Cascade Complex; What Happens In The Forest

………stays in the forest?

Wildlandfire.com admin. posted the text of the official report of the Cascade Complex ICP burn over on August 12. It’s a great read, what it says in part;

“On the afternoon of August 12th 2007, two individuals funded through a wildland fire resource order were moving roll-on garbage dumpsters from a spike camp. The couple was involved in a motor vehicle accident within the closure area of the Cascade Wildland Fire Complex. The accident disabled their vehicle and apparently resulted in non-life threatening injuries to both occupants. Following the accident the individuals left their vehicle and began hiking towards the Cascade Complex Incident Command Post. During or shortly before this time, the road they were on was closed due to fire activity. While hiking along the closed road, the individuals were overrun by the wildland fire. The individuals took shelter from the fire in or near a culvert. It does not appear that either individual was injured by the fire. Several hours later the couple was discovered along the same road by other contractors who then transported them out of the fire area……..

For reasons unknown at this time, the facts surrounding this entrapment were not reported to the Washington Office until September 13, 2007.

On August 13th the Cascade Complex Incident Command Team implemented a Stay-In-Place plan as the Cascade wildland fire burned around their Incident Command Post. The Stay-In-Place plan, the decision to implement the plan and the decision to remain in place for several days following the event resulted in several unintended consequences including the fact that numerous individuals were subjected to elevated levels smoke and carbon monoxide resulting in acute respiratory symptoms and illness.

You can see the offending smoke and action about the camp as the fire made its run in this PDF photo essay compiled by the Great Basin National Incident Command Team there at the time.
You can see the non fire personnel with paper air filters over their mouth sitting in the middle of the camp in one image.

I find it interesting this report is not posted on Inciweb, but that would only happen if the incident command team places it there. I sense a bit of a “circling the wagons” defense developing here. These command teams don’t want to shed a negative light on one another and since the fire is two months old up to 5 teams have rotated through.

By not reporting the accident and entrapment that led to the two contractors nearly becoming ash they opened the door to other questions about safety by Occupational Safety and Health Program Manager Randy Draeger and his people.

I don’t pretend to know if they could have evacuated the camp support personnel safely but those folks should have been afforded a ticket by helicopter or truck to a main road at least.

I’ve followed the Cascade Complex Fire since late July and even called it “The Full Forest Employment Fire of 2007.”

Not too sure I’m wrong.

On August 17 the fire had nearly 1,150 firefighters assigned to the (then) 155,000 acre blaze. The fire was 16% contained and the costs were $13.5 million to date.
Today the fire is 28% containment, 950 firefighters are assigned, the acreage is 299,000 and the costs to date are over $50 million.

The same evacuations are in place for some of these small communities like Yellow Pine and Johnson Creek.

Here is transcript of the Incident 209 sent to me this morning;

Remarks:
“Johnson Creek, Yellow Pine and Warm Lake residences are now in a Level II evacuation. Power lines to Johnson Creek and Yellow Pine are still shut down due to fire spread. Ditch Creek Bridge was burned and is still unsafe to cross. Coordination with East Zone continues for actions in and around Yellow Pine. The Salmon-Challis N.F. will take management action on areas east of the Middle Fork, in coordination with the Cascade Complex, but will still be reported on Cascades 209. Updated acres include: Monumental – 299,932. Acreage summaries are based on “administered forest” boundaries: Boise National Forest 205,011 Payette National Forest 34,223 Salmon-Challis National Forest 60,698 Private 272. No acre change due to trouble with the IR flight on 9/16 with only Middle Fork done. IR request on 9/17 is in areas of Curtis Creek and Yellow Pine.”

Finally and most important is 12 more firefighters have been injured since August 17. This “managed” fire approach is not only costly in dollars but risky to the health of firefighters and affected communities.
In light of the revelations outlined in the report above, the injuries to 16 firefighters, the extended evacuation orders and health concerns for outlying communities I hope the Forest Service big shots in Washington commission a team to pick this one to pieces for the benefit of firefighters that follow.

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