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Incident Name: an Initial Attack on the Gun Fire, Angeles National Forest
Date: Incident date: 9/4/1958; Death date: 10/11/1958
Personnel: Norman J White
Age: 30
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: hotshot firefighter

Summary: During the 1958 fire season, Norm White and Dave Westfall were on initial attack on the Gun Fire, started by tracer ammo. The National Wildfire Coordination Group (NWCG) fire behavior observation says of fire behavior on this fatality: "Minor flare-up. Fire in front country canyon. Winds changed. Remarks: Firefighter was laying hose uphill and was caught by fishhook."

Both firefighters were entrapped. Summarized from the Oak Grove Hotshot History: Dave was severely burned. Trying to escape the fire front, and lost in the smoke, Dave fell over a rock and broke his left foot so badly it was dangling by a tendon. Norm White was critically burned with 3rd degree burns over much of his body. Dave survived. Norm died of his injuries on 10/11/1958.

 

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Gun Fire location on the ANF 9/4/1958...

 

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • US Forest Service Heroes Memorial: Norman White
  • California Firefighters Memorial Wall: Norman White (pdf)
  • California Death Index: Norman White
    • Name: Norman White
    • Event Type: Death
    • Event Date: 11 Oct 1958
    • Event Place: Los Angeles, California, United States
    • Birth Date: 06 Jan 1927
    • Birthplace: Michigan
    • Gender: Male
    • Father's Name: White
    • Mother's Name: Williams
  • From the Oak Grove Hotshot History page (Simultaneously hit the control and + buttons to increase type size on that page.)

    Dave Westfall: In 1958, Dave was promoted on the Arroyo Seco R.D. to the east side ADFMO position. During the 1958 fire season, and while on an initial attack fire assignment on the Gun fire (started by tracer ammo.) Dave was severally burned while scouting the fire. Trying to escape the fire front, and lost in smoke, Dave fell over a rock, landing on his back, and broke his left foot at the ankle joint with only the tendon holding. Dave’s foot was saved, but the result was that the ankle had to be set in a fixed position.

    Norm White, was one of the Oak Grove Foremen from 1956 to 1958, later taking the Santa Anita Fire Prevention position, and working for Dave Westfall. Norm White, was with Dave Westfall, when Dave broke his ankle, and was severally burned with 3rd degree burns over most of his body. Eventually, Norm died of complications while in the hospital. Norm White, was married to Marilyn and at the time of the accident, she was pregnant with their first child.

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Contributors to this article: John Miller, Oak Grove Hotshots, CDF Tim, Mel Alexander for details on the date of Norm's death. Thanks! (Mel also said, "Norm was my mother's first husband.")

 

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