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Old 2013-07-01, 18:23   #1
ewmayer
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Default 19 Arizona firefighters killed in wildland blaze

'Perfect storm' of fire kills 19 Arizona firefighters: PRESCOTT, Arizona | Mon Jul 1, 2013 12:28pm EDT(Reuters) - Nineteen elite Arizona firefighters were killed in a "perfect storm" of wildfire stoked by record heat and high winds in the biggest loss of life battling a U.S. wildland blaze in 80 years, officials said on Monday.

A very good college friend grew up in the Prescott area. Her late father was a wildland firefighter, died under similar circumstances when she was just a wee one. They named a campground after him. I expect a vanishing fractions of the campers using it have any clue.
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Old 2013-07-01, 18:35   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
'Perfect storm' of fire kills 19 Arizona firefighters: PRESCOTT, Arizona | Mon Jul 1, 2013 12:28pm EDT(Reuters) - Nineteen elite Arizona firefighters were killed in a "perfect storm" of wildfire stoked by record heat and high winds in the biggest loss of life battling a U.S. wildland blaze in 80 years, officials said on Monday.
A few questions...

1. Were these "elite Arizona firefighters" properly equipped?
1.1. Were they, for example, wearing fireproof clothing?
1.2. Did they have on them emergency air supply?
1.3. Did they have at least outgoing data links which included Lat, Long, Heart Rate, etc.?

Last fiddled with by chalsall on 2013-07-01 at 18:37 Reason: s/:/.../
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Old 2013-07-01, 18:38   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chalsall View Post
A few questions...

1. Were these "elite Arizona firefighters" properly equipped?
1.1. Were they, for example, wearing fireproof clothing?
1.2. Did they have on them emergency air supply?
1.3. Did they have at least outgoing data links which included Lat, Long, Heart Rate, etc.?
One question:

Did you bother to read more than the headline? (There's a reason I provided an article link.)
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Old 2013-07-01, 18:42   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Did you bother to read more than the headline? (There's a reason I provided an article link.)
Yes.
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Old 2013-07-01, 19:02   #5
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The article notes "Standard safety protocols followed by such crews appeared to be in place" - to me that implies all but the biometric part of your list, which may in fact be standard, but I do not know.

If you get caught in a firestorm and temps quickly rise to hot enough to melt metal, no amount of safety equipment is gonna protect you for very long. The fact that they deployed the last-resort emergency shelters tells me it must have been infernal.
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Old 2013-07-01, 19:04   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chalsall View Post
A few questions...

1. Were these "elite Arizona firefighters" properly equipped?
1.1. Were they, for example, wearing fireproof clothing?
1.2. Did they have on them emergency air supply?
1.3. Did they have at least outgoing data links which included Lat, Long, Heart Rate, etc.?
1. According to a radio report, they had their standard equipment.

Debate on whether they were "properly equipped" might hinge on whether "properly" means "sufficient for survival in all possible circumstances" or some such assumption.

1.1 (Radio report) All their (working) clothing is fireproof.

(Why would you think otherwise?)

1.2 From the article:
Quote:
... their personal fire shelters, tent-like safety devices designed to deflect heat and trap breathable air
Do you think that the burden of carrying at all times an air tank would be worth the chance that that could make any significant difference in survival in an emergency shelter designed to trap breathable air? If such a tank were to contain only oxygen (=21% of "air"), so that it'd weigh less (smaller tank) than a tank of "air", might not carrying it into a fire area be distantly similar to carrying a bomb on ones back?

1.3 From the article:
Quote:
... some of the men on the ground made it into their shelters and some did not, according to an account relayed by a ranger helicopter crew flying over the area.

"There was nothing they (helicopter crew) could do to get to them," he said.
Unknown location, or unawareness that they might be experiencing high heart rates, was not the problem.

Last fiddled with by cheesehead on 2013-07-01 at 19:12
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Old 2013-07-01, 19:52   #7
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I have nothing but deepest sympathy for the fallen team.

I had once spent a day in relevant military training for fueling the (long ago now declassified) SS-20 (or like) with sham fuel (water, really) in full fireproof gear, - and it was hell. Without the fire. One can only imagine how horrible it is working like so - with the fire. And the unimaginable - when the gear is destined to fail because the outside conditions deteriorated beyond the protection limits.
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Old 2013-07-01, 23:08   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cheesehead View Post
Do you think that the burden of carrying at all times an air tank would be worth the chance that that could make any significant difference in survival in an emergency shelter designed to trap breathable air?
My thinking was that if someone was trapped in a fire, having a few minutes of oxygen from a small bottle carried on the person might help them survive.

My apologies if I caused offence. I was just thinking out loud. I personally was once caught in a small brush fire -- carbon monoxide poisoning is not fun.

The loss is tragic -- and everything reasonable should be done to prevent further losses.
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Old 2013-07-01, 23:40   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chalsall View Post
My thinking was that if someone was trapped in a fire, having a few minutes of oxygen from a small bottle carried on the person might help them survive.
Yes, I believe such smallish O2 bottles - light enough to not be a major hindrance, but enough for some tens of minutes [not sure how many] of time to escape the flames or for one's comrades to try to reach one - is precisely what such folks carry. I expect the portable emergency-shelters such as these guys made their last stand in have a larger shared O2 supply.

The fact that an entire crew of 20 [minus one who was apparently separated from the others by happenstance] was caught indicates a really big, fast-developing flareup.

Here in CA we are suffering under the same massive dome of high pressure & temperature, heat is expected to last through July 4th, but I think I'll stop complaining about the heat for a while. :(
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Old 2013-07-02, 03:47   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
'Perfect storm' of fire kills 19 Arizona firefighters: PRESCOTT, Arizona | Mon Jul 1, 2013 12:28pm EDT(Reuters) - Nineteen elite Arizona firefighters were killed in a "perfect storm" of wildfire stoked by record heat and high winds in the biggest loss of life battling a U.S. wildland blaze in 80 years, officials said on Monday.
The one 80 years ago was the 1933 Griffith Park fire. (Google it.) The official death toll was 29 (although various figures came out early on and were revised downward, there is still some speculation that the actual total may be closer to 50). I have been to the area where it happened. There is a grove of trees that have been planted in the memory of those lost. They were planted on a ridgeline above where the men were lost. Visible here: http://goo.gl/maps/gXPjC

Quote:
Originally Posted by chalsall View Post
A few questions...

1. Were these "elite Arizona firefighters" properly equipped?
1.1. Were they, for example, wearing fireproof clothing?
1.2. Did they have on them emergency air supply?
1.3. Did they have at least outgoing data links which included Lat, Long, Heart Rate, etc.?
A big thing to point out, fighting 'wild fires', 'brush fires', 'forest fires', etc. is a completely different thing than fighting a building fire. Equipment, clothing, and techniques are very different.

1.1 (Radio report) All their (working) clothing is fireproof.
The standard 'turnout gear' that are used fighting house fires is much heavier and more heat and flame resistive than that used battling wild fires. The normally expected heat load in a building fire is higher than for a wild fire. The duration of use is also shorter (minutes vs. hours on end). It is also much more cumbersome, but total distance of travel will be less in it.

1.2 Do you think that the burden of carrying at all times an air tank would be worth the chance that that could make any significant difference in survival in an emergency shelter designed to trap breathable air? A standard air tank that fire fighters wear on their back has a rating of 1/2 hour. The face mask, carrying frame, etc. add a fair bit of weight. I have handled the 'civilian' version at work before. The practicalities of carrying an escape tank have been assessed. Carrying an additional 10 pounds for a mini tank all day long would likely cause more injuries and deaths (by fatigue and accidents) than they might save.

1.3 From the article: Unknown location, or unawareness that they might be experiencing high heart rates, was not the problem.
All 'hand crews', 'hot shots', 'camp crews', or other groups of fire fighters have at least one radio and often it is closer to 1 radio per fire fighter. (I worked with a fellow that was on a camp crew for a while.) They are dispatched to specific locations and central command knows where they should be at all time.
The modern firefighter version of the air pack has a sensor that will detect if the firefighter is motionless for too long of a time. There is no heart sensor on them though.

The 'fire shelters' that they carry are relatively light and are good for only a short period of time. It works similar to a mylar blanket. They are individual sized. They are much faster than 'digging in' (the older method for survival in a similar situation) , plus they provide total body coverage.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ewmayer View Post
Yes, I believe such smallish O2 bottles - light enough to not be a major hindrance, but enough for some tens of minutes [not sure how many] of time to escape the flames or for one's comrades to try to reach one - is precisely what such folks carry. I expect the portable emergency-shelters such as these guys made their last stand in have a larger shared O2 supply.
Nope. As mentioned above the shelters are per person. Firefighters fighting wild fires do not carry a canister of oxidizer with them. Consider how much different air tanks for firefighters must be from your standard compressed gas cylinder. Weight is an issue. Toting around a standard steel tank is not an option, so the tanks are fibre composite. Also, your run-of-the-mill gas cylinder has a fusible pressure relief. (I have handled cylinders at work that vented when they were caught in a fire, at work we lost several buildings and vehicles to a wild fire years ago. I should dig out some pictures and post them.) That is not really practical to have on a fireman's air supply (whoops, it is too hot, you get to suffocate.)
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Old 2013-07-02, 05:30   #11
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We have nearby (and we have visited it many times) the Inaja Memorial Park: a special memorial to 11 men who lost their lives when fighting a forest fire in 1956. It is on the way to Julian and Anza-Borrego.
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