SAFENET


SAFENET

Wildland Fire Safety & Health Reporting Network

SAFENET Event Information
Create Agency Corrective Action

SAFENET ID:
20170420-0001
Event Start Date:
04/14/2017 0930
Event Stop Date:
04/14/2017 1200 
Incident Name:
Goshen Pass
Fire Number:
 
State:
Virginia
Jurisdiction:
State
Local Unit:
Goshen Pass WMA
Incident Type:
Wildland
Incident Activity:
Line
Stage of Incident:
Extended Attack
Position Title:
CRWB 
Task:
Ignitions And Holding Operations 
Management Level:
3
Resources Involved:
Crew, 2 Type 6 engines, DIVS 
Contributing Factors
Contributing Factors:
Fire Behavior, Human Factors
Human Factors:
Decision Making, Risk Assessment, Situational Awareness  
Other Factors:
 
Narrative
Describe in detail what happened including the concern or potential issue, the environment (weather, terrain, fire behavior, etc), and the resulting health issue.
The Goshen Pass fire started on Monday April 10, 2017 in Rockbridge county, Virginia. On the evening of Thursday April 13,2017 a module from another part of the state was dispatched with a check-in time of 0700 the next morning. I was the crew leader which consisted of 1 type-6 engine with 5 additional firefighters.

The fire had continued to prove troublesome to suppression efforts in extended attack the 2 operational shifts prior to our arrival. Our crew resources were assigned to division Delta and briefed in base camp & upon lining out. The DIVS ordered our crew to burn-out from the Charlie/Delta break south of Guys Run road down to the creek all the way back to state route 39.

We began ground ignition at the C/D break at approximately 0930 on April 13th. Upon starting of the firing operation, I noticed occasional single-tree torching of small hemlock trees near the line. There was little threat to escape at this time due to the higher fuel moisture content adjacent to the creek, time of day, more favorable weather conditions and little slope. Our crew was instructed by Delta DIVS to burn the line and have another crew member ignite inside the edge of the fire break in order to “pull heat off the line.” This was his tactic from the beginning of the operation. I was the crew leader as part of the holding forces following the ignition as it progressed up the line. As such, I was unable to view the ignition at all times. DIVS asked me to wet-mop 2 punky logs near the division break and monitor the area before proceeding forward along Guys Run road.

After refilling the type-6 at the ford near the division break, I was delayed from meeting up with the ignition crew due to the DIVS pickup blocking the road. I requested the TFLD to move the truck so I could rejoin the crew. When the truck was moved and I rejoined the crew, I noted the increased slope adjacent to Guys Run road & the drier fuels due to daylight on the transmission line right-of-way. I also noted the increased distance of unburned fuel between the holding line (Guys Run Rd) and the creek (where the fire was stopped previously.)

Our crew was taking direct instruction with extreme detail on how he wanted the burn-out performed from the beginning of the operational shift. The crew acted on the instructions of the DIVS. A crew member was instructed by the DIVS to enter the green some distance to “get more heat in there” in order to “pull heat off the line.” This crew member stopped ½ way across the transmission line ROW to ask if he should stop or keep going. The DIVS told him to keep going. 2 times in the morning of the first shift, crew members were asked to re-enter the area into the green to put more fire on the ground in order to “pull heat off the line.” One member refused due to safety concerns.

This action of attempting to “pull the heat off the line” by interior ignition coupled with line ignition (on direct orders of the Delta DIVS), was a primary causal factor in the division Delta blowout on Thursday morning. Secondary causal factors include (but not limited to): topography, insufficient holding resources & lack of air support. I was in & out of the ignition crews work area due to following the multiple instructions from the DIVS to monitor the beginning of the burnout and mop-up of certain areas. As crew leader, I failed to recognize what was about to unfold in time to stop it.

The blowout:

At the point where the crew member asked DIVS for feedback on whether he should stop ignition or keep going (& was instructed to keep going), the fire escaped containment of Guys Run Rd. E604 was in the area of multiple spot fires on the upslope side of Guys Run Rd so I proceeded the short distance to help with the holding effort. We were getting numerous spot fires on the upslope edge of the road as well as uphill from our location. Both of the type-6 booster hoses were deployed to assist with spot fire control. I was located behind the other type-6 & unable to move due to poor visibility, the blowout surrounding our position, and concern for running over a crew member on the road. I used a pre-attached whip line to extinguish the numerous spot fires underneath the engine. One crew member attempted to utilize the DIVS pickup’s water tank & pump but discovered it had a note on the pump switch that read: “DO NOT USE.” An attempt to turn it on regardless was futile. I witnessed multiple crew members upslope from the road attempting to extinguish the spot fires on the hill. The 2 booster hoses from both engines were pulled out to their limits of reach. I ordered VEHEMENTLT for all crew members to come back down to the road off the side of the hill as in my opinion, suppression of the spot fires was a battle we could not win with the resources on hand. Multiple spot fires burned together & shortly thereafter we witnessed AREA IGNITION of the hillside above Guys Run Rd.

All of the crew, including engine crews, were exposed to extreme convective & radiant heat, near flame impingement to the sides of the engines, heavy smoke, & extreme ember wash during the breakout due to the poorly executed & managed ignition operation.
Immediate Action Taken
Reporting Individual : please describe actions you took to correct or mitigate the unsafe/unhealthful event.
Upon completion of our shift, I went directly to the command staff to relay my concern of the tactics used to attempt to meet our objective for the day and my safety concerns. I also recommended that burnout be completed at night time when fuel moistures and weather would be more in our favor. I also recommended a new DIVS with the requisite training and experience to manage a division on a mountain fire in Virginia. One more SAFENET will be filed for events that took place on the next operational shift on the same division.


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