Brush Engine Dedication
by Beverly Bernice Voelkelt - 2012
This section on Brush Engines is dedicated to the five brave firefighters of Engine 57, who lost their lives in the arson caused Esperanza Fire. That fire started on October 26, 2006 at 0112 hrs local time near Cabazon, CA. Driven by fierce Santa Ana winds and an abundance of highly flammable Chapparal brush it quickly turned into a raging inferno. In its first 18 hours the fire burned through 24,000 acres of land. By the time it was fully contained on October 30, 2006 it had charred an estimated 40,200 acres.
In the early morning hours of October 26, Fire Captain Mark Loutzenhiser, Engine Operator Jess McLean, Assistant Engine Operator Jason McKay, Firefighter Daniel Hoover-Najera and Firefighter Pablo Cerda were entering an isolated estate above Cabazon with Brush Engine 57 to take up position to defend the “Octagon” house, as locals called it. A sudden shift in winds very quickly drove the fire in their direction, over running their position in just minutes. Three firefighters died at the scene. Captain Loutzenhiser died shortly after arriving at the burn ward at Arrowhead Regional Medical Center. Firefighter Cerda succumbed to his injuries at the same hospital on October 31, 2006. Brush Engine 57 was destroyed by the fire.
It is apparent the crew of Engine 57 was overwhelmed by the extremely fast moving and intense fire. They were away from their engine and they did not even have time to deploy their life saving shelters to seek refuge. Ever since this tragic incident my mind has been occupied with passive and active safety features on our Brush Engines. Is it possible to have highly capable Brush Engines that also offer a maximum of life saving technology in the event a crew and their engine find themselves trapped in a situation where they are surrounded or overrun by flames? The short answer is yes. The long answer is it depends on the over all circumstances.
A Brush Engine equipped with high pressure water jets to protect the crew compartment and other vital engine components and tires, as well as a roof monitor that can be turned to douse the entire engine with water, would be welcome additions in active safety features that can safe lives of firefighters. Such safety features are standard requirements on Brush Engines in many European countries and are explained in the section “Euro Engines Picture Gallery”. It is my sincere wish fire departments and fire agencies look closely at the unique challenges in the wildland urban interface and intermix and recognize that engines deployed in this difficult environment must be designed and developed specifically for that purpose.
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