Montana-based Flathead Hotshots firefighting squad retreat from Idaho blaze the day before U.S. Forest Service firefighter dies, describe conditions as 'extremely unsafe'

LOS ANGELES , August 23, 2012 () – Anne Veseth, a U.S. Forest Service firefighter who was killed battling a blaze in Idaho on Aug. 12, was working in conditions that had been described as "extremely unsafe" on the previous day, according to a report by Reuters.

Veseth, 20, who was in her second season as a government firefighter, was killed by a falling tree while battling the Steep Corner Fire. On the day before, the highly-trained Montana-based Flathead Hotshots firefighting squad had retreated from the area, saying conditions were too dangerous.

A report posted on SAFENET, a Forest Service website used by firefighters to anonymously report concerns, described conditions as "extremely unsafe." The report warned of hazards including falling dead or dying trees known as snags, the stationing of crews before a fire that was burning downwards on steep terrain, and difficulties caused by aerial water dumping on crews manning the fireline. It also suggested that the fire had been poorly managed, Reuters reported.

Firefighting efforts were being directed by the Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Assn. using crews including Idaho prison inmates. According to Reuters' report, the Hotshots warned a U.S. Forest Service crew of safety concerns and informed the association's incident commander who responded that he would have to send the Hotshots home. They agreed, and read a list of safety concerns an practices to the incident commander before leaving, the report said.

The Forest Service has confirmed that the the report was compiled by the Flathead Hotshots. The agency is investigating Veseth's death, but has declined to comment further on the incident. The Clearwater-Potlatch Timber Protective Assn.'s fire and program manager, Cameron Eck, said firefighter safety was a priority but also preferred not to comment further.

The Steep Corner fire, on of 12 currently burning in Idaho, had burned about 350 acres by Tuesday. The National Wildfire Coordinating Group has confirmed that Veseth is the twelfth wildland firefighter to be killed in the U.S. this year.

The primary source of this article is Reuters, Salmon, Idaho, on Aug. 21, 2012.

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