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Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Never Forget 1978: Three Six Rivers NF engine crewmembers killed in collision

On July 26, 1978, Six Rivers NF engine crewmembers Richard Montano, Gayle Tsutsumi, and David Perrine were killed, and Mark Evans and Gene Schmoker injured when their engine collided with a logging truck south of Orleans, California. The Orleans engine was responding to fires in Weitchpec when the accident occurred.

Incident Name:  Weitchpec Dump fires
Date:  July 26, 1978
Personnel:  3 lives lost, 2 injured critically
Agency/Organization:  US Forest Service
Position: wildland firefighters

Loves lost:
Richard A. Montano, age 22 of Santa Ana
Gayle Tsutsumi, age 26 of Redondo Beach and Arcata
David Perrine, 27 of Hamburg NY
Also injured:
Mark P. Evans, age 22 of Moraga CA
Gene Schmoker, age 26 of Orleans (crew foreman)

On Wednesday July 26, 1978 at about 1345 hours, a Forest Service "Tanker Truck" (now called an "Engine") was responding at the request of CDF to arson fires at the Weitchpec dump. It's believed that the tanker rounded a curve, crossed the center line and clipped the rear wheels of an empty logging truck. The FS tanker went over the road bank and came to rest 250 feet below along the edge of the Klamath River. One firefighter was dead at the scene, two were transported by helicopters to Mad River Hospital in Arcata and pronounced dead on arrival. Two others were critically injured. The logging truck was flipped on its side but stayed on the highway; its 2 passengers were treated and released from the hospital.

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****REMINDER**** Every fire has the ability to be catastrophic. The wildland fire management environment has profoundly changed. Growing numbers of communities, across the nation, are experiencing longer fire seasons; more frequent, bigger, and more severe, fires are a real threat. Be careful with all campfires and equipment.
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