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Incident Name: Kate's Basin, SW of Thermopolis and N of Riverton WY
Date: 08/11/00, 1300 hrs
Personnel: James Alan Burnett, resident of Hatfield, Arkansas
Age: 51
Agency/Organization: Wind River Indian Reservation, WY, BIA
Position: District Forester, Engine Boss, Department of Agriculture/Forestry Services Oklahoma City

Summary: Four times during the summer of 2000, District Forester Burnett received leave from his full-time job in Oklahoma to work as a temporary firefighter for the Federal government. He had served two assignments in Florida and one assignment in Louisiana. On August 2, 2000, he accepted another assignment as the engine boss of an Oklahoma contract engine and was eventually assigned to the "Kate's Basin" fire in Wyoming. Burnett's engine was assigned to assist local firefighters with a burnout operation. As Burnett was sizing up the fire line, a sudden wind caused the fire to "blow up." Burnett attempted to start the pump on his engine to protect his position but was unable to start the pump. Burnett attempted to reach a safety zone and attempted to deploy his fire shelter, but was unsuccessful. Burnett was wearing brush gear at the time of his injury. District Forester Burnett died of burns. He was the first Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Forestry Services, employee to lose his life fighting a fire.

James Burnett from OK James Burnett from OK

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Accident Site

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  • Cumualtive Fire Progression: Map


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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • Burueau of Indian Affairs: Final Report (1.91 MB pdf)
  • Website Maintained by PNW Team 3: Kate's Basin Complex
  • Kate's Basin Complex Website: Photos & Video
  • Doug Campbell: Another Way to Prevent a Reoccurrence

    Alignment of Forces Map with Track & Trigger Point Alignment of Forces Map with Track & Trigger Point

    Risk Mitigation Program Risk Mitigation Program


  • USFA Memorial Database: James Burnett

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • Firefighter Dies in Wildfire

    8/12/2000 | Online Article

    A firefighter was killed after a wind-fueled wildfire engulfed his truck on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming Friday.

    The firefighter, who was not identified, was the 11th person to die in Western wildfires this season, according to a National Interagency Fire Center official.

    A second firefighter was burned and listed in stable condition at a Riverton hospital, said Perry Baker of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

    Strong winds pushed the blaze out of control, forcing firefighters to back off the 25,000-acre Kates Basin fire and 5,000-acre Blondie Pass fire.

    Both fires are located in the Owl Creek Mountains west of Thermopolis in a sparsely populated area of central Wyoming.

    The two firefighters were the only crew members fighting a portion of the blaze when the fire roared over their fire engine, Baker said.

    The firefighter died at the scene, Baker said. The injured firefighter suffered from burns and smoke inhalation.

    The firefighters will be identified pending notification of relatives, he said. (More at the link...)

  • FINAL NEWS RELEASE: Babbitt visits Fire Camp

    8/18/2000 | Online Article

    Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt made a quiet visit to the Kate’s Basin Complex Incident Command Post today. He spoke with firefighters in camp and on the line, thanking them for their efforts in this season of extreme fire activity.

    Secretary Babbitt came to a diminishing firefighting force: there are about 400 people still camped out at the Thermopolis Fairgrounds, down from a high point of 750. By tomorrow night about 80 will be left. Those will be led by a Type Three Incident Management Team in making sure that fire line around the 137,000 acre blaze remains secure.

    The Type I Team which has been battling this blaze, Pacific Northwest Team 3, will stand down for a couple days and then probably be assigned to another large wildfire in the west.

    James Burnett, an Oklahoma Department of Forestry firefighter, died fighting the Kates’s Basin Fire on August 11. Donations in honor of James Burnett can be made to:

    James Burnett Memorial Fund, The Pinnacle Bank, P.O. Box 1369, Thermopolis, WY 82443 or

    Jim Burnett Memorial Firefighting Fund or

    The Hatfield First Baptist Church Building Fund, The Curtin County National Bank, 20 N. Park Drive

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

James Burnett from OK James Burnett from OK

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Contributors to this article: Doug Campbell, J Benshoof, Mellie, John Wendt, Joe Stutler's PNW Team 3 archive


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