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Incident Name: Oso Fire, Mendocino Lightning Complex, Philo, CA; CAL FIRE jurisdiction fire
Date: Incident Date:  07/02/08 1200 hrs; Death Date: 07/03/08
Personnel: Robert Roland
Age: 63
Agency/Organization: Anderson Valley Volunteer Fire Department
Position: Volunteer

Summary: Firefighter Roland was assigned the position of lookout on the Oso Fire on July 2, 2008. He saw other firefighters carrying hose to progress a hose-lay and started to help them carry hose up a hill when he experienced extreme fatigue and respiratory distress.

Initially it was thought to be heat-related distress. He was moved from the fireground in an air-conditioned personal vehicle to meet the ambulance which transported him to the hospital. He was initially treated in the emergency room and then transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) where he died the next morning, July 3, 2008, at approximately 0400 hours, from a massive heart attack.

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Anderson Valley CA, VFD Headquarters

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  • Death of Anderson Valley Firefighter -- Press Release

    From the Anderson Valley Volunteer Fire Department: ...No longer online.

    PO Box 398, 14281 Hwy 128, Boonville, CA 95415 (707) 895-2020

    Anderson Valley Volunteer Fire Department, Mendocino County Sheriff, and CAL FIRE released the following statement regarding the death of volunteer Firefighter Recruit Bob Roland, 63, of Anderson Valley, CA.

    Mr. Roland suffered fatigue and respiratory difficulties on the afternoon of July 2, 2008, while working on the Oso Fire, located approximately nine miles northwest of the community of Boonville, CA. Mr. Roland was transported to Ukiah Valley Medical Center where he passed away during the early morning hours of July 3, 2008.

    All Mendocino County Fire Services and supporting agencies extend their deepest sympathy to the family of Mr. Roland.

    Volunteer Firefighter Roland grew up in Southern California and was a volunteer firefighter for CDF in Riverside as a teenager. Roland was a Marine pilot from 1967 to 1977 and flew F-4 fighters. He retired from an aeronautical engineering firm in San Diego County and relocated to Anderson Valley six months ago.

    Bob Roland is survived by his wife of 33 years, Carol, his sister Lynda, her husband Dar, and nephews Eric and David.

    Private services were held on Tuesday, June 8, 2008. In Bob’s memory, the family has requested that to honor Bob Roland’s sacrifice, all energy be put into successfully fighting the Mendocino Lightning Complex Fires. Recognizing the importance of family, the family has urged all firefighters to spend as much time with their families as possible.

    The family has requested that in lieu of flowers, any donations be made to the Anderson Valley Volunteer Firefighters Association, PO Box 398, 14281 Hwy 128, Boonville, CA 95415 (707) 895-2020 or the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, Donor Services, PO Box 4072, Pittsfield, MA 01202.

  • Anderson Valley Volunteer Firefighter Dies

    July 4, 2008 | Online Article

    An Anderson Valley volunteer firefighter who was battling one of more than 100 wildfires burning in Mendocino County died Thursday morning of a possible heart attack.

    Robert Roland, 63, was taken to Ukiah Valley Medical Center after he become fatigued and short of breath while helping to lay water hoses at a fire near Philo just after noon Wednesday, said Colin Wilson, chief of the Anderson Valley Volunteer Fire Department.

    He died about 4 a.m. Thursday at the Ukiah hospital's intensive care unit of what's believed to be a heart attack, Wilson said. An autopsy is pending. It is the department's first firefighting-related death, said Wilson, 60, who's been with the department for 25 years.

    "It's been very hard for all of us," he said. "It's been an absolute low point in my life and the department's history, and we can't express enough our sadness over this."

    Flags at the state Capitol flew at half staff in Roland's honor, and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger issued public condolences to his family.

    "I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Volunteer Firefighter Recruit Bob Roland, who courageously lost his life while protecting his community from the threat of fire," the statement read.

    Roland and his wife, Carol, had moved from San Diego to the Anderson Valley about six months ago, Wilson said. Roland was a retired vice president of business development for an aerospace company, Wilson said. He did not know the name of the company. Roland also was a former Marine who had flown F-4 fighter-bombers from 1966 to 1977.

    He became a volunteer recruit with the Anderson Valley department three months ago, Wilson said. Because of his age, Roland was not assigned to do heavy work, he said. On Wednesday, he was assigned as a lookout on the Oso fire northwest of Philo, Wilson said. Roland was stationed on a flat landing along a road with a view of the fire. But he left his perch and walked up and down a hill a couple of times to help lay hoses, Wilson said.

    He was walking up a hill when someone noticed he appeared to be in distress and called Wilson, he said. Roland "denied having any serious problem. He said he was just tired and fatigued and having trouble catching his breath," Wilson said. Roland was driven to Boonville and then taken by ambulance to Ukiah Valley Medical Center, he said.

    Wilson said Roland had been enthusiastic about becoming a volunteer firefighting recruit. "He just couldn't get enough of it," he said. Roland volunteered to help with any and all department projects, from fund raising to maintenance, Wilson said. "His wife said he loved his connection with the department," he said. Wilson said the department plans to have a memorial service.

    Cal Fire officials will be investigating the death, Wilson said. Roland is the 58th firefighter in the country and fifth in California to die of a duty-related incident this year, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. About 100 firefighters die in the line of duty each year, according to the agency.

    Of the four other California deaths, one was attributed to a stroke, one was caused by a brain hemorrhage, one to an explosion and the cause of one has not been determined.

  • The Oso Fire was part of the Mendocino Lightning Complex in northern CA. Here's what the Anderson Valley Fire Department said about it: (No longer online...)

    HISTORY: During the evening and early morning of (Friday) June 20 and 21 a wide front of dry thunder storms with dry lightening came through the Mendocino County area, mostly north of Ukiah and Boonville. By Saturday afternoon we had identified 10 major fires in the Anderson Valley Fire Department district. Our department has rolling stock of 12 pieces of equipment from rescue pick-ups to water tenders.

    Our 30 volunteers responded and attacked the most threatening fires. We pulled 14 hour shifts between the 8am briefing and dark. At dark we had to walk away from the fire so we would be rested and tuned up for another attack the next morning. On the third day a strike team from Sacramento (31\2 hours away) arrived to help. All local fire agencies were booked solid with their own fires and could not help with their neighbors fires. With over 1000 fires burning in the county the air was so thick with smoke most aircraft were grounded. The weather so far has been favorable with high humidity and low evening temperatures in the 50 and 60. (etc.)


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  • Robert Roland's name read into the Congressional Record:

    July 25, 2009 - Saturday-Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the floor this afternoon (7-9-08) in support of H.R. 5541, the Federal Land Assistance, Management and Enhancement Act (FLAME Act), which passed by voice vote. She said,

    “We also express our deepest sympathies to those who have suffered deeply personal losses as a result of these fires, particularly the families of the two firefighters who lost their lives: Robert Roland of the Anderson Valley Fire Department, a volunteer fireman who lost his life fighting a fire, and John Hermo of Oregon - he came down from Oregon to help fight the fires. He drowned while off duty, but nonetheless, here in the service of this important fight."

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Contributors to this article: Scott Roberts

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