Incident Name:Steep Corner Fire 25 mi NE of Orofino ID, Nez Perce - Clearwater National Forest
Date: August 12, 2012
Personnel: Anne Veseth
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service handcrew supervised by the Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protection Association
Wildland Firefighter Anne Veseth, age 20, was struck and killed by a falling tree on Sunday Aug 12, 2012 while building line around the 43-acre Steep Corner Fire near Orofino, ID. Anne was a North Fork Ranger district employee and at the time of the accident she was assigned to Engine 31 and working with a mix of folks and employees from Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protection Association. She was in her second year of wildland firefighting.
Approximate accident location; Nez Perce-Clearwater Forests, 25 mi NE of Orofino near the Aquarius Campground, North Fork Ranger District
- News Release, 24-Hour Report: Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests (77 K pdf)
- Announcement to Forest Service employees:
It is with great sadness that I inform you of the loss of one of our Fire Fighters yesterday on the Steep Corner Fire near Orofino ID. The victim, Anne Veseth, a seasonal employee of the Nez Perce - Clearwater National Forest was apparently killed by a falling tree. Anne was 20 years old and in her second season as a firefighter. I know her family and friends are devastated by this tragic news, as are her colleagues on the forest and in the fire fighting community. A Serious Accident Investigation Team is on its way to try to learn everything we can from circumstances surrounding this horrific event. Please join me in keeping the family, friends, and colleagues of Anne Veseth in your hearts.
Lenise Lago, US Forest Service
- Online screen-capture: Nez Perce NF
- FS Chief Tom Tidwell and Regional Forester Faye Krueger's statements: from the Northern Rockies webpage
- US Forest Service: 72-Hour Report
- SAFENET filed on 8/14/12 by the Flathead Hotshots who assessed the situation the day prior to Anne's death and refused to work under the unsafe conditions they found. (New SafeNet Database: Steep Corner SAFENET)
- Forest Service Serious Accident Investigation Report: SAI Steep Corner Fire Fatality (1,440 K pdf).
- OSHA issued a Citation and "Notification of Penalty" of $14,000 worth of fines: To the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association (CPTPA), the organization that was managing the fire. (February 7, 2013)
- Serious violation: For not providing a safe working environment; 8 of the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders were violated, and they did not mitigate 11 of the 18 Watch Out Situations. Proposed penalty: $4,900.
- Serious violation: employees engaged in wildland firefighting were exposed to being struck by hazard trees while constructing fire line. Proposed penalty: $4,900.
- Serious violation: Firefighters constructing direct fire line did not have fire shelters readily available. Firefighters constructing fire line were wearing denim and work pants not rated as fire resistant. Proposed penalty: $4,200.
- Must be abated in March, 2013, if not contested and the fine must be paid within 15 working days.
- OSHA issued a Notice to the Forest Service: Notice of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions (February 7, 2013) (520 K pdf)
- Serious Violation: 7 of the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders were violated, and they did not mitigate 9 of the 18 Watch Out Situations.
- Repeat Violation: employees engaged in wildland firefighting were exposed to being struck by hazard trees while constructing fire line. [Steve Uptegrove was the USFS firefighter killed in 2009 for which OSHA gave the Forest Service the repeat violation in the citation for Anne Veseth’s death. vfd cap'n]
- Must be abated in March, 2013, if not contested.
- Followup to OSHA issued a Citation and "Notification of Penalty" reduced the $14,000 worth of fines to $10,500: To the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association (CPTPA), the organization that was managing the fire.
OSHA also modified the association's original citation, after the state objected that it would have required firefighters to leave any fire where standard firefighting orders couldn't be followed or dangerous situations were present. The state contended that the original citation would have prevented personnel from making an initial attack on many fires, allowing them to grow and become more dangerous.
- Followup to OSHA issued the Forest Service "Unsafe or Unhealthy Working Conditions". The Forest Service is contesting the OSHA citation. They concluded in the SAI report that Anne's death is not the result of human error but was due to the inherent dangers of fighting wildfires where risks can't be completely eliminated
- To understand the paradox and contridictions inherent in the 10 Standard Fire Orders and 18 Watchout Situations please read the following:
- Dr Ted Putnam: The Ten Standard Firefighting Orders: Can Anyone Follow Them? (67 K doc)
- Dr Jennifer Ziegler: The Story Behind an Organizational List: A Genealogy of Wildland Fireﬁghters’ 10 Standard Fire Orders. (161 K pdf)
- Forest Service Heroes Memorial page: Anne Veseth
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- Theysaid: starting on 8/13/12
- The Hotlist: Incident Within an Incident
- The Hotlist: Condolences thread
- The Hotlist: Serious Accident investigation
- The Hotlist: OSHA
- About Anne Veseth from the Forest Service
8/13/12 | Online article (no longer online)
MISSOULA, Mont – the US Forest Service has identified the firefighter killed while combating a wildfire in Idaho Sunday afternoon as Anne Veseth (VEE-sith), 20, a seasonal firefighter for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.
“The Forest Service family is in mourning following the tragic death of one of our firefighters in Idaho over the weekend,” said US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of this brave young woman.”
Regional Forester Faye Krueger echoed Tidwell’s sentiments in her own remarks: “We are devastated by the loss of this young woman. This is a stark reminder of the inherent dangers our men and women face every day on the fire lines of wildfires all over the country.” (More at the link above...)
- "Forest Service family in mourning" for firefighter killed in Idaho
8/14/12 | Online article
A 20-year-old firefighter killed Sunday while working an Idaho forest fire was identified as Anne Veseth, a Moscow, Idaho, native in her second year of school at Lewis-Clark State College. Phil Sammon of the U.S. Forest Service’s Northern Region office in Missoula said Veseth was working with a hand crew on the Steep Corner fire 80 miles southeast of Coeur d’Alene when she was struck by a falling tree.
A team of investigators was expected to arrive at the scene late Monday or Tuesday to determine more about the accident.
Veseth was a qualified level 2 firefighter skilled in initial attack and general firefighting duties. She’d already worked wildfires in Arizona and Colorado this season, the agency said.
“The Forest Service family is in mourning following the tragic death of one of our firefighters,” U.S. Forest Chief Tom Tidwell said in a written statement. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of this brave young woman.”
In a 2010 feature story, the Lewistown (Idaho) Tribune lauded Veseth’s drive and her 3.9 grade-point average. She won several academic scholarships covering nearly all of her college tuition. (More at the link above...)
- Idaho Firefighter Killed: Anne Veseth Dies While Fighting Wildfire
8/14/12 | Online article
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — For wildland firefighter Anne Veseth, the danger came not from out-of-control flames, but from above: She was struck by a falling tree on Sunday, ending her life at just 20 years.
Exactly what happened is now the subject of a federal investigation.
When Veseth died, she and other members of her 20-person crew were trying to extinguish the 43-acre Steep Corner fire near Orofino. They were establishing and reinforcing a fire line on one perimeter of the blaze, U.S. Forest Service spokesman Phil Sammon said.
"It's a harsh reminder that this is dangerous stuff, and the qualification and safety and training we commit to is paramount," said Sammon, who is based in Missoula, Mont. (More at the link above...)
- US Forest Service firefighter death: $14,000 fine proposed in Idaho case
2/14/2013 | Online article
AP. LEWISTON, Idaho — The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited a fire management organization and proposed a $14,000 fine for serious safety violations OSHA says led to the death of a U.S. Forest Service firefighter. KLEW-TV reports OSHA cited Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Association, which was managing the Steep Corner fire near Orofino last August when several trees fell, one killing 20-year-old Anne Veseth of Moscow. (more at the link...)
- $ 10,500 Fine Agreement Reached in Firefighter's Death
3/22/2013 | Online article
After talks with OSHA, Idaho Land Board revises citation against CPTPA, authorizes it to pay $10,500 fine. 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... (more at the link...)
- Deaths in Idaho and elsewhere prompt agencies to reform how they protect firefighters
3/13/2013 | Online Article (no longer online)
...A year ago this week, Forest Service firefighter Anne Veseth, a 20-year-old from Moscow, died after she was struck by a falling tree investigators said no one could have seen coming while battling the Steep Corner Fire near Orofino. But the day before, a Forest Service hotshot team had refused to engage the blaze when it found firefighters working under the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protection Association - a cooperative loosely tied to the Idaho Department of Lands - wearing blue jeans and violating many safety rules.
When the hotshots confronted the association's incident commander, he listened to their advice, then said "they have a different set of values and do things differently," the hotshot leader said in a report filed later. Those differences include a more aggressive approach to fighting fires that agencies like the Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management have evolved away from after hotter, drier conditions that make fires more dangerous and unpredictable.
A series of firefighting deaths since 1994 and the recognition that fire has a place on forest ecosystems also has federal wildland fire managers focusing on saving lives and property instead of trees. But the state and the protective associations were still tied to the tradition going back a century in which loggers and others in the forest became firefighters - trained or not, equipped or not - when fires broke out. (more on this interesting topic involving potential Lessons Learned at the link...)
Read more here:
- Anne's memorial service will take place Saturday (8/18) at 11 AM Saturday in her hometown of Moscow, Idaho. A rosary will be said the evening before at 6:30 p.m. 8/17 at St. Mary's Catholic Church. The memorial service location was moved from the local Catholic church to the larger Moscow Church of The Nazarene -- Sixth Street and Mountain View Road -- to accommodate the large number of family and friends who are attending.
- USFA Memorial Database: Anne Veseth
- State of Idaho
8/15/2012 Flags will be at half-staff until dusk on August 19 to honor U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Anne Veseth. Idaho.govr@IDAHOgov Twitter
- Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forest
American and USDA Flags will fly at half-staff at USDA offices from sunrise 8/17 to sunset 8/18/2012 in honor of Anne Rosemarie Veseth: Nez Perce-Clearwater@NPClwNFs Twitter
- Her Life: Anne was born to Claire and Roger Veseth on April 5, 1992, in Moscow. She attended St. Mary's Elementary School, Moscow Junior High and Moscow High School. She was awarded Junior Miss Second Runner-up in 2009, due partly to her extraordinary break dancing talents.
She attended Lewis Clark State College where she graduated in May 2012 with her associates degree in auto mechanics and had planned to pursue her bachelor's degree. Anne had worked for the U.S. Forest Service as a firefighter for two seasons on the North Fork Ranger District.
She rode horses and played basketball through high school. She also enjoyed being outside and working with her hands. Anne loved making other people happy and was always the first to laugh at herself. She loved a challenge, whether it was hard manual labor, a workout at the gym or a car's mechanical problem. In her spare time she would work on her truck, listen to country music, go for hikes, and drive back country roads.
She is survived by her mother Claire, and siblings Rachel Tiegs, Brian and Julia. She was preceded in death by her father, Roger. Anne was and will always be deeply loved by her family and friends. Her death leaves an immense hole in our hearts. Anne had a positive impact on everyone who met her - she will be greatly missed.
A rosary will be said at 6:30 p.m. Friday at St. Mary's Catholic Church. The service for Anne will be 11 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 18 at Moscow Church of The Nazarene, Sixth Street and Mountain View Road.
In lieu of flowers, donations may be made to St. Mary's School Foundation.
- Hundreds bid farewell to fallen firefighter
Family, friends and co-workers fill church service for Anne Veseth
- Facebook page: In Loving Memory of Anne Veseth
- Anne Veseth Memorial Scholarship: Please donate or apply, as the case may be, in memory of Anne.
Photo credit: AP
Contributors to this article: Burk Minor of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation; John Miller and Rene Vanderhooft of the FS Honor Guard and the FS Memorial Webpage, Stringtown, Sammie, RJM, Steve, Balloffire, ML, Tom P, Dave P, Brett Rogers, vfd cap'n
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