Civic Duty Recommends New Technology to Improve Firefighter Safety

Beverly Hills, California (PRWEB) July 28, 2013

In the aftermath of the tragic loss of 19 Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshots who died fighting the Yarnell Hill wildfire in Arizona, the Omidi brothers, co-founders of the non profit charity Civic Duty, recommend new technology to improve firefighter safety.

Beverly Hills, California (PRWEB) July 28, 2013

Civic Duty, a non profit charity co-founded by Dr. Michael Omidi and his brother Julian Omidi, recommends using new technology to improve firefighter safety following the deaths of 19 Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshots in the Yarnell Hill wildfire.

According to CNN, the Yarnell Hill fire was the deadliest day for firefighters since the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It is also the deadliest wildland fire since 1933, when 25 firefighters died near Griffith Park, California.

As reported in the Daily Beast, the fire began on Friday, 6/28/13 and was probably caused by lightning strikes around Yarnell Hill, a ridge that overlooks the town of Glen Ilah a small community of 700 mostly retirees. As the deadly flames advanced quickly toward homes, frantic residents released horses, pigs, chickens, and other animals from their pens and fled for their lives, transporting walkers and wheelchairs in the backs of their pickup trucks.

According to officials quoted in the Los Angeles Times, the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshots, an elite crew of specially trained firefighters based in Prescott, Arizona, rushed into position along the ridge attempting to create a fuel break between the endangered homes and the rapidly moving fire. Some of the men were armed with chain saws and axes, tearing down brush as quickly as they could. Others used gelled gasoline in drip torches to create a back burn.

The Granite Mountain Hotshots had made substantial progress in getting a fire line in place and had also established a safe zone and an escape route for themselves — a path they had forged between their locations and an area near the homes in Glen Ilah that they had previously cleared with a bulldozer. The situation turned critical when a fast moving weather cell with powerful gusts of wind changed the direction of the fire and sent clouds of smoke billowing above the firefighters’ location, according to several officials familiar with the investigation.

Team leader Eric Marsh told his commanders via radio that the group had a predetermined safety zone. Authorities said, “He was calm, cool and collected. They all stayed together. Nobody ran.”

Shortly thereafter, Marsh radioed his superiors a second time. This message was different: He and his men were going to deploy the small emergency shelters that were their last resort against an advancing fire. It was the last call he would ever make but his voice was very calm: “We’re deploying.”

“Fighting wildfires is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world,” says retired Cal Fire Captain Norman Howell. “Fire creates its own weather. It’s unpredictable, almost like a wild animal, and can turn 180 degrees on you in seconds.”

We may never fully understand all of the circumstances that led to the deaths of the Granite Mountain Hotshots. “I can’t second guess their decisions,” observes Howell. “But I do know that more new technology can be developed to improve firefighter safety.”

The U.S. Forest Service made carrying fire shelters mandatory in 1977 after three firefighters who weren’t carrying shelters were entrapped and killed on the Battlement Creek fire in Colorado. Howell believes that firefighter safety can be significantly improved with upgrades to protective gear and providing crews with GPS communications equipment that can relay real time heat patterns and fire behavior data to men on the ground.

A recent New York Times article supports Howell’s thirty plus years of life and death experience fighting wildfires. Weather satellites high overhead can monitor wildfire activity, capture images of thunderstorms as they form, giving hints of the gusty winds that often accompany them. Remote-controlled unmanned aircraft, flying over a blaze for hours at a time, can take infrared photographs that show its shifting edges.

Those images could be beamed to portable devices carried by the firefighters. “That information could all be available on mobile devices in real time so folks could reference that periodically as they’re out in the field fighting the fire,” said Tim Sexton, who manages the Forest Service’s Wildland Fire Management Research, Development and Application program. This summer, in a pilot program, the Forest Service, is testing out Android tablets. Last year, the agency tested iPads and smartphones.

New technology protects our military overseas and the whole world is linked via electronic communications. Civic Duty recommends government investment in new technology to safeguard the women and men who fight wildfires.


Civic Duty ( is dedicated to mankind’s search for meaning and promotes the values of its founders, philanthropists Julian Omidi and his brother Dr. Michael Omidi. The charity’s mission is to inspire creative outreach, community service, and volunteerism through the stories of every-day people who are making an extraordinary difference in the world. Mahatma Gandhi once said, “Man becomes great exactly in the degree in which he works for the welfare of his fellow men.” To get involved and help make a difference, send us a message using the website’s Contact Us function. More information about Civic Duty can be found on Facebook, Pinterest, Google+, and Twitter.

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