Agreement Reached in Idaho Firefighter’s Death

 Agreement Reached in Idaho Firefighter’s Death

22 March 2013

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USA — Officials from an Idaho firefighting organization and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration reached a settlement regarding citations and fines levied after a firefighter was killed on the Steep Corner Fire last summer.

Anne Veseth, a 20-year-old firefighter from Moscow, was working for the U.S. Forest Service when she was killed by a falling tree. The Orofino-based Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protective Association was managing the fire that started on industrial timber land and spread to the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest.

In February, OSHA fined CPTPA $14,000 and issued it a citation for safety violations. The Forest Service was also cited but not fined.

On Thursday, the Idaho Land Board authorized CPTPA Chief Fire Warden Howard Weeks to sign the agreement that reduced the fine to $10,500 and revised the citation.

Idaho Department of Lands spokeswoman Emily Callihan said the original citation would have made it impossible for firefighters to do their jobs.

The citation dealt with violations of the “10 standard firefighting orders” and the “18 situations that shout ‘watch out,’ ” that are used by nearly every wildlife firefighting organization in the country. Known as the “10 and 18,” they were written in the 1950s by the Forest Service. The 10 orders include things like “keep informed on fire weather conditions and forecasts,” and “post lookouts when there is possible danger.” The 18 “watch out” situations include things like “fire not scouted and sized up” and “safety zones and escape routes not identified.”

Callihan said the 10 and 18 are guidelines and not regulations, and the hazards they cover are present on nearly every fire. But, she said, the OSHA citation, as originally written, would have required firefighters to leave any fire where any of the 10 orders could not be followed or any of the 18 situations were present.

“What OSHA eventually recognized, is by removing firefighters from fires where any of those situations are present would result in not being able to respond with initial attack and keep fires small,” she said. “So it would have resulted in having fires get big and present more of a danger to firefighters and the public in the long run.”

Rick Brazell, supervisor for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest, said his agency is in formal negotiations with OSHA over its citation.

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