14 Firefighters Injured as They Desperately Try to Protect Themselves After Blaze Traps Them
The fire broke out on Aug. 18 and is only 40 percent contained as of Tuesday
14 California firefighters were injured on Tuesday as the blaze they were battling jumped their containment line, trapping them and forcing them to deploy a fire shelter in a last resort to protect themselves.
The U.S. Forest Service said firefighters and bulldozer operators were at the service's Nacimiento Station, which is located in the Los Padres National Forest, when flames from the Dolan Fire quickly spread and headed in their direction, according to KPIX-TV, the San Luis Obispo Tribune and NBC/CW affiliate KSBY.
Without any way out and the fire closing in on them, the group set up a fire shelter to try to shield them from the flames.
According to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG), fire shelters are aluminized cloth tents that can protect firefighters from heat, smoke and ember showers by releasing heat and providing breathable air.
They are to used only in last resort situations, according to the NWCG.
The 14 injured firefighters suffered from burns and smoke inhalation, while three had to were transported to Community Regional Hospital in Fresno by Life Flight, according to a statement from the Forest Service.
A hospital spokesperson confirms that one injury is considered critical and two are categorized as fair.
Incident commander Rob Allen later spoke at a press conference on Tuesday, where he confirmed the incident and provided an update on their condition.
"The individuals that were involved... were mostly forest service employees and a couple of contractors that were dozer operators with us and we’ve got them all out," Allen said, according to KPIX-TV. "They’re all being treated for varying degrees of medical issues and making sure that they’re all okay but for the most part we got everybody out of harm’s way and we’re looking good."
Fire officials also added that it was an "evolving situation" and they are being assisted by local officials, as they carry out certain procedures they have in place for emergencies like this, KSBY reported.
The Dolan Fire has been burning on the Monterey Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest, about 10 miles south of Big Sur near Dolan Road and Highway 1, since Aug. 18, according to the fire's incident report.
The flames have caused the closure of Highway 1 and prompted evacuations south of the blaze, KPIX-TV reported.
As of Tuesday afternoon, nearly 800 personnel had responded to the flames as they burned through a total of 73,089 acres in "steep, rugged terrain" and picked up activity due to the "very hot weather over the Labor Day weekend," the fire report stated.
Officials said only 40 percent of the fire had been contained and predicted that the blaze will be contained by Sept. 28 — though it is unclear if they are still on track to do that given Tuesday's incident.
RELATED VIDEO: Devastating Wildfires Strike Southern California
Following an investigation, authorities determined that the fire was caused by arson and arrested a suspect, 30-year-old Fresno resident Ivan Gomez, in connection to the blaze, according to NBC/CW affiliate KSBY.
Inmate records indicate that Gomez was booked into Monterey County Jail on Aug. 19 for arson of forest lands and held on $2 million bail. It is unclear if he has retained legal representation.