USDA Forest Service
||Contact: Tom Knappenberger, (202)
FOREST SERVICE CHIEF VOWS
CHANGES FROM THIRTYMILE FIRE
WASHINGTON, Sept. 26, 2001 -- U.S. Department
of Agriculture Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth today accepted
the final investigative report of the Thirtymile Fire and vowed
changes to help prevent future fire fatalities.
The loss of these four firefighters is a tragedy that we
must learn from, Chief Bosworth said during a morning news
conference. We have had experts inside and outside the agency
gather facts, review them and make recommendations. From these,
I expect to initiate changes in management and policy that will
make fighting fires a safer business.
Following private briefings with victims families, Chief
Bosworth and Deputy Chief Jim Furnish met with media, community
leaders and firefighters to review findings of the Thirtymile blaze,
which killed four firefighters north of Winthrop, Wash., on the
Okanogon-Wenatchee National Forest on July 10, 2001. The four are
Tom Craven, Karen FitzPatrick, Jessica Johnson and Devin Weaver.
Furnish headed a 13-member investigative team including a lead
investigator from the private sector with experience investigating
nearly 50 fatal accidents. The team established the facts of the
fire by conducting 125 interviews with 60 people and by examining
physical evidence, weather data, equipment, records and the fatality
site. A separate seven-member Accident Review Board, chaired by
Tom L. Thompson of the Forest Service Rocky Mountain Region, reviewed
the findings and developed recommendations to prevent similar accidents.
The review boards recommendations:
- Ensure fire managers and firefighters are fully aware of the
fire situation and have decision-making abilities necessary for
both managing fire team transitions and in reacting to significant
changes in the fire.
- Develop a program to counter the effects of fatigue.
- Strengthen command and control performance of agency administrators
and fire managers.
- Critically review fire management leadership programs nationally.
- Improve fire program safety management by adopting and aggressively
implementing proven components of a comprehensive safety program.
- Continue to improve firefighters personal protective equipment.
- Clarify the relationship between the Endangered Species Act
and fire suppression actions to establish a coherent process that
accounts for ESA requirements with respect to the full range of
fire suppression activities.
Chief Bosworth said that while there appeared to be some confusion
at the time over whether water could be taken from Chewuch River,
ESA regulations do not forbid it and, in fact, a 1995 memorandum
by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service directs that firefighter safety
After reviewing the recommendations, Chief Bosworth said he will
announce specific policy and management actions after reviewing
the recommendations. Other changes could come after a separate Occupational
Safety and Hazard Administration review is completed.
Make no mistake, Chief Bosworth said, these deaths
and injuries affect me very personally. My heart is with their families,
friends and co-workers. I will take whatever steps are necessary
to ensure that everything possible is done to enhance the safety
of our firefighters.
For copies of the report and more information, visit the Forest
Service website: www.fs.fed.us.