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Pagami Creek Wildfire Report

Pagami Creek Wildfire Report

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Published by: Minnesota Public Radio on Jun 01, 2012
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 1
Pagami Creek FireEntrapments —Facilitated Learning Analysis
US Forest Service Eastern Region, Superior National Forest, MinnesotaIncident Date 12 September 2011
 
 2
Executive Summary
Concise Factual Narrative
The Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW) is a 1.1 million-acrenetwork of lakes and rivers in northern Minnesota. On a given day, there arevisitors spread throughout the area.The Pagami Creek Fire was a natural ignition fire in the BWCAW reported on 18August 2011. Objectives focused on keeping the fire from moving outside thewilderness and threatening human developments.Over the first few weeks, the fire grew from a small, smoldering lightning striketo just over 100 acres. As the fire grew, the unit brought in additional resourcesincluding Incident Management Teams, taking actions to keep the fire fromthreatening communities outside the wilderness, and used Public Safety crewsto notify recreating public well before the fire might threaten their safety.Again and again, the near-term forecast for rain was postponed, and fireconditions worsened.On 9 September 2011, the Forest issued closure orders for dispersed campingsites thought to be a day or more ahead of potential fire spread. On 10September, the fire grew faster than expected, leading to emergencyevacuations. Field personnel considered the day a close call. The Forestaggressively expanded its closure area, and on 11 September, 95 visitors weremoved from lakes ahead of the fire.Morning of 12 September, the Forest expanded its closure area again. Severalmiles ahead of the fire, Public Safety crews were assigned to restrict traffic,close campsites, and order recreating public to leave the area. Shortly beforenoon, eight forest personnel were fleeing from fire. Two abandoned theircanoe and sought refuge in the lake, sharing a single fire shelter. Four othersdeployed fire shelters on a small island. Two others were picked up byfloatplane, just as the approaching fire changed course. All survived withoutmajor injury.
Management Take-Away Lessons
o
 
Fire shelter training is working: several people replayed the training videoin their heads and took calm, timely action while preparing to deployshelters.
o
 
Improve real-time communication between management and fieldpersonnel, to recognize early signs the situation is changing or the plan isnot working.
o
 
Field-going personnel (eg. Public Safety, BAER teams, researchers, districtpersonnel) report to Operations section during an Incident.
o
 
Ensure perimeters are known by all personnel assigned to field operations.
o
 
Increase use of infrared and aerial mapping of fire perimeter.
o
 
Increase use of aircraft and motorized equipment to conduct closuresmore efficiently.
o
 
Improve detection, classification, and communication of high-levelatmospheric instability.
o
 
Investigate technology to provide IC/Agency Administrator with real timelocation of all field operations personnel
o
 
For more, see
Lessons Learned Bullets
on p.21. 
Approach and Scope
The purpose of this report is to facilitate learning. This report gives on-the-ground perspectives of key events. Lessons Learned Bullets are insights fromparticipants. Discussion and Analysis modules set the stage for dialog on firesafety improvement.This report focuses on the fire entrapments occurring on Monday, 12September 2011. The Regional Forester delegated a team to review thisincident and share the story through a Facilitated Learning Analysis. The teamdecided to increase the scope of this report to include the close calls thatoccurred on Saturday, 10 September 2011.
 
 3
Table of Contents.
 
Pagami Creek Fire Entrapments — ................................... 1
 
Facilitated Learning Analysis ............................................ 1
 
Executive Summary............................................................ 2
 
Table of Contents............................................................... 3
 
Story of the Entrapments: Monday, 12 September 2011 . 6
 
About the Story .................................................................................. 6
 
Background Information.................................................................... 6
 
12 September — Monday on the Lakes ........................................... 6
 
Where Next? ..................................................................................... 12
 
12 September — Monday at the Incident Command Post ........... 13
 
Story of the Close Calls: Saturday, 10 September 2011 16
 
9 September Friday ..................................................................... 16
 
10 September — Saturday at ICP ................................................... 16
 
10 September — Saturday On the Lakes ....................................... 17
 
11 September — Sunday, Clearing Lakes ..................................... 19
 
Lessons Learned Bullets ................................................. 21
 
Direct Lessons from Field Personnel ............................................. 21
 
Direct Lessons from Administrators .............................................. 21
 
Other Considerations....................................................................... 23
 
Discussion and Analysis ................................................. 24
 
Fire Prediction .................................................................................. 24
 
Knowing What the Fire’s Doing ...................................................... 24
 
ICS and The Public Safety Program ............................................... 26
 
Communications—Radio Issues .................................................... 28
 
Communications—Social Aspects ................................................. 28
 
Learning about Learning ................................................................. 30
 
Lakes as Safety Zones?................................................................... 31
 
Were the Shelter Deployments Necessary? Why That’s TheWrong Question ................................................................................ 32
 
FLA Team Members ......................................................... 33
 

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