Incident Name: Beaver Lake Fire, Twisp Ranger District, Okanogan National Forest
Date: Tuesday, 7/19/1960
Personnel: 2 lives lost
Agency/Organization: unknown operator but under contract with the USFS
George E. Carey, 38, Pilot, of Wenatchee, WA
J.C. Brehm, 25, Co-pilot, of Bellvue, WA
Carey and Brehm lost their lives on Tuesday, July 19, 1960 -- when the converted B-25 "firefighting airplane" (airtanker) they were flying crashed about 10 miles east of Twisp. They were dropping on the the Beaver Lake Fire, a 400 acre fire near Twisp. One media report said they just released 800 pounds of borate retardant on the fire before impacting the mountain. Another eyewitness reported by the media did not describe the plane as having dropped its retardant before it started coming apart.
Print image of the memorial sculpture from the Methow Valley Memorial Dedication Brochure, 2007
Representative image of B-25 tanker | photo credit Don Felton
B-25 tanker drop on evaluation in 1959 at Padua Hills, LA County, CA.
About 10 miles east of Twisp, WA
- Firefighting airplanes were used extensively during the active 1960 fire season. There were four crashes in a cluster, making AP's and UPI's reporting of them incomplete and confusing. In the middle two weeks of July that year, there was one firefighting plane mentioned in news articles that crashed making a water drop in British Columbia, Canada around or just before the time the lightning strike fires began (7/19) in the US. I believe this was the first North American firefighting aviation fatality of 1960; it is unclear what kind of plane it was and who the pilot was.
This quickly was followed by three B-25 crashes in the United States within three days of each other: Washington, 7/19, then several days later, Oregon and California on the same day, 7/22.
How do we know this Washington B-25 incident occurred on July 19, when the article title below implies a different temporal sequence? These articles about the Washington incident below and articles about the other two B-25 crashes in Oregon and in California were published on or later than Friday, July 22. The day of the crash that killed Carey and Brem -- referred to as "Tuesday" in this article -- must have been Tuesday, July 19th, 1960, three days prior to widespread publication of any aviation deaths. Thus the Washington crash is the second of four that occurred in a very short time frame in different western locations, from Canada to California.
When the media talks about "latest crash" below it must be referring to the latest crash they discovered when researching their article, making "Fourth Plane Crashes" the correct number even if not in the correct implied sequence.
- There is no NTSB Report. They only go back to 1961.
- Probable Cause suggested later by aviators who discussed the B-25 and B-17 airtanker crashes:
It took a while to figure out that apparently B-25s (and B-17s) were having a problem with low pressure effects on the tail caused by the "slug" of retardant being dumped out of the bomb bay all at once; retardant was 800 pounds, approx 1/3 the weight of plane, fuel and retardant
Pilots had to push the aircraft's nose down prior to the drop, compensating for the low pressure area or pocket created by the mass of water/retardant as it fell away.
- Forest Service Investigation provides suggestions of Probable Cause for the three B-25 crashes.
- In Spite of All Advances, Forest Fire Cost still Appalling in Terms of Money and Lives
Sept. 11, 1960 Online Article (the rest of the article above)
- US Forest Service Memorial List: J.C. Brehm | George E. Carey
Theysaid: 9/14/06, raising money for the memorial
- 17 minute "old time" fire management video with images and "parts" from 1958, '59, '60.
- other representative photos of B-25s
- Methow Valley Wildland Firefighter Memorial, dedicated Nov 27, 2007: Brochure Front Pagee (690 K pdf)
- Online Article: Firefighting Memorial Dedication is Nov. 27 in Winthrop
- Memorial located in Mac Lloyd Park in Winthrop, WA.
Memorial Location: From Hwy 20 at milepost 191.5, in the town of Winthrop, turn left (west) into the municipal parking lot at the big Red Barn (If anyone knows the lat/lon, please let us know.)
Rt 20 at Winthrop, WA
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