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Incident Name:  Timber Lodge Fire, Sierra National Forest
Date: 8/2/62
Personnel:  4 lives lost
Age:
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: firefighters

Summary:

Thomas W Foley, age 39, Foreman of the 6-man crew
Jon Vaun Rasch, age 37, firefighter from Mariposa
Raymond A St Pierre, age 23, firefighter from Merced
Martin E Georgi, 39, US Soil and Conservation Service from Mariposa

The Timber Lodge Fire occured on the Sierra National Forest August 2, 1962. Four firefighters were killed and two others seriously injured while fighting the 280 acre fire near Midpines, CA. Three members of the USFS engine crew from the Jerseydale Station -- Foreman Thomas W. Foley, John Vaun Rasch and Raymond St. Pierre -- were killed along with Martin Georgi of the U.S. Conservation Service. Two other USFS firefighters -- Roy Chapin, 41, and Kent Stoel, 24 -- survived with critical burn injuries. Family members Bill Loucks and Janice Stoel report that both Kent and Roy have since passed away from injures directly related to the burns they sustained.

 

Tom Foley Tom Foley
Raymond St Pierre Raymond St Pierre
Jon Vaun Rasch & Martin Georgi Jon Vaun Rasch & Martin Georgi

 

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Maps

Estimated Burnover Location

The Timber Lodge Fire Monument is located in the Midpines County Park along Highway 140, approximately 6 miles north of Mariposa, CA. The burnover location is approximately 1 mile east of the monument Mariposa County, Sierra NF. The monument (N37,32.791 by W119,55.136) is approximately 1 mile west of the fire site.

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG): Historical Wildland Firefighter Fatalities 1910-1996
    The conditions that existed that day are described as "Hot, dry, unstable atmosphere and light fuels".
    The remarks portion said, Tornado-like action from air tanker vortices probably caused fire to blow up and trapped firefighters.
  • Since there are no reports available that we know of, we'll let the plaque at the monument serve as documentation.
Timber Lodge Monument Timber Lodge Monument
Timber Lodge Memorial Plaque Timber Lodge Memorial Plaque

Timber Lodge Fire Monument is located in the Midpines County Park. Photos compliments of Aaron W. Static photo link

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

  • Theysaid: August 2-5, 2009 contributions from the wife and firefighter son-in-law of Kent Stoel who died later from the burns he suffered. Messages below.
  • 8/2/2009 47th anniversary of the Timber Lodge Fire burnover (CA):

    Let us not forget the crew who perished in the Timber Lodge Fire Forty Seven years ago Sunday. On August 2, 1962 while fighting a wildland fire near the community of Midpines, four Firemen from the US Forest Service were burned over and killed. Thomas W Foley the Foremen, Martin F Giorgi, John Vaun Rasch, and Raymond St. Pierre. Two other men were critically injured Kent Stoel and Roy Chapin. Both Kent and Roy have since passed away from injures directly related to the burns they sustained. All these men had families and they should not be forgotten.

    William (Bill) Loucks
    Jerseydale FEO 11
    SNF Bass Lake Ranger Dist.

  • 8/5/2009 My name is Janice Stoel. I am the widow of Kent Stoel who was burned in the Timber Lodge Fire.

    I want to thank my son- in law, William Loucks, for his article on 8/2 in memories of the men who fought that fire and lost their lives that day and the two who survived but who succumbed later due to the direct results of that terrible fire. I have two son-in-laws who are fire fighters and I am very proud of them and their dedication.

    Sincerely,
    Janice Stoel
    Madras, Or.

  • 8/5/2009 Re Timber Lodge: Don’t forget about Gary Williams. He was the young, first year FF that was on that engine. He did not like what he saw as they were pulling up to the Timber Lodge for the frontal attack, and voiced his concerns. He was dropped off and told to wait by a water tank and the Captain would deal with him later. Gary watched the whole thing. He lived in Mariposa for years and owned an auto body shop.

    With all due respect to the crew, Gary made the right call. Groundpig

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • Mentioned in Carl Wilson's (1977) classic Common Denominators of Firefighter Fatalities article
  • The Midpines Community Wildland Fire Protection Plan (44 K pdf) says,
    Fire History: The area is prone to large wild land fires many of which were stand replacing fires. The more notable fires include: 1962 Timberlodge Fire, 4 fire fighters were killed when this fire over ran their engine. This fire was on the east side of Hwy 140 and during it one operational burning period ran down canyon from the start point which was south of Carstens Road. The fuel loading in this same area is now heavier than when the 1962 fire occurred. 1985 and again in 2000 Briceburg Fires, the 1985 Briceburg fire was the result of blasting and went for 2,500+ acres. This fire took for three operational periods before getting contained and had escaped containment once when the temperatures went above 120 degrees. The 2000 Briceburg was located in Sweetwater Creek went for 860 acres and took 7 operational periods to contain. There have been 4 major fires down towards McCabe Flat along the Merced River all of which were human caused and ran to the north. These fires move very quickly due the light flashy fuels located on the southwest aspect slopes. Until the end of the Railroad in 1947 much of this country was burned on a regular basis by the Yosemite Railroad. Fires in the Midpines area during high fire danger periods tend to run uphill very quickly, an estimated average size fire stopped during initial attack is approximately twenty acres. The 2008 Telegraph Fire (30 homes & 100 outbuildings lost, 36,000+ acres burned.) started as result of target shooting on the north side of the Merced River. The point that the fire crossed the river was in a steep chute (Sherlock Creek) that led directly up to where the homes were lost on Whitlock Road. Moreover, the fire traveled all the way around Telegraph Mountain and went up the Saxon Creek canyon, threatening homes off Rancheria Creek Road and Colorado Road.
  • Death toll hits Four from Fire in Mariposa County

    Aug 3, 1962 | Times Standard

    Mariposa - Four firefighters were fatally burned and two others critically injured when a 200-acre forest fire took a turn and swept over them Thursday. Observers in a borate tanker bombarding the blaze said that the men were ahead of the fire lines, fighting the flames, when the fire suddenly engulfed them. The tanker dropped its borate directly on the spot without success.

    The dead men were Martin F. Georgi, 39, of the U S Conservation Service; Thomas V. Foley, 39, and John V. Rasch, 46, the U S Forest rangers, all from Mariposa, and Raymond St. Pierre, 23 Merced. St. Pierre died today in Mercy Hospital in Merced. Taken to John C. Fremont Hospital in Mariposa with serious burns were Kent Stoel, 24, and Ray C Chapin, 40, both of Mariposa.

    The blaze, called the Timberlodge fire, broke out near Midpines, six miles northeast of Mariposa Thursday afternoon. About 400 state and federal firefighters, five tankers, 20 tankers and six borate bombers were used. Fire crews said the fire was contained and they hoped to have it completely controlled today. About 250 men remained on the line battling the blaze which has burned Ponderosa pine and brush in Sierra National Forest and destroyed a Jerseydale fire tanker. Flames moved to within 12 miles of Yosemite National Park. An investigation was underway on the cause of the fire which started near highway 140.

  • Probe Forest Fire

    Aug 4, 1962 | Independent, Long Beach, California

    Mariposa - Investigators searched Friday for the cause of a wild fire which killed four men and burned 280 acres in Midpines Thursday. The victims, all experienced firefighters, were Thomas Foley, 39, foreman of the six-man crew; Jon Vaun Rasch, 37, of Mariposa; Martin Georgi, 39 of Mariposa, an employee of the US Soil and Conservation Service, and Raymond S Pierre, 23 of Merced. Two other crew members - Kent Stoel, 24, and Roy Chapin, 41 were hospitalized in Mariposa with critical burns.

  • Suvivor of Forest Fire Sues PGE for $700,000

    Jul 7, 1963 | Modesto Bee

    Mariposa -- Mariposa Co. Roy E. Chapin of Mariposa, a survivor in a forest fire which claimed the lives of four men, is seeking $700,000 Pacific Gas and Electric Company.

    In a suit filed Thursday in a San Francisco superior court, Chapin claims a PGE utility line started the 280 acres Timber Lodge fire at Mid Pines, Mariposa County, last August 2nd. The fire trapped a crew of six, killing the crew foreman, Thomas Foley, and Jon Vaun Rasch, Raymond St. Pierre and Martin Georgi, and critically burning Chapin and Kent Stoel.

    It was the worst forest fire tragedy in the Sierra National Forest's history. A preliminary report filed by state and federal report filed by state and federal forestry investigators two days after the fire said it started near a PGE utility pole and "was spread over a wide area by falling transmission lines, which caused a rapid sweep up the brush covered slopes".

    Chapin received lengthy treatment in hospitals near Mariposa and in Fresno for burns suffered in the fire and now is under a doctor's care in his home in Mariposa where he lives with his wife, Nancy, and three children. His wife said he has suffered permanent injuries as a result of the fire.

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

Articles about the burnover accident and Services:

Media Report Media Report

Media Report Media Report

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Contributors to this article: Aaron W., John Miller, Rene Vanderhooft, Rick, Janice Stoel (wife of Rick Stoel), William Loucks (son-in-law of Janice and Rick), Mellie, Lori - Raymond St Pierre's daughter and Debbie who is Lori's researching sister, groundpig (DW)

 

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