Members of Horseshoe Meadow and Arrowhead Interagency Hotshot Crews carry Luther E. Larkin Sr. to the emergency medical helicopter while Paramedic Kraig Schlueter (center), of Grand County Emergency Medical Services attends to the patient. Photo courtesy Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team A.
A firefighter on the Horseshoe Meadow Hotshot crew working on the Big Meadows Fire in Rocky Mountain National Park northwest of Denver suffered a cardiac arrest June 16 but was successfully resuscitated with CPR and an Automated External Defibrillator.
The incident occurred in the morning as the Horseshoe Meadow Hotshot crew was hiking with the Arrowhead Hotshots to their assignment in a remote area of the Park. Luther E. Larkin, Sr., 51, a member of the crew which is based on the Sequoia National Forest in California, began having difficulty breathing and experienced chest pains. An EMT with the crews evaluated him and detected no pulse, then started CPR. A paramedic that was on the fireline arrived within 5 minutes, carrying an Automated External Defibrillator (AED). After approximately 10 to 14 minutes with no pulse and applying one “shock” from the AED, Mr. Larkin was resuscitated.
Meanwhile back at the Incident Command Post as well as on the fireline, personnel were being reassigned to manage the incident-within-an-incident. A Flight for Life medivac helicopter was ordered and a helicopter assigned to the fire transported additional personnel to the scene, including two additional paramedics.
Shane Del Grosso’s Type 2 Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team, working closely with Rocky Mountain National Park, had planned carefully for the medical treatment and extraction of firefighters on the fire. They had even swapped helicopters so that they had a National Guard ship with a hoist if that became the most expedient method to obtain treatment for a victim within the “golden hour”.
After packaging the patient, personnel on the two crews, working at an elevation of 9,000 to 10,000 feet, carried him about one-quarter mile to a helispot, arriving about the same time the medivac ship arrived. One hour and 4 minutes after he collapsed on the fireline, they loaded Mr. Larken onto the helicopter which then flew him to a hospital in Denver.
Incident Commander Shane Del Grosso said the planning paid off and the treatment and extraction worked out very well. He said the “prognosis looks very good” for Mr. Larkin, and he is “sitting up in bed and recognizing fellow crew members”.
As they frequently do, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is providing assistance to Mr. Larkin and his family in several ways, including helping with lodging and other expenses while they are in Denver.
The presence of an AED and the availability of advanced medical care on the fireline was critical to reviving him and obtaining a pulse, the Incident Management Team said in a conference call today.
Lessons learned following the tragic death of firefighter Andrew Palmer in 2008 may have saved this firefighter’s life. It took three hours and twenty minutes after Mr. Palmer was injured by a falling tree to get him from the fireline to the airport in Redding, California where he was pronounced dead. Mr. Palmer died from excessive blood loss.
The Larkin family granted permission for this information to be released and requests that their privacy be respected.