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California probes near-death escape of 12 firefighters

California probes near-death escape of 12 firefighters | Reuters

California forestry officials have opened an inquiry into a life-threatening ordeal faced by 12 firefighters who were nearly engulfed by flames in the Sierra Nevada last month before a helicopter pilot flew to the scene and led them to safety.

The team had already crawled into foil-lined personal fire shelters - a survival measure of last resort - before they were spotted by the pilot as columns of fire raced up a canyon at them, igniting whole trees along the way.

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Geez. Awful.

They are so lucky.

Lucky that they had the foil lined personal fire shelters. 

There's more to the story, I only copied a small bit, they probably would have died in their foil shelters if the helicopter pilot had not spotted them, and led them to a safer spot.

"The incident, which came close to becoming the deadliest California firefighting tragedy in nearly five decades and recalled the loss of 19 firemen in Arizona last year, unfolded on the third day of the so-called King Fire near Lake Tahoe.

"We had three minutes to get them out of there," pilot Gary Dahlen said. "A wall of fire was coming up the hill ... It was a firestorm. There was so much heat and so much flame, it was just exploding, and it was moving quite rapidly."

Guided by Dahlen as he hovered overhead and radioed directions to the ground, the firefighters left their shelters and dashed up a logging road to a patch of brush out of the fire's immediate path.

The group, including 10 prison inmates trained to fight wildfires, ultimately hiked miles farther to a larger clearing where the helicopter and a second chopper could land."

Wow, that's a scary story. 

It does seem like the current fires are much worse than the California fires of the past. 

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