Sunday, November 22, 2015

‘Please, we need help!’ Report describes deadly Twisp firefight

Strong, shifting winds that dramatically fanned a wildfire near Twisp in Okanogan County in August pushed walls of flames and smoke onto a team of firefighters, catching them off-guard and forcing them to retreat blindly down a winding dirt road to their deaths, according to a joint state and federal report released Friday. With “the road completely obscured by smoke,” the four U.S. Forest Service firefighters fleeing in Engine No. 642 — one of several crews battling the blaze — raced down Woods Canyon Road as flames exploded around them. “They kept driving downhill, but they had zero visibility, and the engine went off the road,” the report said. “The engine came to a stop, and the surviving firefighter got out and was immediately engulfed in flames. He went through the flames and made his way to the road.” The report, offers the most detailed account to date about the circumstances surrounding the deadly blaze that killed U.S. Forest Service firefighters Richard Wheeler, Andrew Zajac and Tom Zbyszewski on Aug. 19. The fire also critically burned Daniel Lyon Jr., who staggered away from the wrecked engine to safety.  The report — authored by a team of employees from the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), the Washington Department of Natural Resources (DNR) and the National Park Service — offers a narrative of the fire’s circumstances as part of a larger, ongoing review that seeks to assess the tragedy for safety improvements...more

No comments: