Saturday, September 30, 2023

A fuel supply failure impacts firefighting operations in California

A wildfire in Del Norte County, California suffered a major setback when firefighting equipment began mysteriously malfunctioning. An error resulted in numerous vehicles being fueled with the wrong type of fuel, resulting in equipment failures and operational delays. Around 82 vehicles were refueled with petrol instead of diesel or vice versa, which led to a two-hour break in operations on September 8th. Some firefighters were trapped in the fire line and several vehicles had to be towed and repaired. Bill Morse, public information officer for the Southwest Area Incident Management Team, described the mistake as “a very costly mistake.”

The incident occurred when the head of the Gasquet base camp inspected the camp’s fuel supplies and discovered that one of the trucks had diesel in the gasoline tank and gasoline in the diesel tank. The incident commanders declared an incident within an operation, which led to an interruption of the operation. The fuel mix impacted emergency medical care and affected authorities’ ability to quickly respond to injured firefighters.

The more than 2,000 firefighters were ordered to stop work and stop when driving. Operations resumed after two hours when night shift teams took over. The break came at an opportune time as the fire was not actively burning due to recent rains.

Once operations returned to normal, the focus was on rescuing firefighters trapped in the line of fire. Damaged vehicles, including those owned by private contractors, were towed and repaired by the Forest Service. A total of 24 vehicles were towed to a command post where fuel was properly unloaded and disposed of.

This incident highlights the importance of thorough vetting of service providers and the importance of strictly adhering to safety protocols in emergency situations. Although the incident presented significant challenges, it also demonstrated the effectiveness of incident management teams in quickly resolving issues and ensuring firefighter safety.

Nation World News Desk
Nation World News Desk
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