Wildfires
6:32 pm
Mon August 20, 2012

Report: ‘Extremely Unsafe’ Tactics At Blaze That Killed Firefighter

Managers at a blaze in north Idaho were warned about hazardous conditions the day before a 20-year-old firefighter died on the job. That’s according to an informal report by the head of a federal hotshot crew, which refused to work on the fire.

Anne Veseth was killed on Aug. 12 at the Steep Corner Fire southeast of Coeur d’Alene. A tree fell on her. The day before, a hotshot crew visited the fire and discovered what they called “extremely unsafe” conditions. Their report posted online describes poor communication, no plan for medical emergencies, water being dropped before firefighters were out of the way … and the constant thunder of falling snags. The hotshot team refused to work there until the problems were fixed.

Timothy Ingalsbee calls the report disturbing. He’s a former federal firefighter who now runs the Eugene-based group Firefighters United for Safety, Ethics and Ecology.

“There’s a number of violations of just standard safety protocols and procedures documented,” says Ingalsbee.

A spokesman for the Forest Service says the agency is still trying to determine whether the hotshot crew was in the same location where Veseth was killed. Federal teams are now on the ground investigating her death.

The Steep Corner Fire is mainly on private timber land. And until last Tuesday, the fire suppression was being directed by an employee of an association of timber companies. A Forest Service employee is now in charge of the operation.

Copyright 2012 Northwest News Network