1. #1
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    Post Investigation - Cramer fire deaths

    BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The deaths of two men killed while battling
    the Cramer fire last summer were partly caused by poor oversight
    and significant safety lapses, a report by the U.S. Forest Service
    shows.
    Crew members were not warned of the area's potential for extreme
    fire danger, they were confused about the availability of
    helicopters and other firefighting resources and they were working
    under inadequate leadership, the investigators said in the report
    released Monday.
    Jeff Allen, 24, and Shane Heath, 22, were both killed July 22,
    2003 when they were overtaken by fire while cutting a helicopter
    landing area in the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
    Allen's family was relieved to receive the report, said family
    spokesman Fred Snook, Jeff's uncle.
    "It confirms what the family believed all along," he said.
    "Shane and Jeff did nothing wrong, they just simply followed
    instructions. The basic synopsis is that errors were made by
    service personnel, and they did contribute to the accident."
    "It's a big step the Forest Service admitted fault," Snook
    said.
    Father Bill Allen worked for the forest service in Indianola on
    the Salmon River, where his son's crew was stationed.
    Forest Service officials said the report, which was redacted to
    remove names and other identifying information about crew members,
    had agency-wide ramifications.
    "I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to the families of
    Jeff Allen and Shane Heath," Intermountain Regional Forester Jack
    Troyer said. "I am committed to leading the region in doing our
    best to provide for firefighter safety. The Intermountain Region,
    along with the rest of the Forest Service, will initiate the
    changes identified in the accident prevention plan."
    The investigators uncovered 44 findings, nine casual factors and
    three contributing factors related to the deaths, according to the
    report.
    Some of the findings took aim at the Salmon-Challis National
    Forest's firefighting plan. The team working the Cramer fire used
    suppression tactics that are considered dangerous for the area
    despite the extreme burning conditions, investigators found.
    Additionally, the investigators said, the overall performance of
    the Salmon-Challis National Forest's fire organization had become
    "a source of increasing concern" before the deaths but limited
    action was taken to address the problems.
    Though there was good attention to safety in the early stages of
    the fire, investigators cited significant safety lapses before the
    men's deaths. For instance, the men were building the helicopter
    landing area on a ridge they had rappelled to just above the fire,
    where their visibility of the slopes - and the fire advancing
    toward them - was obscured by the topography and vegetation.
    No one else on the crew was watching for fire for the two men,
    and no one was assigned to keep them informed about weather and
    fire changes, the report claims. What weather information the crew
    had received the morning of the deaths did not represent the site
    where they were working, officials said.
    On July 22, the fire behaved as it had the previous days - calm
    in the morning and severe in the afternoon, the investigators said.
    But though some crew members were aware that the conditions were
    extreme, others did not expect the severe fire behavior, officials
    said.
    Heath and Allen, who had been dropped off by the helicopter
    about 9:45 that morning, were contacted by crew members several
    times to see how close they were to finishing the landing area.
    By 3 p.m. that day, a crew member noticed the fire was spreading
    and burning more intensely than he expected, but he thought the two
    men were not at risk because of the light fuels and rocky areas in
    the Cache Bar drainage, the investigators said.
    Just five minutes later, the two rappellers radioed to the rest
    of the crew, asking them to send a helicopter "in a hurry." At
    3:09 p.m. they called again, telling crew members they needed the
    helicopter immediately.
    "Oh, God. We just got fire down below us," the men reportedly
    told the radio dispatcher during the next few minutes. "The
    smoke's coming right at us. Just make them hurry up."
    The rappellers and radio operator spoke again at least four
    times before their last contact at 3:24 p.m., according to the
    report. Heath and Allen died just moments later, when flames
    reaching up to 100 feet burned through the area. Neither one
    deployed fire shelters designed to protect them from the flames.
    It wasn't until 3:20 p.m. that a helicopter pilot reported he
    was on his way to retrieve the men. The helicopter could not land
    because of smoke.
    A misconduct investigation is underway, said Troyer, and any
    disciplinary actions will be taken before the next fire season.
    Meanwhile, the agency is implementing a five-step plan to
    prevent future fatalities, said Forest Service Associate Chief
    Sally Collins.
    Under the plan, the agency's decision-making and leadership
    training programs will be reviewed and updated as needed. Certain
    leadership positions will require certification and regular
    testing, and staffing and structure of the Salmon-Challis National
    Forest firefighting organization will be assessed to make sure the
    organization is effective.
    Finally, the agency will review the safety plan developed after
    the Thirtymile fire in Washington claimed four lives in 2001.
    Those four firefighters died in their emergency fire shelters
    when they were trapped by an inferno with 10 other firefighters and
    two campers in the Chewuch River canyon in the Okanogan National
    Forest.

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  2. #2
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    Post May 6th, 2004

    Forest Service proposes disciplinary actions for six workers
    involved in fatal Idaho fire
    aaakm1
    By REBECCA BOONE
    Associated Press Writer
    BOISE, Idaho (AP) - The U.S. Forest Service has proposed
    disciplining six employees over their actions during a wildfire
    that killed two firefighters last year.
    The proposed actions range from suspension to firing, Regional
    Forester Jack Troyer said. He would not release the names of the
    Salmon-Challis National Forest employees or say how many of the
    workers the agency had proposed be fired.
    Jeff Allen, 24, and Shane Heath, 22, died in the forest July 22
    after they rappelled onto a ridge to clear a helicopter landing
    pad. They radioed for a helicopter at least twice when the fire
    advanced in their direction, but when one was finally sent, the
    area was too smoky to find the men.
    Separate investigations by the Forest Service and the
    Occupational Safety and Health Administration blamed fire managers
    for the deaths. Investigators found that escape routes were not
    identified and that fire managers did not check weather reports
    that forecast stronger winds.
    OSHA inspectors claimed the Forest Service violated all 10 basic
    safety standards listed under the Interagency Standards for Fire
    and Fire Aviation Operations. Those standards include such common
    sense rules as "know what your fire is doing at all times,"
    "maintain prompt communications with your forces" and "think
    clearly."
    The affected employees will have a chance to argue against the
    discipline before the Forest Service makes a final decision, agency
    spokeswoman Erin O'Connor said.

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  3. #3
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    Unhappy

    Watchdog group sues for names in wildfire deaths probe
    By DAN GALLAGHER
    Associated Press Writer
    BOISE, Idaho (AP) - A watchdog group has sued the U.S. Forest
    Service over the agency's decision to withhold the identities of
    employees directly involved in a 2003 central Idaho wildfire that
    killed two firefighters.
    Shane Heath, 22, of Melba and Jeff Allen, 24, of Salmon died
    last July 22 after they were left in the path of the Cramer fire in
    the Salmon-Challis National Forest.
    They were dropped off on a ridge and were attempting to cut down
    trees to create a helicopter landing zone when they were overcome
    by smoke and then flames.
    A Forest Service report released last January said the two were
    not warned of the area's potential for extreme fire danger, they
    were confused about the availability of helicopters and other
    firefighting resources and they were working under inadequate
    leadership.
    But the report removed names and other identifying information
    about crew members directly involved. In May, Regional Forester
    Jack Troyer said six faced disciplinary action.
    The Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics sued the
    agency Thursday in U.S. District Court in Missoula, Mont., seeking
    the names.
    Andy Stahl, executive director of the group, said the accident
    reports compiled by the agency on every previous fire death has
    disclosed all information.
    "The Forest Service named names and said who did what out on
    the fire, who broke safety rules and who the players were," Stahl
    said. "The Cramer fire is the first time in its history that it
    whited out the names for all those employees."
    A number of the fire bosses involved have been identified by
    other means, but not everyone connected with the blaze.
    Salmon-Challis officials said they had not seen the lawsuit and
    declined comment.
    The suit filed this week seeks the names under the Freedom of
    Information Act. The Forest Service has refused them, under the
    "personnel and medical files and similar files" exemption to the
    open records law.
    "We're looking for the document that says who did what after
    the Cramer fire and that's not a personnel issue," he said.
    Stahl said the suit was filed in Missoula because that is where
    the report was compiled.
    Some key managers cited in the investigation were identified
    from other documents.
    Investigators concluded that Cramer Fire incident commander Alan
    Hackett violated all 10 standard orders to ensure firefighters
    operate safely, including posting lookouts, identifying escape
    routes and paying attention to weather. Hackett still works for the
    Salmon-Challis forest in a nonfire-related job.
    Then-Forest Supervisor George Matejko and North Fork-Middle Fork
    district ranger Patty Bates were cited for lack of oversight and
    direction of Hackett. Matejko is working in Washington, D.C., as an
    assistant to Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth. Bates is in the
    agency's state and private forest division in Montana.
    ---
    On the Net:
    Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics:
    http://www.fseee.org
    Forest Service: http://www.fs.fed.us/
    National Interagency Fire Center: http://www.nifc.gov/

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

  4. #4
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    Post More....

    Supervisor in fatal wildfire placed on federal court probation
    SALMON, Idaho (AP) - A former wildfire crew supervisor blamed
    for the deaths of two Idaho firefighters last year has been placed
    on 18 months probation in a plea deal.
    Alan Hackett, who was fired by the Salmon-Challis National
    Forest last month, was accused of providing improper supervision
    and safety to firefighters Jeff Allen, 24, and Shane Heath, 22, who
    died in a July 2003 wildfire.
    Allen and Heath were overrun by flames while trying to clear a
    helicopter landing spot. They twice radioed for help, but it was
    too smoky to find them when a helicopter was finally sent.
    Investigators with the Forest Service and the Occupational
    Safety and Health Administration found that escape routes were not
    identified and that fire managers did not check weather reports
    that forecast stronger winds.
    The Forest Service said other fire managers have also been
    disciplined, but it refused to provide details.
    Hackett's attorney said a criminal charge against his client
    would be unjustified considering that other managers received
    lesser penalties.

    (Copyright 2004 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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