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Incident Name: Cramer Fire near Salmon, ID
Date: 7/22/03
Personnel: 2 lives lost
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: Indianola Helitack crew members, USFS

Shane William Heath, 22 years
Jeffrey "Jeff" Clayton Allen, 24 years

Firefighters Allen and Heath rappelled off of a helicopter into a rugged part of the Salmon-Challis National Forest. The two were charged with establishing a helicopter landing zone to facilitate efforts to fight the Cramer fire. The fire was started by a lightning strike. The firefighters were dropped at the site at 0943 hrs. They were contacted throughout the day by radio to assess their progress. At approximately 1500 hrs, they made radio contact and requested that they be picked up. No helicopters were available at that time. A more urgent request for pickup was received at 1509 hrs. At 1513 hrs, the firefighters reported fire below them and that the fire was advancing toward them. A helicopter arrived at approximately 1524 hrs but was unable to land due to smoke conditions. Observers on other aircraft witnessed fire progression and extremely high flame fronts in the area of Firefighters Allen and Heath. Further attempts to contact the firefighters by radio were unsuccessful. The bodies of both firefighters were found together by other firefighters later in the day. Both firefighters carried fire shelters but neither shelter was found fully deployed. The cause of death for both firefighters was listed as massive burns.

Shane Heath, firefighter Shane Heath, firefighter
Shane Heath Shane Heath
Jeff Allen, firefighter Jeff Allen, firefighter
Jeff Allen Jeff Allen
Shane & Jeff Shane & Jeff

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Accident Location

Aerial photo of the fire on terrain 7/20/03; credit Salmon-Challis National Forest

Cramer Fire and Long Tom Lookout 7/20/03 Cramer Fire and Long Tom Lookout 7/20/03

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

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They Said It: Beginning on 7/23/03

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Media Articles and Reports.

Two Die Fighting Wildfire in Idaho
AP: Link to Media Report

SALMON, Idaho —  Two firefighters battling the Cramer wildfire (search) in central Idaho died Tuesday night after they were overrun by flames, officials said Wednesday.

The two were members of the Salmon-Challis National Forest (search) helitack crew fighting the fire 17 miles west of Shoup. Their names were not released.

A Forest Service statement said an investigation team has been assigned and all firefighters have been taken off the fire line for safety reasons.

The blaze also forced the evacuation of the nearby Long Tom Lookout. The lightning-caused fire was reported Sunday evening. No further details about the deaths were immediately available.

Thirty-four firefighters had been assigned to the blaze, which blew up over the Salmon valley Tuesday, from its original 220 acres to about 1,000 acres of timber.

"It's bad right now. The fire behavior today was incredible," said Gail Baer, fire information officer with the Salmon-Challis National Forest. "I don't want to scare people away, but they really should pay attention before heading out to go play in the woods."

Crews did manage to get the upper hand on two other Idaho fires.

The Tobias Fire, which has charred nearly 15,000 acres near Leadore, was reported contained.

And the 4,000-acre Harkness fire near McCammon, which destroyed two homes and several buildings, was reported 80 percent contained.

In Brusett, Mont., neighbors armed with water tanks on their truckbeds pitched in to help protect each others' homes as a cluster of range fires swept across more than 117,000 acres of north-central Montana.

Farmers and ranchers have played a big role in fighting the flames and gotten little sleep since wildfires were sparked last week. Residents have built fire lines, watered down yards and helped neighbors pack up valuable belongings.

Incident commander Jim Gray said Wednesday could be another difficult day, with high temperatures in the area and flames predicted to be buffeted by southwest winds.

"It doesn't appear we're going to get much help out of the weather, just problems," he said Tuesday evening. The fire has so far charred some 117,570 acres, or 184 square miles.
(more at the link)

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • US Forest Service Heroes Memorial: Shane Heath | Jeff Allen
  • USFA Memorial Database: Shane W Heath | Jeffrey "Jeff" Clayton Allen
  • Wildland Firefighters Foundation Heroes: Shane Heath | Jeff Allen
  • Adopt a Highway Signs: In Memory of Jeff Allen and Shane Heath, Indianola Helitack who died on the Cramer Fire 2003. There are two signs, one facing South and one North, just off of HWY 93 North outside of Salmon/North Fork ID. The owner of the Broken Arrow hadthem put up as well as ribbons and flowered crosses on the highway markers lining the highway. -Jill
  • Cramer Memorial has 2 statues memorializing Jeff Allen and Shane Heath, at Indianola Helibase outside of Salmon ID.
Early Roadside Memorial to Jeff & Shane Early Roadside Memorial to Jeff & Shane
Memorial to Jeff & Shane Memorial to Jeff & Shane
Enlargement of Plaques Enlargement of Plaques
Plaque for Jeff Allen & Shane Heath, Indianola Helitack Plaque for Jeff Allen & Shane Heath, Indianola Helitack
  • Angeles Helitack created a Helispot Checklist shortly after the Cramer Incident. "We were married up with Indianola Helitack leading up to that incident. We wanted to put something together to help prevent future accidents and honor those gentlemen we spent time with." RAM305

Helispot Checklist Helispot Checklist

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Contributors to this article: Vicki, Mellie, John Miller, Ram305

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