Cal Fire has issued its preliminary review of an October fire in the Santa Cruz Mountains that was relatively modest in size but caused an unusually high number of firefighter injuries.
The agency's "green sheet" report on the 391-acre Bear Fire, near Boulder Creek, details one crew's struggle to combat the blaze in the predawn darkness while contending with extremely rugged terrain that became almost as dangerous as the fire itself.
The five-member hand crew was among the first to battle the blaze off Bear Creek Canyon Road in the early morning hours of Oct. 17. Hours after the suspected arson fire started, the green sheet says, the team found itself facing extreme danger.
As the blaze burned in a precipitous, heavily forested canyon, the crew faced what wildland firefighters call a "rollout": Burning logs tumbled down the slope toward them, starting small spot fires outside containment lines and forcing them to try to scramble to safety.
As they headed toward a primary escape route, the rollout intensified, so they needed to find another way to a creekbed below them, according to Cal Fire Deputy Chief Jake Hess, the Bear Fire's incident commander.