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On November 1, 1966, the El Cariso Hotshots, a U.S. Forest Service Interregional Wildland Firefighting Crew, was trapped by flames as they worked on a steep hillside in Pacoima Canyon on the Angeles National Forest.
The crew was constructing fireline downhill into a chimney canyon and were within 200 feet of completing their assignment when a sudden shift of winds caused a spot fire directly below where they were working. Within seconds flames raced uphill, engulfing the firefighters in temperatures estimated to reach 2500 degrees F. The fire flashed through the 2,200 foot long chimney canyon in less than one minute, catching the crew while they attempted to reach their safety zones.
Ten members of the crew perished on the Loop Fire that day. Another two members succumbed from burn injuries in the following days. Most of the nineteen members who survived were critically burned and remained hospitalized for some time.
Much of the knowledge gained about wildland fire has come through the high cost of firefighter lives. Lessons learned from the Loop Fire resulted in improved firefighting equipment, better fire behavior training, and the implementation of new firefighter safety protocols.
This Loop Fire Staff Ride resource is a product of the NWCG Leadership Committee. Project team members were:
- Jim Cook - U.S. Forest Service - National Interagency Fire Center
- Jim Hall - U.S. Forest Service - Angleles National Forest
- Carlton Joseph - U.S. Forest Service - Cleveland National Forest
- Bob Kambitsch - Bureau of Land Management - National Interagency Fire Center
- Dan Kleinman - U.S. Forest Service - Sequioa National Forest
- Mark Linane - Santa Barbara County Fire Department
- Scott Lowden - U.S. Forest Service - Angeles National Forest
- Ted Mason - Bureau of Land Management - National Interagency Fire Center
- Tom McGuire - Los Angeles County Fire Department
- Gary Nelson - Los Angeles County Fire Department (retired)
- Marilyn Porter - U.S. Forest Service - Angeles National Forest
- Sue Riedman - Bureau of Land Management - National Interagency Fire Center
- Nina Walker - Bureau of Land Management - National Interagency Fire Center
Special thanks to the following individuals for their interviews and insights regarding fire suppression in the 1960s and the Loop Fire:
- Dick Caulkins - U.S. Forest Service (retired)
- Mike Dougherty - U.S. Fire Administration
- Chuck Hartley - U.S. Forest Service (retired)
- Cliff Johnson - U.S. Forest Service - Angeles National Forest
- Gordon King - U.S. Forest Service (retired)
- Bud Moore - U.S. Forest Service (retired)
- Carl Wilson - U.S. Forest Service (retired)