Incident Name: Battlement Creek Fire, Grand Valley, CO
Date: 07/16/1976, 0856 hrs
Personnel: Don Goodman
Agency/Organization: Private Aircraft owned by Don Goodman, from Missoula MT under contract with Bureau of Land Management
Position: Pilot, Aerial firefighter
Summary: On Friday July 16th an A26B air tanker crashed on a retardant dropping mission on the Battlement Creek Fire. According to NTSB, Tanker 55 flew into a mountain midslope while turning to make the final approach for a slurry drop, approximately 1 mile south of the fire. Don Goodman, the pilot, was killed.
Accident Site (approximate), Grand Valley, CO
Location Map with Perimeter and B-26 Crash Site from the Investigation Report
- Concise Information from the NTSB, FAA, USFS, AAP, and research by the WLF Staff:
- July 16, 1976 - Tanker 55
- killed: Don Goodman
- Operator: Don Goodman's aircraft, from Missoula MT, under contract with Bureau of Land Management
- Type: Douglas A-26B
- impacted mountainous terrain near Grand Valley, CO while positioning for a retardant drop
- FAA Registration number: N5426E
- NTSB # DEN76AD058
- National Transportation Safety Board: Probable Cause (html) Probable Cause (jpg)
Pilot in command failed to follow approved procedures, directives, etc. Pilot in command misjudged altitude and clearance.
- National Transportation Safety Board: Factual Report
- Notes: "The Battlement Creek Fire of 1976 was located on Bureau of Land Management lands just outside of Grand Valley, (now Parachute), Colorado on Morrisania Mesa. Battlement Creek is approximately 8 miles long and flows in a northwesterly direction to the Colorado River. The fire burned the east side of Battlement Creek. Elevations on the fire range from 6,200 feet to 8,400. Slope percentage varies from 10 percent above County Road 302 (Battlement Road) to 75 percent in the chute just below the ridgeline.
A severe frost occurred a month earlier in this same location which killed a high percentage of the leaves on the Gambel's oak. The fire started on July 11th from a lighting storm that went through the area. On July 15th it escaped containment and a Class II Overhead Team (now known as Type 2 Incident Management Teams) was ordered. On July 15th, there were 198 fires reported on the daily Situation Report from the Boise Interagency Fire Center (now known as NIFC, the National Interagency Fire Center). The majority of the fires were in California, Nevada and Utah. During this fire the Forest Service was working with the Bureau of Land Management to establish a national plan to exchange and utilize manpower and equipment.
The Grand Junction District of the Bureau of Land Management was responsible for suppression of the fire. Approximately 13 crews totaling 270 people and approximately 20 overhead were assigned to the fire.
On Friday July 16th a B-26 air tanker crashed on a retardant dropping mission on the Battlement Creek Fire. The accident occurred at 0856 hrs, approximately 1 mile south of the fire. The pilot was killed.
On Saturday July 17th, three firefighters were killed and a fourth severely burned during a burn-over while working on the Battlement Creek Fire. All victims were members of the Mormon Lake Hotshot Crew, a trained 20 person Forest Service fire crew stationed on the Coconino National Forest in Arizona.
The Battlement Creek Fire resulted in some substantial changes in federal wildland fire management. This incident was the catalyst for the mandatory use of fire shelters and fire resistant clothing. It also demonstrated the need for closer interagency coordination between federal, state, and local wildland fire agencies."
There is a flag on private land at the location of the plane crash. The flag is visible from County Road 302 and may be photographed. The road is not a 4-wheel drive road. The coordinates for a photo of the flag at the plane crash site are N39° 24.851, W107° 57.283.
- For information on this crash, visit the NTSB Database Query: NTSB # DEN76AD058
- Flight Safety Foundation (flightsafety.org): Flight Safety Digest, Vol 18, No. 4, April 1999, US Aerial Firefighting Accidents Involving Fixed Wing Aircraft 1976-1998 (218 K pdf)
- More information on the B-26 Invader/Marauder, its history and names.
- Staff Ride: Battlement Creek Fire
- Tribute Page to Don Goodman
- Book about Johnson Flying Service: Fly the Biggest Piece Back
- Airtanker Pilots' Memorial Wall: Don Goodman
- Photos of Grand Junction Memorial [Courtesy of Tim Foley]
Contributors to this article: Tim Foley, Tom Janney, Mellie
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