One firefighter become entrapped and suffered fatal injuries
View of the entrapment site looking northwest (CAL FIRE)
On December 13, 2017, a CAL FIRE engine strike team was assigned to a part of the Thomas Fire in Ventura County, California. On the morning of December 14 an engineer and four firefighters from the strike team were placing a hoselay to support a dozer line with fire above the line.
At just before 9:30 a.m., while attempting to extinguish hotspots below the dozer line, one firefighter become entrapped and suffered fatal injuries. The four firefighters on the dozer line retreated to their escape route.
This report is an informational summary of the incident and is intended to enhance safety and aid in training and the prevention of future fatal incidents. The information presented is subject to revision as a further investigation is conducted and/or if additional information is developed.
“As FAE1 reached the second spot and began to take action,it erupted. Atthe same time, additional spot fires erupted along the dozer line west of the original spot fire. FF1 sprayed in the direction of the spot fires. The spot fires rapidly increased in size and the hose stream was ineffective.FAE1’s escape route back to dozer line was cut off. FAE1 began traveling southwest, paralleling the dozer line.Due to fire intensity,FAE1 turned and headed down slope to the south. FAE1 made a request, on the assigned tactical frequency, for immediate air support. This was the last confirmed radio transmission by FAE1.
STL1 contacted HLCO for immediate air support. HLCO responded, he had additional copters coming in and they too would begin to work the area. At approximately 9:25 AM,FC1 reported to FAE1 on the assigned tactical frequency, additional spots were below him and he told FAE1 to “Get out of there.”