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Local Staff Ride Archive

Stand 4 - Fatality Site

Shortly after 15:30 Tippins squad was in an urgent retreat back to Rock Creek where the truck was parked. All of the 4 squad members who did not make it to the Pep Talk on the ridge were running over the ridge into Rock Creek and down to the truck. These men did not follow the McConnell Trail through the saddle. They crossed the ridgetop well above the saddle. Tippin and the remaining squad members were steadily being driven deeper into the drainage. The fire was closing in from behind and on their flanks. In haste, Kennedy broke his ankle jumping into the drainage bottom only 50 yards downhill from Stand 3 and called for help as the fire rapidly approached. Tippin and James immediately turned back to help Kennedy "arm in arm" continue his way downhill. Meanwhile, Barker and Powers collided with each other. Powers jumped up and continued running to the saddle. At about this point, Tippin and James realized that they cannot outrun the fire while helping Kennedy. They left Kennedy behind and ran ahead to help Barker, who was now limping after his collision with Powers. The fire overran Kennedy and then caught Barker, Tippin, and James about mile down the drainage.

Squad member Vitale ran north into Rock Creek toward the truck. His vision was very poor and a later report indicated that his eyeglasses were broken and he did not have them on this fire. This may explain why he did not run directly to the truck. Instead his body was found approximately 300 yards north of the saddle on the south facing slope above Rock Creek. The remaining 6 squad members ran down the Rock Creek road until they were picked up and taken to Gabica Ranch. They assisted in the evacuation of the Ranch. From the time of the initial wind shift to the time the survivors reached the truck was estimated to be less than forty-five minutes.

Click to see Topo Map with fire progression and stand locations.

Click to see Investigation Report Map with firefighter retreat routes.

Click to hear interview excerpts from Kirk Studebaker, the storeowner who reported the fire and helped with the initial attack of the fire.
(Requires a media player capable of playing MP3 audio. Click here to download the free Windows Media Player.)

Looking at Stand 4, which is in the area where the two un-named drainages converge and is south of Rock Creek.

Looking north through Rock Creek Saddle at the Vitale fatality site.