A safety plan was put in place for the helitack crew. If the fire blows up and the control line does not work, the topography suggested that the flames would head toward the helitack crew. To retreat, the men were to light a controlled fire and clear the area of any vegetation. Without fuel, the approaching fire would have nothing to burn, and the firefighters would be safe in the blackened zone.
The hotshot crew created the control line and left. Suddenly, the winds turned strong and gusty, and flames that had been one or two feet high reached up to eight or 10 feet and leapt over the control line.
The flames consolidated and raced toward the helitack crew. The two men started burning vegetation to create an escape route, but they were not clearing fast enough. As the flames formed a wall and entrapped them, the men dodged and ran through the least flames, fire shelters in their hands. They were evacuated by a helicopter and treated for second degree burns.
The incident suggests that much can go wrong on the front lines, even when a campaign is carefully planned. There have been 42 fatalities associated with burnovers and entrapments since 1990, according to the National Interagency Fire Center. Among the worst was the South Canyon Fire near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, which claimed the lives of 14 firefighters in 1994.