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Local Staff Ride Archive

Stand 4 - Fatality Site

This is shown as Point E in the investigation report photo referred to as Figure 3. By about 15:30 the El Cariso Hotshots were fully committed, cold-trailing their way down through the steep rocky chimney canyon with Superintendent King and the lead elements of the crew just starting to approach this point. Division Boss Westmoreland had followed them about halfway down and observed minimal fire activity, but he also stated that it was not a clean burn.

At about this same time line construction by the Los Angeles County dozer and crews, that were working west along the bottom of the slope, was halted by a deep gully. This gully was adjacent to and just below the chimney canyon that the El Cariso crew was working down. There was no radio communication capability between the two groups, but they did have visual contact. Independently, both were trying to figure out how best to tie in the line. At this point, there was no more than 500 feet separating them.

Several individuals, who were working at the bottom of the fire, stated that the fire behavior was in a static situation with hot spots near the bottom of the gully and that there were favorable southeast winds. In addition, a helicopter was making water drops on the hotspots. According to these same observers, sometime between 15:35 and 15:45 the fire started to cross the bottom of the gully. Within the next 5 to 10 minutes the fire crossed the gully, made a run upslope to the bottom of the chimney, and then flashed very quickly up the length of the chimney. The steep rocky terrain made it very difficult for firefighters to move toward the previously burned area. Terrain conditions combined with the rapid fire spread resulted in all members of the El Cariso Hotshot Crew being burned over as they worked from this stand location and up several hundred yards in the chimney above.

Click to see Investigation Report Figure 3 showing the fatality site with fire edge.

Click to hear excerpts from El Cariso Supintendent Gordon King's interview.
(Requires a media player capable of playing MP3 audio. Click here to download the free Windows Media Player.)

Looking up from Stand 4 at the rock slide in the chimney canyon.

Looking down from Stand 4 toward the gully that impeded the Los Angeles County crews line construction effort.

Rock cairn that marks Stand 4. This was put up in 2002.

Reptile hazard encountered on the hike up in warm weather.