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The Battlement Creek Fire of 1976 was located on Bureau of Land Management lands just outside of Grand Valley (now Parachute), Colorado on Morrisania Mesa. Battlement Creek is approximately 8 miles long and flows in a northwesterly direction to the Colorado River. The fire burned the east side of Battlement Creek. Elevations on the fire range from 6,200 feet to 8,400 feet. Slope percentage varies from 10 percent above County Road 302 (Battlement Road) to 75 percent in the chute just below the ridgeline.
A severe frost occurred a month earlier in this same location which killed a high percentage of the leaves on the Gambel's oak. The fire started on July 11th from a lightning storm that went through the area. On July 15th, the fire escaped containment and a Class II Overhead Team (now known as a Type 2 Incident Management Team) was ordered. On July 15th, there were 198 fires reported on the daily Situation Report from the Boise Interagency Fire Center (now known as NIFC, the National Interagency Fire Center). The majority of the fires were in California, Nevada and Utah. During this fire the Forest Service was working with the Bureau of Land Management to establish a national plan to exchange and utilize manpower and equipment.
The Grand Junction District of the Bureau of Land Management was responsible for suppression of the fire. Approximately 13 crews totaling 270 people and approximately 20 overhead were assigned to the fire.
On Friday, July 16th, a B-26 air tanker crashed on a retardant dropping mission on the Battlement Creek Fire. The accident occurred at 0856 hrs, approximately 1 mile south of the fire. The pilot was killed.
On Saturday, July 17th, three firefighters were killed and a fourth severely burned during a burn-over while working on the Battlement Creek Fire. All victims were members of the Mormon Lake Hotshot Crew, a trained 20-person Forest Service fire crew stationed on the Coconino National Forest in Arizona.
The Battlement Creek Fire resulted in some substantial changes in federal wildland fire management. This incident was the catalyst for the mandatory use of fire shelters and fire resistant clothing. It also demonstrated the need for closer interagency coordination between federal, state, and local wildland fire agencies.
The Battlement Creek Staff Ride resource is a product of the NWCG Leadership Committee. Project team members were:
- David Blair - Grand Valley Fire Protection District - Parachute, Colorado
- Jim Cook - U.S. Forest Service - National Interagency Fire Center
- Chris Davidson - Grand Valley Fire Protection District - Parachute, Colorado
- Tim Foley - Bureau of Land Management - Grand Junction, Colorado
- Aaron Graeser - U.S. Forest Service - Coconino National Forest
- Shawna Legarza - U.S. Forest Service - San Juan National Forest
- Randy Skelton - U.S. Forest Service - Black Hills National Forest
- Nina Walker - Bureau of Land Management - NIFC
Special thanks to the citizens of the Morrisania Mesa and Parachute communities.