[The 2023 Summer Issue of Two More Chains invited its readers to study several fires that they may not recall—or maybe never even heard of. This short summary of the “Price Canyon Entrapment” incident was one of these writeups that originally appeared in that Two More Chains issue.]
This is the story of initial attack on a rapidly growing fire. This is the type of assignment we train for and learn from.
On June 30, 2002, a wildland fire was reported on Bureau of Land Management land 14 miles northwest of Price, Utah. The initial attack response included a Type 3 incident commander (IC), several fire engines, dozers, airtankers, a Type 3 helicopter, and eight smokejumpers. When the IC and some of the engines arrived on the fire at about 1500, the fire was approximately 25 acres and growing rapidly.
The smokejumpers arrived on the fire at about 1700. Shortly afterward, they initiated a firing operation to create a safety zone for them and their gear and to help secure the north end of the fire. At about 1900, five of the smokejumpers regrouped at an intersection of two-track dirt roads that had been used as the jump spot.
With virtually no warning, the smoke column from the southwest, which had been going up and over the five jumpers, surfaced at their location. The jumpers reported that winds instantly increased to over 50 miles per hour. Debris “as big as softballs” and embers rained down around them. Dense smoke enveloped them.
Two of the jumpers ran toward the east on a two-track road that had been used as a control line for the firing operation, came a short distance back toward the intersection, then moved into the black and deployed fire shelters. The three other jumpers in this group escaped to the north, eventually reaching a paved road. The two jumpers who stayed in the black were exposed to several surges of strong winds, smoke, and showers of debris and embers for a period of 30 to 40 minutes. They alternated between being completely prone under their shelters to standing or kneeling with their shelters draped over them.
To see the Price Canyon Deployment Entrapment Report:
For more lessons and firsthand insights from this entrapment incident, see Shannon Orr’s “One of Our Own” blog post: