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Incident Name:  Sawtooth Prescribed Fire
Date: 5/14/03, died 6/19/03
Personnel:  Richard "Rick" Glen Lupe
Age: 43
Agency/Organization: Bureau of Indian Affairs, Fort Apache Agency, White River, Bureau of Indian Affairs
Position: Lead Firefighter

Summary: Lead Forestry Technician Lupe was assisting with a prescribed burn involving approximately 2,000 acres on land that is part of an Apache Tribe reservation near White River. Lead Forestry Technician Lupe joined the effort during the third day of the burn. An assigned lookout reported an increase in fire activity on the Southeast portion of the burn. Lead Forestry Technician Lupe advised that he would conduct reconnaissance of the area. A short time later, the area being investigated by Lead Forestry Technician Lupe experienced extreme fire behavior, evidenced by a large column of smoke. Lupe transmitted calls to other firefighters advising them to back out of the area and to take refuge in safe areas that had already burned. The fire advanced quickly and overcame Lead Forestry Technician Lupe. He was unable to deploy his fire shelter due to the fact that embers on the ground would have burned him. Nearby crews received radio calls from Lead Forestry Technician Lupe requesting medical assistance. He reported that he had been burned. Lupe was able to walk out of the area and meet firefighters. Lead Forestry Technician Lupe was transported by firefighters to a helicopter landing area. He was flown to a local hospital and then flown again to a regional burn center. Lead Forestry Technician Lupe died on June 19, 2003, as a result of complications of his burns.

Memorial Fund Info: Donations for the Lupe family can be made to the WMAT-Rick Lupe Donation Fund at any Wells Fargo Bank, account No. 3828332563. A Lupe Fund also has been set up at Arizona Federal Credit Union, account No. 468902.

Rick Lupe at briefing during the Rodeo-Chedeski fire. Rick Lupe at briefing during the Rodeo-Chedeski fire.

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Maps

spaceholder: Accident Location

 

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • United States Department of the Interior
    Bureau of Indian Affairs
    Fort Apache Agency
    PO Box 560
    Whiteriver, Arizona 85941

    **NEWS RELEASE**
    ______________________

    Contact: Chadeen Palmer, Public Information Officer
    <snip>
    928-338-5383 fax
    Date: May 19, 2003
    Firefighter Rick Lupe Update
  • [Whiteriver, Arizona]-Rick Lupe, Fort Apache Agency firefighter, was seriously burned on May 14, when he was trapped in a small flare up on the Sawtooth prescribed burn near Whiteriver, Arizona on the Fort Apache Indian Reservation. He was transported immediately by helicopter to the Indian Health Service Hospital in Whiteriver and then flown to the Maricopa Medical Burn Center in Phoenix. He is reported to be in stable but critical condition with extensive burns over 33% of his body, most seriously on his head, hands, arms and upper legs.

    Evelyn Lupe, Rick’s wife, expressed her sincere appreciation for the overwhelming support, prayers and well-wishes from people throughout the state and nation. She asked for continued prayers to help Rick with his recovery and recuperation.

    The 100 Club, a nonprofit organization established to provide assistance to injured firefighters and law enforcement officers, has established an account for Rick Lupe and his family. Donations may be made for Rick and his family in Account #468902 at the Arizona Federal Credit Union. Many local banks and other financial institutions will also accept donations for the account. Credit card donations may be made in Rick Lupe’s name on the Internet at (snip old info)

  • SAI Team: 24 HR Briefing and 72 Hour Briefing: 24 and 72 HR Reports (99 K pdf)
  • Sawtooth Rx: Factual Report (5,984 K pdf)
  • Sawtoth Rx: NIOSH Report (412 K pdf)
  • USFA Database: Richard G Lupe

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

They Said It

July 7, 2002 mention of Rick's work on the Rodeo-Chedeski Fire

There's a FINE story here arizonarepublic.com (no longer online) by Judd Slivka: It begins:

SHOW LOW:Rick Lupe was leaning on the hood of his ash-stained silver pickup, his black baseball cap pulled low over his forehead and his dark eyes blazing out of brown sunglasses.

Lupe, a division supervisor on the "Rodeo-Chediski" fire, was running a part of the fireline that was crucial not only to this city's survival but also to other towns.

His dark eyes were blazing that day not because of the smoke in the air, but because there was fire on the wrong side of Snake Ridge. If the fire spilled down there, it could...

May 2003: announcement of the burnover and discussion start on 5/17/2003 (read from the bottom, up)

June 2003: continues 6/1 through 6/28/03

July 2003: from 7/15

August 2003: from 8/7/03, announcement of the Factual Report

December 2004: 12/11/04, announcement of the NIOSH Report

May 2005: part of a post on 5/23/2005 from Vicki Minor re Work by the WFF on survivor benefits for Rx fatalities

Just a quick up-date to the wildland fire community... from the Wildland Firefighter Foundation... We're very busy.

PSOB and Rx fire deaths: When I was in Washington D.C. last month, I met with the Department of Justice folks and they affirmed to me that PSOB will cover federal wildland firefighter deaths that occurred during prescribed burns. Each case is different and has different levels of verification to go through, but all are likely eligible. Rick Lupe's survivors have received their benefits, so it is looking good for other families whose firefighter died during a Rx burn.

November 2006: 11/14/2006, similarity between Sawtooth and Devils Den burnover

 

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • Rick Lupe dies after month long struggle
  • From wmicentral.com Link to Online Article

    Wednesday, June 18, 2003 11:00 pm

    By: Terence Corrigan White Mountain Independent

    PHOENIX - Considered a hero for leading the fight that stopped the Rodeo-Chediski Complex fire from getting to Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside, Rick Lupe, 42, lost his struggle to hang onto life Thursday morning after suffering severe burns in a prescribed fire just over a month ago.

    Lupe is survived by his wife, Evelyn, and their three sons, Sean, 19, Daniel, 16, and Brent, 9. They had been by his side in the hospital since the accident.

     

  • Fort Apache Hotshots Celebrate Silver Anniversary!
  • From Smoke Signals: Link to 1.6 MB pdf download Online Article

    January, 2008, Volume 8

    This article about the history and 25th anniversary of the Fort Apache Hotshots includes info about Rick Lupe, former Fort Apache Superintendant. On page 3 is a photo of the bronze statue of Rick that stands in front of the town library in Pinetop-Lakeside, Arizona. Ab.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • The United States Congress passed a congressional resolution honoring him for his long and essential service in fighting wildfires and caring for the environment, and for ultimately sacrificing his life for the people of Arizona.

Congressman Rick Renzi said:

"Arizona lost a true hero in Rick Lupe. This loss comes at a time when his knowledge was needed most to help preserve and protect our forests and rural communities from the summer fires. His legacy lives on through the spirit of those he worked with and through those whose lives he saved."

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House Calendar No. 121
108TH CONGRESS
1ST SESSION

H. CON. RES. 237
[Report No. 108–343]
Honoring the late Rick Lupe, lead forestry technician for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Apache Agency, for his dedication and service to the United States and for his essential service in fighting wildfires and protecting the environment and communities of Arizona.
---------------------------------
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
JUNE 26, 2003
Mr. RENZI (for himself, Mr. FRANKS of Arizona, and Mr. GRIJALVA) submitted the following concurrent resolution; which was referred to the Committee on Resources
NOVEMBER 4, 2003
Additional sponsors: Mr. HAYWORTH, Mr. FLAKE, and Mr. KOLBE
NOVEMBER 4, 2003
Referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be printed
---------------------------------

CONCURRENT RESOLUTION
Honoring the late Rick Lupe, lead forestry technician for
the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Apache Agency, for
his dedication and service to the United States and for
his essential service in fighting wildfires and protecting
the environment and communities of Arizona.

  • Whereas Rick Lupe served as lead forestry technician for the Bureau of Indian Affairs Fort Apache Agency and was a long-time firefighter whose legendary intellect and skills made him a hero in 2002 when he saved the town of Show Low, Arizona, from the Rodeo-Chediski fire;
  • Whereas Rick Lupe and his crew of firefighters dug the fire line at Hop Canyon and created a back burn that stopped the fire from crossing U.S. 60;
  • Whereas Rick Lupe died on Thursday, June 19, 2003, as a result of severe burns sustained in a prescribed fire conducted in May;
  • Whereas throughout his career, Rick Lupe was a strong advocate of the prescribed burn program and supported and knew the value of fuels treatment programs;
  • Whereas Rick Lupe was extremely dedicated to his work and performed his job at the highest level;
  • Whereas friends and colleagues describe Rick Lupe as ‘‘. . . a shining example of a firefighter . . . super safety-conscious,
  • and his family is his love and pride’’; and
  • Whereas Rick Lupe is survived by his wife of 21 years, Evelyn, and their three sons, Sean, 19, who is studying forestry at Northern Arizona University, Daniel, 16, who is in high school, and Brent, 9, who is in grade school:

Now, therefore, be it Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That Congress recognizes and honors the late Rick Lupe for his dedication and service to the United States, for his long and essential service in fighting wildfires and caring for the environment, and for ultimately sacrificing his life for the people of Arizona.

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Contributors to this article: Mellie

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