The Coal Canyon fire in South Dakota left one firefighter dead and another hospitalized with serious burns. Trampus Haskvitz was killed but his crew mate, Austin Whitney, is out of the hospital and recently submitted to an interview on a local television station. The video is HERE, and below is a portion of the transcript:
It’s a nightmare scenario for firefighters: being trapped in a fire with no way out.
“I just thought, ‘I’m never going to see my family again,’” Austin Whitney said.
On the afternoon of August 11, Whitney was battling the Coal Canyon Fire with two other men, KC Fees and Trampus Haskvitz, when the fire overtook them.
“When I looked up and seen nothing but a wall of flame, I tried to make a run for it. I wasn’t thinking straight,” Whitney said.
The fire had gotten below the crew and was racing up the hill towards them.
“Then I realized that it wasn’t worth running and I just dropped to the ground, no time to get to my fire shelter,” Whitney said.
Unprotected on the ground, Whitney believed that his life was over.
“As soon as I got turned around and saw that wall of flame I was like, ‘I’m dying at 22 years old. I’m dead,’ was the only thing I could repeat in my mind. ‘I’m dead,’” Whitney said.