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South Canyon Fire
Transcript of South Canyon Fire
By: Ryan Bonet
Record temperatures, low humidity causing fuels to become dry.
Thunderstorm moved in causing dry lightning strikes to start over 40 fires.
10 red flag warnings from July 1st to july 6th
Fuels: Pinyon Juniper, Gamble Oak, grasses and shrubs.
Red flag warnings the morning of July 6th for a cold front that was moving in, causing change in direction of the wind.
Steep slopes causing rapid fire progression
The NFFF (National Fall Firefighter Foundation) and the USFA (United States Fire Administration) developed the 16 Life safety Initiatives along with the 10 standard fire fighting orders and the 18 watch out situations created by the USFS. These orders ensure that every firefighter should know well and incorporate into their everyday line of work; only to be created for the safety of the men and women out risking their lives and ensuring they go home safely.
How it started
The South Canyon fire was initially caused by lightning strikes on July 2nd, 1994. Seven miles west of Glenwood Springs north of I-70 at the base of Storm King Mountain. By July 4, the fire had only burned 3 acres. Giving it a low priority compared to other fires the area putting off any fire attack until July 5th. Spot weather forecasts were also not requested.
Chris Cuoco (local weather forecaster) was the only person to issue a red flag warning on July 6th. He was also the only person to issue a warning about the cold front that was approaching, but due to the poor radio equipment at the BLM dispatch, his red flag warning never made it to anyone.
Helicopter pilot Dick Good also noticed the spot fires that eventually blew up while he was performing water drops, but thought he had heard the fire fighters on the ground mention it on the radio, so he failed to relay the information.
Adhering to the 10 standard fire orders could have created a different outcome that allowed all firefighters to come home.
#3 : " Base all actions on current and expected behavior of the fire."
Spot fires developed on both sides of the drainage and a Venturi effect counteracted the blowup on July 6th approximately at 4p.m. Flame lengths grew to 50-200 feet in height and were no match to the hotshots and smoke jumpers along with two heli-attack crew members that were on the west flank fire line.
The fire ended in 2,115 acres burned and took the lives of 14 firefighters.
Despite losing 14 firefighters, i learned multiple lessons that can teach not only myself but those in the fire service to strictly adhere to the 16 Life Safety Initiatives along with the 10's and 18's. If the fire fighters had based there actions on the current and expected behavior of the fire this may have never happened.
Goes to show how important these orders and initiatives are. They were created to keep those out working safe, and to ensure that they get to see there families back home.
14 lives lost