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Incident Name:  Weitchpec Dump fires
Date:  July 26, 1978
Personnel:  3 lives lost, 2 injured critically
Age:
Agency/Organization:  US Forest Service
Position: wildland firefighters

Summary:

Lives lost:
Richard A. Montano, age 22 of Santa Ana
Gayle Tsutsumi, age 26 of Redondo Beach and Arcata
David Perrine, 27 of Hamburg NY

Also injured:
Mark P. Evans, age 22 of Moraga CA
Gene Schmoker, age 26 of Orleans (crew foreman)

On Wednesday July 26, 1978 at about 1345 hours, a Forest Service "Tanker Truck" (now called an "Engine") was responding at the request of CDF to arson fires at the Weitchpec dump. It's believed that the tanker rounded a curve, crossed the center line and clipped the rear wheels of an empty logging truck. The FS tanker went over the road bank and came to rest 250 feet below along the edge of the Klamath River. One firefighter was dead at the scene, two were transported by helicopters to Mad River Hospital in Arcata and pronounced dead on arrival. Two others were critically injured. The logging truck was flipped on its side but stayed on the highway; its 2 passengers were treated and released from the hospital.

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Accident Location

4.5 mi S of Orleans on Hwy 96

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

Klam-ity Kourier: Orleans Tanker on Hwy 96 Klam-ity Kourier: Orleans Tanker on Hwy 96
Orleans Tanker on Hwy 96 Orleans Tanker on Hwy 96

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

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Media Articles and Reports.

 

 

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • International Association of Women in Fire and Emergency Services, In Memoriam: Gayle Tsutsumi Tribute with picture of the Memorial site overlooking the Klamath River on Hwy 96.

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Contributors to this article: Mike Gibbons (SRF) Joe Sean Kennedy, (MNF), Paul Montgomery who was assigned to the engine but not on duty that day (now on the MNF) and CalTrans employee (now Eureka Sup of Ops) Stan Woodman; thanks to Kent Swartzlander (Six Rivers FFMO retired), Kathy Hodnett (Asst Center Mgr at Fortuna ICC) and Rick Cowell (TNF) who got the news article; and especially to Rene Vanderhooft and John Miller -- Forest Service Honor Guards-- who have been gathering information on our Forest Service fallen heroes for more than 5 years and maintain a web page of their names.

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