|A hand crew working in overhaul mode on a large campaign fire was given the assignment to overhaul 200 feet into the burned-out area. The crew had been working on the same division for three days and had heard and witnessed many trees falling in the blackened area each day. Fire had burned with significant intensity, with complete consumption of ground fuels as well as isolated torching and crowning.
Each day at noon the winds and rain picked up from the east at 20-30 MPH and the crew withdrew due to safety concerns with snags. The issue was brought to the attention of the division boss by the crew boss and squad bosses, with the order given to keep working until it was no longer safe, but to keep working.
At around 1100 hours, a short squad, consisting of one squad boss, one saw team (sawyer and swapper), two additional firefighters and one type-6 engine with crew, was assigned to help with the mop-up. The squad boss identified an area that required mop-up, but due to snag hazards chose to have the saw team mitigate one hazardous tree, which was hung up in another tree directly over the area that required mop-up.
The squad boss and sawyer discussed the plan to deal with the tree. The sawyer proceeded to work down the hung-up tree, which was approximately 18” in diameter. The tree broke loose after three cuts and fell to the ground. The sawyer began to leave the area once the tree began to fall, at which time the tree that the snag was hung up in released tension. This caused it to snap back three feet above the ground and fall back towards the sawyer. The sawyer noticed the tree falling toward him and tried to move out of the way, but was struck on the head and shoulder.
The sawyer was wearing a helmet, which prevented serious injury; the firefighter sustained only an isolated ankle injury. After this incident, both the squad boss and crew boss made the decision to withdraw from the area and meet with the division, where a formal refusal of assignment was made and the incident safety officer was notified.
View the Report: Fire Damaged Tree Falls on Firefighter.