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Local Staff Ride Archive

Stand 3 - Spot Fires

Around 15:30 both engines, #701 and #704, arrived at the fire, and drove past the Entiat Hotshots and the Northwest Regular #6 Crew where they are eating lunch beside the road. Neither engine checked in with the IC (or anyone else) for a briefing.

A few minutes later the IC received a call from the Engine #701 supervisor, asking for help with a spot up ahead on the east side of the road. The engine folks considered the spots to be "rather small at this time." The IC decided, after conferring with his Crew Boss Trainee, to send a squad up to support the engine.

The Crew Boss Trainee for Northwest Regulars dropped the IC and the Northwest Regular Squad 1 (Tom Craven's squad) off at Engine #701. The Crew Boss Trainee then returned to the lunch spot with the van. A few minutes later Thom Taylor, the Squad 2 Boss, was told by the Crew Boss Trainee to drive his squad up to support the engines.

When Squad 2 reached the first engine, Engine #704, they were told their help was not needed. They continued up the road to Engine #701 (where Squad 1 was already working on the spot). Just after Squad 2 arrived, Engine #701 left to work some spots further south (back down) along the road. The two squads remained working spots about 100 feet to the east of the road, and about a quarter of a mile farther up the road from where Engine #704 had been working

Squad 3 was then called to support Engine #704. Within 2 minutes of arriving at the location of Engine #704 they were ordered back in the van. The fire was actively spotting and had moved up to the east side of the road. They quickly drove back down the road to the lunch spot. Crewmembers from the Northwest Regular's Squad 3 had to shield their faces from the intense heat as they drove past the fire.

At 16:34, as Squad 3 retreated, The Crew Boss Trainee and others radioed the IC to get people out of the area. The crewmembers from Squads 1 and 2 dropped their gear and nine of them jumped into the van, with the IC driving. The other four begin running down the road. As the IC drove the van down the road he saw a "wall of flames," and knew that he had been cut off from the only escape route they had planned. Four people were still behind them on the road. The IC quickly turned the van around, went back and picked up the other crewmembers and the crew gear. They drove north evaluating their options as they went.

Click to see fire progression map from the Thirtymile Fire Investigation Report

Click to hear interview excerpts from Thom Taylor, a Squad Leader for the Northwest Regular #6 Crew
(Requires a media player capable of playing MP3 audio. Click here to download the free Window Media Player)

Fire breaching the road, entrapping Northwest Regular #6 Crew on the other side of flaming front. This view is looking up the canyon with the Entiat Hotshot Crew vehicles and a Methow Valley Ranger District engine in the foreground.

View from Winthrop of the Thirtymile Fire column during the entrapment. Note split column and lenticular clouds developing between the two columns.

Aerial view of the fire taken by the Air Attack at approximate time of entrapment