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20170712-0002        [Corrective Actions]
Event Start Date:
07/07/2017 1033
Event Stop Date:
07/07/2017 2000 
Incident Name:
Fire Number:
Local Unit:
Incident Type:
Incident Activity:
Stage of Incident:
Extended Attack, Transfer of Command
Position Title:
Division Supervisor 
Line Construction  
Management Level:
Resources Involved:
1 helicopter, 1 PSD Operator/Firing Boss, 4 IHC  
Contributing Factors
Contributing Factors:
Fire Behavior, Communications, Equipment, Environmental, Human Factors
Human Factors:
Decision Making, Leadership, Risk Assessment, Situational Awareness  
Other Factors:
Describe in detail what happened including the concern or potential issue, the environment (weather, terrain, fire behavior, etc), and the resulting health issue.
On 7/7/17 I was DIV J on the Brianhead Fire near Panguitch, UT. It was a transition day. It was my day 14 and I had another DIVS shadowing me that day. At 0900 we took a recon flight of the division. The strategy of the 3 divisions at the head of the fire(I,J,K) was to construct indirect lines about 4-5 miles ahead of the fire, and bring the fire out of the heavier fuels and terrain with PSD operations, and either go direct or backline the indirect line we had already put in. DIV I and K were finished lining, going direct, and black lining their divisions by 7/7. On 7/6, 3 hotshot crews hand lit a section of black line and brought it do the I/J break.

When we took the recon flight, we noticed that the black line from the previous day did not consume that well. We had already begun a piece of indirect line that tied in a piece of direct line we had just completed to a piece of indirect that was completed 3-4 days prior. The indirect line operation was about 3-4 miles from any burning that took place on 7/6. During the recon we both decided that it would be safe to clean up some of the timber stringers that didn't burn from 7/6. The PSD operator was supposed to be at the helibase when we landed to do a face-to-face, but he was not there when we landed. I asked someone at helibase for the PSD operators # so I could call him and talk to him about the plan.

I drove out to DP 21, the closest place to the line on DIV J where I had cell phone service, and called him. I told him that we wanted to clean up some of the stringers that didn't burn in DIV I yesterday. He said he would get everything ready and get up in the air, or something to that effect. I drove from DP 21 out to the J/K break where the 3 hotshot crews on my division were parked. By the time I got out of my truck, the helicopter was in the air, and he was calling me on a discreet A/G frequency, which we had not previously agreed to talk on. He asked if I was ready to get started. I told him, we just want to start by cleaning up some of the stringers that didn't burn from the hand ignition the day before. He said "you're coming across real scratchy". I thought this was odd, because I have never heard someone in a helicopter say that to me before, but I said "hang on, I'll try to get to a better place. It was perfect timing, but I ran into one of the supts. and he gave me a ride on a utv to a high point where I could keep an eye on the resources putting in the indirect line, and the PSD operation.

By the time I got to that high point, There was a line of fire that split the 3 mile section of unburned fuel, and now the concern was to get the resources putting indirect line to their safety zone. There were T-storms coming in, and we knew there would likely be downdrafts. I immediately called the PSD operator on the same discrete frequency and asked him to contact the TFLD working with the resources constructing the direct line, which was now a mile east of where the line of PSD balls were dropped, and now actively growing fire activity. The PSD operator tried calling him on the discreet A/G. I jumped on there and told him that no one has that frequency and he needs to use primary A/G. He called him on primary A/G and the TFLD asked him to bring any more fire their direction. He told him there are a lot of sparse fuels between them and the activity, and that everything is pulling in nicely. He said he was just going to clean up some stuff to the south of them and then he would be done.

As the division supervisor, I recognized that the PSD operator was doing his own thing and that we needed to get everyone out of the way. I was kind of in shock, at the time, by the lack of communication, and the carelessness I was witnessing.
Immediate Action Taken
Reporting Individual : please describe actions you took to correct or mitigate the unsafe/unhealthful event.
Without doing a dry run or notifying anyone, the helicopter flew to the head of a drainage to the west of Blue Meadow, where 2 TFLDs, 2 Dozers with operators, 2 HEQBs, 2 safety officers, and 2 hotshot crew members were located. He was hovering very low and I tried to call the PSD operator to stop him, in case he was lighting that drainage. He told me to stand by. By this time, I had all my hotshot crews keep one foot in the black. 2 of the crews were going direct and 1 of them was prepping the very southern end of indirect line and was using the black as a safety zone as well. TFLD working with the dozers made the call to evacuate the indirect line. When the PSD operator called me back I asked him if he just dropped balls in there. He said yep, but were done, we're gonna head back, reconfigure and come back out to keep an eye on this for ya. As soon as the helicopter left we got downdrafts from the T-storms and the fire started to move at a high rate of speed up the middle fork drainage, which aligned perfectly with the escape route being used by the ground resources that were trying to evacuate. The dozer operators started pushing a safety zone in Blue Meadow. They did not feel they had enough time to use the escape route. The safety officers an 2 hotshot crew members were scouting the escape route ahead of them on UTVs. They instructed them to stop pushing, pick the blades up and start walking the dozers out. There was time, but they needed to hurry. One of the dozers broke down and the operator left it there and got a ride out on one of the UTVs. Everyone made it out safely and no equipment was damaged. It was a close call and a scary, traumatic incident, especially for those resources that were minutes away from having their escape route cut off.

I felt that immediately recognizing that the PSD operator did not have good S.A., was not communicating with ground resources, and that we needed to get everyone out of there was critical to ensuring everyones safety.

Corrective Actions


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