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On July 10, 2001 fourteen members of the Northwest Regular Crew #6, along with two civilians were entrapped by the flames of the Thirtymile Fire in the Chewuch River Canyon on the Okanogan/Wenatchee National Forest, Methow Valley Ranger District.
The crew had been constructing direct fireline in the canyon during the late morning and early afternoon hours. Late in the afternoon the crew was attempting to control spot fires located east of the Chewuch River. Within minutes they where cut off from their escape route when flames rushed up the Chewuch River drainage. The area was enduring a lengthy drought and moisture levels in large fuels were very low. Energy Release Component was near historic high levels for this time of year.
After being cut off from their escape route the crew moved up canyon into an extensive rock scree field, where they were later joined by two civilians. This location was later overrun by a rolling wave of heat, fire, smoke and wind. Eight of the crew deployed their shelters on the road. The two civilians took shelter with one of the crewmembers. Six of the crew deployed their shelters in the rock scree. Four of the six who deployed shelters in this rock scree field died and one crewman was severely burned.
Much of the knowledge gained about wildland fire has come through the high cost of firefighter fatalities. Lessons learned from the Thirtymile Fire have resulted in better leadership training and increased emphasis on extended attack fire operations.
The Thirty Mile Fire Staff Ride resource is a product of the NWCG Leadership Committee. Project team members were:
- Jim Cook - U.S. Forest Service at NIFC
- Troy Corn - U.S. Forest Service (retired)
- Sue Curd - Bureau of Land Management at NIFC
- Bob Kambitsch - Bureau of Land Management at NIFC
- Bruce Keleman - Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests
- Lori Messenger - U.S. Forest Service Region 1
- Jim Payne - U.S. Forest Service (retired)
- Elton Thomas - U.S. Forest Service (retired)
- Nina Walker - Bureau of Land Management at NIFC
- Chuck Whitlock - U.S. Forest Service (retired)
- Jerry Williams - Bureau of Land Management (retired)
Special thanks to the following individuals for their interviews and insights regarding the Thirtymile Fire.
- Marshall Brown - U.S. Forest Service - Entiat Hotshots
- Kyle Cannon - U.S. Forest Service - Entiat Hotshots
- Jason Emhoff - U.S. Forest Service - Wenatchee Valley Rappellers
- Gabe Jasso - U.S. Forest Service - Wenatchee Valley Ranger District
- Tom Leuschen - U.S. Forest Service (retired)
- John Newcom - U.S. Forest Service - Methow Valley Ranger District
- Sonny O'Neal - U.S.Forest Service (retired)
- Matthew Ruttman - U.S. Forest Service - Wenatchee Valley Ranger District
- Pete Soderquist - U.S. Forest Service - Methow Valley Ranger District
- Thom Taylor - U.S. Forest Service - Wenatchee Valley Ranger District