This article originally appeared in the 2023 Winter Issue of Two More Chains.
In 2022, the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center (LLC) recorded 12 different events that meet the NWCG definition of “Entrapment”. Of note this year were multiple instances of vehicles becoming stuck or disabled during initial attack, resulting in firefighters needing to retreat on foot as flame fronts overtook their vehicles.
Consider these Examples:
While scouting during initial attack on the Williams Lake Fire, an engine crew was entrapped:
“As the visibility was getting worse, they drove into a small draw in the timber stand and visibility went to zero. Chad couldn’t see that the road had a slight bend to the right. As he proceeded straight forward, he immediately felt the vehicle being pulled down onto the soft, steep shoulder. Due to this soft, steep shoulder, they could not back up.
The tree canopy above them was burning. The ground fire had not yet reached the tree.
Chad briefly thought about continuing to try to reverse when Adam yelled: “Ditch the truck! Get out and run!”
While scouting during initial attack on the Road 702 Fire, a retired fire chief was entrapped:
“While driving through a smoky and dusty area—where visibility was 10 feet or less—he became disoriented, his vehicle left the road, and he became stranded off the road when his vehicle became high-centered. He perished outside of his vehicle.“
The graph below shows the number of entrapment incidents that have occurred over the past ten years. The trendline shows a clear increase in the average number of reported entrapments.
The majority of entrapments occur during initial attack.