Incident Name: Battlement Creek Fire
Date: 07/17/1976, 1448 hrs
Personnel: 3 Lives Lost
Age: early 20s
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Anthony A Czak, 25 years, of Flagstaff AZ
Stephen H Furey, 22 years, of Salmon ID
Scott L Nelson, 23 years, of Bloomer WI
The Battlement Creek Fire initially started on July 11th and was contained on July 12th, and then monitored by the Grand Valley VFD. The fire escaped containment on the 15th, and grew to 500 acres on the 16th when the B-26 air tanker crashed. The Mormon Lake Hotshots and Happy Jack Hotshots were assigned to carry out burnout operations on July 17th. Neither crew was ever aware of the exact location of the other crew. A squad from the Mormon Lake Hotshots was entrapped on top of the ridge by the burnout operations. Four firefighters were badly burned, 3 died on-scene and the fourth, John Gibson was flown by helicopter to the nearest medical facility. Firefighters were required to carry Fire Shelters following this fire.
Fire Perimeter and Fatality Locations
- Accident Investigation: Full Report (13 MB pdf) | Typed Version, without
- Pictures [Courtesy of Staff Ride Library] (246K pdf)
- Wildland Fire Leadership Development Program: Staff Ride
- Battlement Creek: Sequence of Events (7.4 MB ppt)
- 6 Minutes for Safety, "This Day In History": Battlement Creek Burnover (301K pdf)
- Battlement Creek Fire of 1976 brought Common Denominators and mandated carrying fire shelters. Carl Wilson’s Common Denominators of Fire Behavior on Tragedy Fires, 1977 -- Such fires often occur:
- On relatively small fires or deceptively quiet areas of large fires.
- In relatively light fuels, such as grass, herbs, and light brush.
- When there is an unexpected shift in wind direction or wind speed.
- When fire responds to topographic conditions and runs uphill. Alignment of topography and wind during the burning period should always be considered a trigger point to re-evaluate strategy and tactics.
- Doug Campbell on Battlement Creek Burnover, 1991:
- Battlement Creek Fire Column [Courtesy of Staff Ride Library]
- Idaho Obituaries Index: Stephen Horton Furey
- Wisconsin Death Index: Scott L Nelson
- US Social Security Death Index: Stephen Furey | Scott L Nelson
20 July 1976
Hotel Mountain Lookout
To Five-Twenty --
Five-Twenty went north
forest fire to fight -- three men
gave their lives to fire.
There are many who
will remember their smalltalk
on Saturday night.
Memories of talk
over glasses of wine in
Mormon Lake Lodge Bar.
Loss of loved ones
on a fire -- no recompense
Requiem -- softly,
say their names in unison,
Long -- we'll remember ----
Shirley & Chuck
Grand Junction Memorial [Courtesy of Tim]
- Find a Grave Index: Anthony Czak, Jr | Stephen H Furey | Scott L Nelson
- Anthony is buried in Citizens Cemetary, Flagstaff, Arizona
- Stephen is buried in City Cemetary, Sakmon, Idaho
- Scott is buried in Boomer City Cemetary, Boomer, Wisconsin
Contributors to this article: J Benshoof, Mellie
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