have been enough time to reach them.

• Uneven terrain and rock piles are not preferred fire shelter deployment locations." (SAIT-SAIR p. 41)


"Course of Action C2: Prepare current location and deploy fire shelters

here:


• Certainty that survival from advancing fire was not possible outside shelters.

• Uncertainty of whether survival from advancing fire was possible inside shelters.

• Remaining together rather than scattering best maintained crew cohesion.

• Very little time for any other course of action."


"COURSE OF ACTION TAKEN: C2


"By 1639, the [GMHS] was preparing the site for fire shelter deployment. Within minutes, they were deploying fire shelters." (SAIT-SAIR p. 41)


"Summary


"In this Analysis, we attempted to put key actions in context. Key actions included A) Leaving the black and heading along the two-track road for the [BSR] after 1604; B) Descending from the two-track road at about 1620, taking the most direct route to the [BSR]; and C) Deploying fire shelters at about 1642. This is the [SAIT's] interpretation and reconstruction of these moments. We may be presenting a more deliberative thought process than what the [GMHS] actually used at the time. Nobody will ever know how the crew actually saw their situation, which options they considered or what motivated their actions. The purpose of this section is to provide a tool that others can use for learning and prevention." [The assertive phrases "Nobody will ever know" and "we will never know" and other similar ones are mentioned at least a half-dozen times in the SAIT-SAIR.


"Conclusions


"The Team developed these conclusions through deliberation. The process considered information from a number of sources, including accounts from personnel on the fire, records and logs, physical evidence, knowledge of the firefighting culture, Team observations, and SME sessions."


• The [GMHS] was a fully qualified, staffed, and trained hotshot crew. They were current with the required training and met work/rest guidelines. The crew followed all standards and guidelines as stated in the Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crew Operations and the Arizona State Forestry Division’s Standard Operational Guideline 804.

 

[Consider the (1) "2011 Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crew Operations" (SIHCO) two-page signed cover letter (upper left & right) which would have been in place for the 2013 GMHS fire season; the (2) two-page 2011 SIHCO Proficiency Checklist; the one-page "Arizona State Forestry Division’s Standard Operational Guideline 804" (SOG) signature page (2013) (below SIHCO page 2) which also would have been in place for the 2013 GMHS fire season; and three-page SOG for FFT2, FFT1, CRWB, and DIVS which would have certified and qualified everyone on the GMHS for the 2013 fire season]













Figure 20. 2011 Standards for Interagency Hotshot Crew Operations two-page signed cover letter (upper left & right) which would have been in place for the 2013 GMHS fire season; the (2) two-page 2011 SIHCO Proficiency Checklist; the one-page ASF Division’s Standard Operational Guideline 804 (SOG) signature page (2013) (below SIHCO page 2) which also would have been in place for the 2013 GMHS fire season; and three-page SOG for FFT2, FFT1, CRWB, and DIVS,.which certified and qualified GMHS positions for the 2013 fire season. Source: SIHCO; ASF SOG



 

The Yarnell Hill area had not experienced wildfire in over 45 years. It was primed to burn because of extreme drought, decadent chaparral, and above average cured grass loadings.

Although Yavapai County had a Community Wildfire Protection Plan, many structures were not defendable by firefighters responding to the Yarnell Hill Fire. The fire destroyed over one hundred structures.

 

[Expanding on the above SAIT-SAIR statement, consider now the following very informative and very insightful July 2013 research paper posted here and elsewhere on this YHFR website that addresses several of the preceding SAIT-SAIR statements briskly challenging and contradicting them] Morrison P.H. and George Wooten. 2013. Analysis and Comments on the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona and the Current Fire Situation in the [US]. Pacific Biodiversity Institute, Winthrop, WA. 34 pages.


"Executive Summary, Key Findings, Recommendations"


"The fact that the Yarnell Hill Fire grew out of control was predictable. ... There was extreme fire weather ... Unfortunately, it appears that insufficient attention was placed on the critical warning signals of extreme fire weather and fuel conditions, leading to an unfortunate loss of lives."


"The weather conditions from the beginning of the fire through the day that the 19 firefighters died (June 30) should have been a strong warning that extreme caution was needed in fighting this fire. These weather conditions also contributed significantly to the destructive effect the fire had on the native chaparral vegetation as evidenced in the post-fire photography. These conditions contributed significantly to [the] intensity of the fire as it burned through Glen Ilah and Yarnell destroying homes."


"Seasoned wildfire fighters and wildfire experts know that there are many times when the only sane thing to do is to retreat. ... There is really nothing that they could do to counter the incredible energy and force of the Yarnell Hill Fire. Following the [T]en [S]tandard [F]ire [O]rders ... can alert fire managers of extreme fire conditions where ground forces are not appropriate."


"Tragedies like the Yarnell Hill Fire are preventable."

 

>

The fire’s complexity increased in a very short time, challenging all firefighting resources to keep pace with the rapidly expanding incident.

>

The [GMHS] had been watching the active fire burn away from their position all day but their observations did not lead them to anticipate the approaching outflow boundary or the accompanying significant fire behavior changes. These changes included a doubling of fire intensity and flame lengths, a second 90-degree directional change, and a dramatically accelerated rate of spread.

>

• The [GMHS] did not perceive excessive risk in repositioning to [BSR]. (SAIT-SAIR p. 43)

The [SAIT] found no indication that the ]GMHS] doubted the black was a valid safety zone, or that they moved towards the [BSR] because they feared for their safety if they stayed in the black.

Based on radio conversations, [OPS] and other resources had concluded the [GMHS] was located in the black, near the ridge top where they had started that morning. This resulted in confusion about the crew’s actual location at the time of search and rescue. [According to a retired GMHS fill-in FF, Marsh had a policy that only 2-3 GMHS were allowed to monitor Command, Air-Ground, and Tactical radio channels. All other GMHS were to be on the Crew Net; and none were allowed to reveal their location, intentions, etc. We called it “going dark.” Everyone did it occasionally. However, Marsh did it a lot. “Intentionally vague” as the silver-tongued, smooth-talking Co-Team Leader Mike Dudley called it during the 2014 Utah Unified Fire Authority YH Fire discussion (Figure 21.). Commenter Matt Hines nails it and summed it up quite accurately here: "I can't even count how many times I have watched this video and many others on Yarnell Hill, South Canyon, Thirty Mile etc... Read all the books. This seminar is extremely well done. After reading all the blogs and investigative reports, there are some things that I just can't come to any other conclusion than the powers that be are involved in a cover up, most likely to protect the fallen supervisors, families and the departments involved in this mess. You absolutely cannot deny that the ultimate decision to descend through the canyon lies with Marsh and Steed. Even if Marsh ordered Steed or someone else ordered Marsh, they had the ultimate responsibility for the decisions for their crew. They violated so many 10/18's it's almost unfathomable! Why? Was it fatigue, bravado, duty? Why hasn't McDonough ever given a statement under oath? Is there any validity to his alleged statement about Marsh and Steed arguing and if there was, why wouldn't he have told Brian Frisby with Blue Ridge to get hold of Marsh and talk him out of it? How are there no radio communications for 30 minutes until the final calls for help? The fact that no one was watching over them or even aware where they were is mind blowing. Even more crazy is I understand they did a staff ride to South Canyon just a year before and said it would never happen to them? It literally did! Tragic...but what has changed?"

Figure 21. Yarnell Hill [Fire] video of SAIT Co-Team Leader Mike Dudley fairly in-depth discussion with Utah Fire Authority FFs Source: YouTube, Fitz Peterson, UT Fire Authority


[Continuing on with the YHFR post]


In retrospect, the importance of the 1526 weather update is clear. However, the update appears to have carried less relevance in the crew’s decision-making process, perhaps due to the wind shift (starting at about 1550) that preceded the outflow boundary, or perhaps because of the time it took the outflow boundary to reach the south end of the fire (at 1630). It is possible they may have interpreted the early wind shift as the anticipated wind event.

>

At the time of the shelter deployment, a VLAT was on station over the fire waiting to drop retardant as soon as the crew’s location was determined.

The judgments and decisions of the incident management organizations managing this fire were reasonable. Firefighters performed within their scope of duty, as defined by their respective organizations. The [SAIT] found no indication of negligence, reckless actions, or violations of policy or protocol." (SAIT-SAIR p. 43)

Recommendations

>

 

[However, the YH Fire and GMHS Staff Ride are highly vetted with the “official conclusion” noted above as the primary source of information, thus blatantly and intentionally excluding and ignoring the US Army Center of Military History Staff Ride handbook edict: “A staff ride requires the support of as many sources of information as can be obtained. Even the simplest campaign entails an enormous number of facts, and the more of these instructors and students can gather and assimilate, the better they can interpret the campaign. If both primary and secondary accounts exist, both should be utilized.”]

 

"4. The Team recommends that the State of Arizona request the National Wildfire Coordination Group (NWCG) to review current technology that could increase resource tracking, communications, real time weather, etc. For example, this may include GPS units and weather applications.


"5. The Team recommends that the State of Arizona request the NWCG and/or Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) to charter a team of interagency wildland fire and human factors experts to conduct further analysis of this event and the wildland fire communications environment. [The AZ State Forestry never "chartered a team of interagency wildland fire and human factors experts to conduct further analysis of this event and the wildland fire communications environment" [This author made a personal commitment to take accept it]

>

 

[The ensuing eight paragraphs about Sensemaking, Situational Awareness, and other Wildland Fire-related training are rife with contradictions and feckless blather because so many WFs and FFs have been threatened - and are still being threatened - about speaking openly about the YH Fire and GMHS debacle, especially those that were there June 30, 2013. Many of these EFs and FFs are suffering because of it.]

 

"We present these issues as discussion starters, recognizing that this is not a definitive list of issues raised by this fire, and that these are not the only questions to ask about wildland fire organizations and operations. 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."


"Sensemaking refers to how people select what seems important to attend to, and how this influences their actions. According to organizational theorist Karl Weick, who popularized the phrase “sensemaking in organizations,” people cannot possibly cope with all of the raw data and information coming at them at a given moment. Instead, what a person pays attention to is a function of identity, past experience, their understanding of their purpose, and other factors. Sensemaking is a very active process whereby people literally “make sense” of the world around them at each moment."


"People engage in sensemaking both individually and collectively. In fire, the term situational awareness describes sensemaking: how comprehensively and how accurately are you making sense of the actual fire environment you are working in? Collective sensemaking is about

communication: it is about how crews, IMTs, and host agencies determine potential strategies and tactics, and how they convey and update these during planning meetings, briefings, operations, debriefings, and in after action reviews. Effective risk management communication involves more than simply reporting and transmitting messages. It requires developing effective shared meaning together through dialogue and inquiry. This discussion will frequently return to the concept of collective sensemaking and the role of inquiry in that process."


"In a rapidly escalating transition fire, all personnel are simultaneously making sense of two environments at once: the rapidly changing fire environment and the changing organizational environment. At around 1600, an outflow boundary was approaching the Yarnell Hill Fire area

with high winds that would hit the fire from a new direction. The sensemaking part comes in terms of the interpretation that people make of that change in the environment, of indicators that change might occur, and of the organization’s changing response."


"It is far easier for us to know how we would make sense of the situation in hindsight than it is to know how the [GMHS] made sense of it. We know that the [GMHS] was actively making sense of their situation, but we also know that their sensemaking and that of others on the YH Fire did not prevent this tragedy. Because other wildland firefighters have similar training, knowledge, and experience to the {GMHS], it is likely that others could “make sense” in a similar manner and suffer a similar outcome. The lessons of the YH Fire are not found in second guessing crew actions in hindsight but in understanding through foresight how things may have made sense at the time. Issues worth discussing for the safety of firefighters on future fires include situational awareness, fireline safety, communications, and incident organization. (SAIT-SAIR p. 47)


"Situational Awareness


"Wildland fire training emphasizes the importance of situational awareness, or comprehensively and accurately perceiving the environment. It is not possible to 'lose' situational awareness except by falling asleep or being knocked unconscious. The important questions are “What are people paying attention to and why?” And, “What are people not paying attention to and why?”


"For the second question, although it is easy to see in hindsight those things that turned out to be important, it is important not to engage in the counterfactual by assuming a reality that did not exist for the crew. It is better to ask, 'Why might it have made sense to focus on or not to focus on those things at the time?' because others may find themselves in the same situation in the future."


"We do not have the benefit of asking questions of the people whose situational awareness we are trying to understand. Nevertheless, using the information available, coupled with the Team’s and the SMEs’ understanding of wildland fire culture, we developed two conclusions that may point to the focus of the [GMHS]"


• "The [GMHS] left the lunch spot and traveled southeast on the two-track road near the ridge top. Then, they descended from the two-track road and took the most direct route towards [BSR]. We believe the crew was attempting to reposition so they could reengage."


• "The [GMHS] had been watching the active fire burn away from their position all day but their observations did not lead them to anticipate the approaching outflow boundary or the accompanying significant fire behavior changes. These changes included a doubling of fire intensity and flame lengths, a second 90-degree directional change, and a dramatically accelerated rate of spread."


"The [GMHS] did not perceive excessive risk in repositioning to Boulder Springs Ranch".


"The wildland fire community recognizes that hotshots are capable of handling difficult assignments. One [SAIT] member identified hotshots as 'engagement experts,' known to be persistent, flexible, and improvisational. This makes them valuable on many types of fires, including transition fires. As the day developed, action moved to the north end of the fire. With the fire reaching trigger points near Yarnell and with evacuations beginning, firefighters probably realized the time it would take to evacuate a town of that size. Although we will never know for sure, we considered how the [GMHS] might have reasoned: If they stay in the black, they do no good. If they move, they might do some good even if they do not know what that good will look like. They think they can move without it being especially risky."


"We have no indication that Operations or anyone else asked the [GMHS] to move to a new location but we assume they decided this on their own, believing they could reengage and help defend Yarnell. A culture of engagement and a bias for action is part of wildland firefighter identity and a factor in their success, and in this case, a bias for engagement may have prompted them to move." (SAIT-SAIR p. 47) [See 9-11-22 YHFR What Fatality and "Prescott Way" Causal Factors Does PFD Wildland BC Willis Reveal in the July 2013 GMHS Deployment Zone News Conference?]

 

"Few things are as destructive and limiting as a worldview that assumes people are mostly rational."

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert

 

[Once again returning to more fire weather excerpts and also rife with contradictions and feckless blather because so many WFs and FFs have been threatened - and are still being threatened - about speaking openly about the YH Fire and GMHS debacle, especially those that were there June 30, 2013. Many of these EFs and FFs are suffering because of it.]


"What were they not focused on? Using available information coupled with [an] understanding of wildland fire culture, we reached the following conclusion:"


"In retrospect, the importance of the 1526 weather update is clear. However, the update process, appears to have carried less relevance in the crew’s decision-making process, perhaps due to the wind shift (starting at about 1550) that preceded the outflow boundary, or perhaps because of the time it took the outflow boundary to reach the south end of the fire (at 1630). It is possible that they may have interpreted the early wind shift as the anticipated wind event." (SAIT-SAIR pp. 3 & 48)

>

"The outflow boundary update that the NWS communicated to FBAN at 1526 seems to have been relayed efficiently throughout the incident organization. FBAN radioed the update to Operations, and Operations checked in with the crews to make sure they received the update. The [GMHS] affirmed and passed along the information to their lookout. We considered why this weather update might have carried less relevance with the [GMHS], leading to discussions of desensitization, false alarms, and aging of information." (SAIT-SAIR p. 48)


"The [GMHS] affirmed and passed along the information to their lookout. We considered why this weather update might have carried less relevance with the [GMHS], leading to discussions of desensitization, false alarms, and aging of information." (SAIT-SAIR p. 48)


"People in the desert southwest may become desensitized to high temperatures and low relative humidity during certain times of year. As two SMEs figured, crews in the area likely received messages over the preceding two months similarly predicting conditions such as hot weather, dry fuels, and thunderstorms. In other parts of the country, these kinds of predictions are rare; when they do occur, they constitute 'strong signals.' ... repetition of strong signals resets the cognitive baseline for what is 'normal.' People desensitized after repeated warnings start to rely on other cues to identify new and relevant conditions."


"Consider the role of false alarms. If weather conditions described in one update do not occur, or occur at a diminished level as happened in this case, what will be the level of confidence in the next weather update? Does that decrease the confidence in future weather updates originating from the same source? Although we will never know the answer to this question, it is worth asking: In the absence of observed cloud and column conditions, to what extent did the [GMHS] think the weather in the second update was not going to materialize because weather in the first update occurred on a diminished level ...?


"Regarding aging of information, people process information based on a variety of factors including perceived timeliness, reliability, and observations. Weather personnel often issue forecasts covering a set timeframe. If the forecaster considers the update reliable for a finite

period, the recipient may draw conclusions about its window of relevance. The older a weather forecast or update is, the lower the receiver’s confidence in the update. If predicted conditions have not materialized in an otherwise dynamic atmosphere, this could further decrease a firefighter’s confidence in aging weather updates." (SAIT-SAIR p. 48)

>

Appendix B: Fire Environment & Behavior Analysis

>

"Weather: The Southwest region of the United States experiences a weather phenomenon known as the Summer Monsoon. ... Gusty outflow winds dominate the drier thunderstorm period. ... Winds are highly variable during this period with [the] highest wind speeds tied to thunderstorms.


"The region was in its initial stages of a significant heat wave prior to the thunderstorm. The Phoenix airport, about 110 miles southeast of Yarnell, reported a high of 110ºF, 4o above normal. The fire area reported high temperatures between 101º to 107ºF. Humidity was low, ranging between 8 to 10 percent.

Figure 22. Snippet of SAIT-SAIR Figure 7. Desert thermal boundary detected by FAA radar at 1332 MST.


The morning of June 30 was warm and dry. Maximum relative humidity usually occurs at night when the temperatures are the coolest but overnight relative humidity recoveries were poor, ranging from 25 to 35 percent. Minimum temperatures across the broader fire area ranged between the mid 70s to mid 80s. The Phoenix airport recorded a low temperature that was 10º above normal. Warm overnight temperatures and poor humidity recoveries are two critical fire weather indicators for daytime significant fire growth across the Southwest. Wind speeds were low overnight.


The Phoenix and Flagstaff National Weather Service (NWS) offices released routine weather balloons to capture atmospheric profiles of temperature-humidity and winds at 0400 MST. These balloons reported increased

moisture and instability across the middle portion of the atmosphere,

indicating potential for thunderstorm development and a high likelihood for strong downdraft winds and subsequent outflow. As the morning progressed, temperatures increased and humidity values dropped. The observed southerly wind flow was typical for the area.


Figure 23. Snippet of SAIT-SAIR Figure 7. Doppler radar image from June 30 at 1200 MST. Source: NWS-Albuquerque.


By late morning, field personnel noted cloud buildups to the north. By 1200, temperatures were in the mid to upper 90s under full sun conditions with humidity values ranging from the upper teens to around 20%. The Flagstaff Doppler radar indicated a broken line of thunderstorms extending from near Flagstaff southeast to Forest Lakes along the Mogollon Rim (Figure 6). These storms were moving towards the west-southwest. Red colors indicate the most intense storms. Between 1200 to 1300 MST, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) radar detected the formation of a weak but discernible boundary west of the fire location. Boundaries indicate changes or discontinuities in the atmosphere that can include changes in temperature, humidity, or wind. The boundary was orientated southwest to northeast. The boundary may have formed due to the intense heat coming off the surface, terrain interactions, and significant mid-level wind shear found above. ... The boundary sharpened and slowly progressed over the fire area between 1300 to 1330 MST.


The yellow arrows on Figure 7 show the boundary in relation to the fire area (yellow line) at 1332 MST. The boundary appeared to create instability above the fire and it caused a slight decline in humidity and a slight rise in temperature. The winds increased and flow fluctuated, becoming westerly, especially near the north end of the fire area. ... The boundary coincided with an increase in fire behavior according to fire personnel interviewed. The red box in Figure 7 shows a weak smoke signature and a strong thunderstorm to the east of Prescott with weaker cells developing over the Bradshaw Mountains At 1500 MST, the FAA radar showed a slight shift in the Desert Thermal boundary towards the east and south with some weakening based on radar returns. A line of thunderstorms over the Bradshaw Mountains to the north and northeast moved towards the fire area, darkening the skies. Temperatures remained around 100º with humidity values between 14 and 20%.


West-southwest winds continued, but were somewhat variable based on

field reports. Figure 8 shows the lightning between 1300 and 1530 as the storms were tracking west-southwest. It was during this time that a fire official, responding to the Yarnell Hill fire from Prescott, recalled

driving through an intense thunder cell between Prescott to Skull Valley along Highway 89. ... This person also observed strong winds from the pass into Skull Valley below.


From 1500 to 1530 MST, the FAA radar showed an outflow boundary originating from the thunderstorms to the northeast. An outflow

boundary, or gust front, is the leading edge of an outflow wind system caused by downdrafts from cumulonimbus clouds. It acts similarly to a cold front, bringing a wind shift and usually a drop in temperature. The yellow arrows on Figure 9 show the outflow boundary has raced out ahead of the parent line of storms towards the fire area at 1604. The red shape shows the fire plume. After this movement, the original line of storms slowly began to weaken.


Lightning trends associated with this decaying line of storms showed no change in location. Skies remained dark towards the north and northeast and field personnel would have had a harder time gauging storm movement and the potential threat to the Yarnell area.


As the outflow boundary approached the fire area, the wind field gradually shifted to the west-northwest, pushing the fire towards the east-southeast. At 1618, the FAA radar showed the outflow boundary nearing the northern most end of the fire area (Figure 10). The boundary had traveled 16 mph, covering 13.5 miles in 50 minutes. The mid and upper-level winds influencing the smoke plume had also begun to shift. The red shape in Figure 10 shows the smoke plume.

Two fingers of concentrated smoke had begun to develop by this time.

Around 1620 MST, field personnel near Highway 89 in the Yarnell area began to hear thunder, and shortly afterward noted spritzes of rain or mist mixed with ash. ... The Flagstaff Doppler radar showed an increase in plume height shortly after the outflow boundary initially passed, likely

indicative of increased fire behavior.


Figure 24. Snippet of SAIR Figure 12.NWS Flagstaff Doppler radar echo-top image 1633 MST Source: SAIT-SAIR

At 1624, Doppler radar indicated a 31,500-foot MSL plume top. By 1633, the plume top (Figure 12) had pulsed up to 38,700 feet. The plume during this time began to shift towards the southeast (yellow circle on Figure 12) as the outflow boundary crossed the northern half of the fire area. ... At 1629, the Flagstaff Doppler radar showed a distinct contrast between the smoke plume and the approaching shower band (Figure 13). The main smoke plume, indicated by blue and white colors, shows a shift towards the south-southeast. The red and yellow colors indicate mixed precipitation such as ice crystals and water droplets to the north and east of the fire area. ...

Figure 25. Snippet of SAIR Figure 14.Outflow boundary on FAA radar at 1642 MST Source: SAIT-SAIR

The FAA radar at 1630 showed the outflow boundary draped across the southern end of the fire area. Yellow arrows on Figure 14 show the boundary. A photo taken by a professional photographer showed the outflow boundary initially cresting the ridgeline at 1639 (Figure 15).

Figure 26. (right) Snippet of SAIR Fig. 15. Initial outflow signature northeast of Congress, AZ at 1639 MST. Figure 17a.(left) Snippet of SAIR Fig. 16. A more pronounced outflow signature is observed over the ridgeline Northeast of Congress, AZ. Source: SAIR, Matt Oss


Another photo taken at 1642 (Figure 16) shows the outflow boundary spilling over the ridgeline further south of the initial crest.


"The top of the fire column grew from 32,800 to 40,000 feet MSL. This was the peak value observed by the Doppler radar on June 30. A satellite image provided by the Cooperative Institute of Meteorological Satellite Services showed a well-formed pyro-cumulus punching through the mid-level cloud deck that had overtaken the fire area at 1645 MST. The red circle in Figure 17 shows the pyro-cumulus cloud."


Figure 27. Snippet of SAIR Fig. 17 Visible satellite image at 1645 MST. Red circle shows the pyro-cumulus cloud. Source: SAIT-SAIR

 

"The [SAIT-SAIR] report didn't address why the interagency Hotshot crew was still on the scene for more than an hour after the winds shifted the fire back toward them June 30." Source: US News (August 8, 2013) Yarnell Hill FFs Kin Say They're Being Cheated Out of Benefits

 

[Regarding the June 30, 2013, YH Fire fuel conditions and local factors (i.e. Watch Out No. 4) from a long-term local resident no less. And did GMHS Travis Carter pass this information on to his supervisors, Steed and Marsh?] "Down at Incident Command, the rest of the crew was having breakfast before setting out. A Yarnell man named Rick McKenzie approached with some advice. Rick’s family had been in Yavapai County for 150 years, since his great-grandfather moved from Nova Scotia to prospect for gold on Yarnell Hill. He bow-hunted in these mountains, and he knew the terrain well. He went up to one of the Hotshots, a squad boss named Travis Carter. "Thanks,” Travis said, nodding. “We appreciate that.”


Local rancher Rick Mckenzie warnings ignored about Yarnell Hill Fire (emphasis added) The Last Battle of the Granite Mountain Hotshots - Men's Journal - Josh Elles

 

[And remember that there were also those pesky two Eyewitness Hikers that shared the best view of the YH Fire with the GMHS and Air Attack.] "Throughout the morning, the hikers watched thunderstorms building to the northeast, near Prescott. Gilligan knew the storms could affect the fire. 'When there’s a thunderstorm in an area like this, that wind can change quickly, and it can change fast,' Gilligan says. 'That’s where the danger is.'” Source: InvestigativeMEDIA, YouTube


Figure 28. Joy A. Collura and Sonny Gilligan describe the condition of the GMHS and YH Fire activity and fire weather (thunderstorms) on June 30, 2013, Part 1. Source: IM John Dougherty


[Commenter jackofbalarat22 8 years ago - "Smells like more state failures and incompetence -failure to aggressively fight the fire when it was small, sending up a team that should have been out of service and then not following the proper fire rules. Their fatigue probably caused the Hotshots to not think clearly and led them to disregard the rules and make the wrong choices."]

Figure 29. Joy Collura and Sonny Gilligan describe the condition of the GMHS and YH Fire activity and fire weather (thunderstorms) on June 30, 2013, Part 2. Source: IM John Dougherty

 

And now to address and answer the post title question: What Are The Known Yarnell Hill Fire Weather Factors Explaining What Led Up To The June 30, 2013, GMHS Fatalities? Part 2

 

But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 1 Peter 3:14 (NKJV)

 

Continuing - clearly, the SAIT-SAIR excerpts and supporting articles, research, videos, etc. indicate that the YH Fire weather indicators were openly visible to anyone and everyone in an operational setting on a daily and regular basis. Those GMHS - allegedly highly trained professionals - watched those thunderstorms and outflow wind indicators all through the day. They even regularly acknowledged those and passed those on to other members of their Crew.


One of our all-time favorite YHFR (January 24, 2019) posts on this very problematic and bewildering topic is: "Why is it that a group of 'Hybrid' Firefighters from the Sun City West Fire Department successfully and judiciously noticed the increased June 30, 2013, late afternoon fire behavior, and then proactively disengaged, but the Granite Mountain Hot Shots (GMHS) perished because they did neither?"


"When you watch and listen to the 'Hybrid' Firefighter's (FF) video clips in the link above you will readily acknowledge that they knew the right thing to do and then did it. Several of the Eighteen Watch Out Situations should come to mind as you view the photos and watch and listen to these video clips. You will clearly notice increasing fire behavior as seen in the flame lengths and dense black smoke columns, terrain, and fuels that make escape to safety zones difficult, unburned fuel between you and the fire. These 'Hybrid' Firefighters only fight wildland fires on a part-time, call-when-needed basis. They are primarily Municipal and Structural FFs that deal with residential and commercial structure fires, medicals, hazardous materials, technical rescues, inspections, education, occasional wildland fires, and a plethora of other duties. And yet, these 'Hybrid' FFs were able to apply their training and the Basic Wildland Firefighting Rules, observe and understand what they were observing, discern the urgency of the deteriorating situation and leave the area (disengage) in a timely fashion. The very same Basic Wildland Firefighting Rules the GMHS had been trained in."


"The reason why a group of 'Hybrid' Firefighters from the Sun City West Fire Department successfully and judiciously noticed the increased June 30, 2013, late afternoon fire behavior, and then proactively disengaged, but the Granite Mountain Hot Shots (GMHS) perished because they did neither is because the 'Hybrid' FFs knew the Basic WF Rules and recognized and heeded and mitigated the Watch Out Situations, so blatantly obvious to themselves and so many others that afternoon. This should be a good take-away lesson for all you WFs that think 'Hybrids' don't know what they are doing on wildland fires."


Figure 30. Crossfade video of a photo taken at 4:24 PM on June 30, 2013, on the YH Fire, by firefighter Jerry Thompson and Sun-City-West Engine BR131 serving as 'lookouts' at a location just West of 'Westway' in Yarnell. The Yellow line represents the Sesame-to-Shrine dozer line. The photo shows that, circa 4:24 PM, the fire was definitely coming into Yarnell from out in the 'middle bowl' area, but there was no 'fire' or 'smoke' actually coming from the Youth Camp or the dozer line itself. Source: SCW FD Thompson, YouTube

 

And now to address and answer the post title question: What Are The Known Yarnell Hill Fire Weather Factors Explaining What Led Up To The June 30, 2013, GMHS Fatalities - Part 2.

 

"O my God, make them like a wheel; As the stubble before the wind. As the fire burneth a wood, And as the flame setteth the mountains on fire; So persecute them with thy tempest, And make them afraid with thy storm. Fill their faces with shame; That they may seek thy name, O LORD." Psalm 83: 13-16 (NKJV) [How about it? Is this what happened on June 30, 2013?]

 

And considering the above Sun-City-West FF and Engine BR13 June 30, 2013, 4:24 PM YH Fire cross-fade video is in Figure 30. clearly shows that the fire weather was definitely pushing the fire into Yarnell from out in the 'middle bowl.' And there was no 'fire' or 'smoke' actually coming from the Youth Camp or the dozer line.


[Moreover, there are numerous excerpts regarding the GMHS and others observing weather changes and the obvious (and not-so-obvious) fire weather indicators. As you read through the SAIT-SAIR, it becomes quite clear that the GMHS, as well as those two pesky Eyewitness Hikers, had the best view of the YH Fire along with the Air Attack; "The fire was not below them. They last saw it continuing parallel and away from them., (SAIR p. 39 ... "They could no longer see the fire, including its direction and rate of spread."

o They lost the ability to feel or see wind changes"

o They had a limited view of the smoke column, a lagging indicator of fire location and fire behavior. ..." (SAIR p. 40). And the GMHS were the only ones that failed to follow the tried-and-true Fire Orders and the Rules of Engagement and Entrapment Avoidance principles, disregarded, and failed to heed and mitigate the increasing 18 Watch Out Situations that are far removed from the typical Naysayer “Hindsight Bias.”and about the SAIT-SAIR “we will never know” blather, we actually do know - Marsh confidently and matter-of-factly said: “If we’re not actually doing it, we’re thinking and planning about it.” (The Columbian 7/3/13) ]


Consider this "Failure to Learn From the Past" research from two Dutch scientists' research on the April 2010 British Petroleum (BP) Oil Company Deep Water Horizon disaster affiliated with Radboud University in The Netherlands: "The problematic nature of learning from failure is reflected in the fact that accidents with seemingly similar causation trajectories keep recurring (e.g. Vaughan, 2005). ... Yet the institutional perspective can shed more light on why this failure to learn occurs: Because the occurrence of disasters ultimately is an organizational phenomenon, accident investigations tend to focus on identifying organizational causes (Carroll, 1998; Elliott and McGuinness, 2002). ... Future research should aim to develop a deeper understanding of the influence of [the] institutional environment on organizational safety (Elliott and Smith, 2006) to learn effectively from disasters and prevent their recurrence, one should look outside of organizations for the contributing influence of institutions on disaster development. Looking for similarities between disaster development patterns is one way to identify the influence of taken-for-granted beliefs and practices." How many blowouts does it take to learn the lessons? An institutional perspective on disaster development Verweijen, Lauche. Safety Science, 111, (Jan. 2019)


Now consider this from the above Dutch scientist Bno Verweijen (Radboud University) on the same subject: "Parties try to protect or promote their interest and try – consciously or subconsciously – to exclude each other from the learning process. ... Although learning from spills is a process in which various parties collaborate to try and improve industry safety, it also appeared that learning is a power struggle", says Verweijen. "This influenced the lessons that were ultimately learned and the ones that were ignored." A different outlook would make the oil industry safer. Phys-Org (2018, Sept. 20) retrieved 17 July 2022

 

“There is no evil under the sun but what is to be dreaded from men, who may do what they please with impunity: They seldom or never stop at certain degrees of mischief when they have power to go farther; but hurry on from wickedness to wickedness, as far and as fast as human malice can prompt human power.”


“It is nothing strange, that men, who think themselves unaccountable, should act unaccountably.”


— Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letters No. 33 (1721)

 

These well-known and widespread images and posters below, located at almost every wildland and municipal fire duty station, firehouse, Hot Shot Base, Smokejumper Base, etc. throughout the US and abroad are literally and undeniably worth thousands of words with the answer!





Figure 31. “Only Minutes - Blowup to Burnover” - Yarnell Hill Fire” (left) - LCES - Mann Gulch, South Canyon, Cramer, and Esperanza Fires poster (right) Source: NWCG, WFSTAR


Комментарии


bottom of page