Texas volunteer firefighter dies after injuries from March 10 grassfire

A Texas firefighter injured two week ago while working a brushfire has died, officials confirmed.

Firefighter Larry Marusik, a member of Ellinger Volunteer Fire Department, died Friday at Brooke Army Medical Center, according to the Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management. He was 68 years old.

“The Caldwell County Office of Emergency Management offers our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Firefighter Larry Marusik,” officials said. “We also send our profound sympathies to his fellow firefighters in Fayette County, especially the Ellinger VFD.”

Marusik grew up in the community and moved back after he retired, KXAN news reported. He was a member of the fire department for four years.

Additional details about the injuries he suffered or the incident he was working were not immediately available.

Three firefighters suffer burns on Arizona fire

All three are expected to make full recoveries

Three firefighters are recovering from burn injuries they sustained while working on a wildfire in Southwest Arizona over the weekend.

On Friday, March 16 two State Forestry firefighters were burned after falling into an ash pit on the Laguna Fire, 14 miles northeast of Yuma.

One firefighter suffered 2nd and 3rd degree burns and was flown to the Arizona Burn Center in Phoenix where he remains in the hospital. The other was treated at a Yuma-area hospital and released.

On Saturday, a third firefighter was injured on the same fire. He suffered minor burns and was also treated at the hospital and released.

Two of the firefighters are part of State Forestry’s Phoenix Crew. The third firefighter is a member of State Department of Corrections’ Yuma Crew.

“Firefighter safety is our number one priority at all times. The accidents are currently under review and being investigated by the department. We ask that you please keep all of our firefighters in your thoughts,” said State Forester Jeff Whitney.

All three are expected to make full recoveries.

The 15-acre Laguna Fire started Thursday, March 15th and the cause is under investigation.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Jason and Tom.
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Two firefighters injured on prescribed fire in Texas

Borger Fire Department TexasTwo firefighters suffered burn injuries March 9 while working on a prescribed fire in the panhandle of Texas and were airlifted to a hospital. The Borger Fire Department  (map) has confirmed that two of their personnel, fire fighter Clay Lozier and fire chief Bob Watson, were injured transported to Lubbock for treatment.

According to Amarillo.com:

Borger Fire Chief Bob Watson remains in serious condition Saturday at the UMC Timothy J. Harnar Burn Center in Lubbock, according to BFD Lieutenant Stacy Nolen, and Borger firefighter Clay Lozier, who was injured in the same incident, has since been released from the burn unit.

News Channel 10 reports that the prescribed fire on the JA Ranch in Donley County was going well until a juniper tree torched, causing a spot fire. The firefighters almost had that contained when a fire whirl “threw fire 30 yards in every direction”, ranch owner Andrew Bivins said.

There was a burn ban in effect in Donley County but Texas law exempts prescribed fires from burn bans.

Another firefighter burned by chain saw “fuel geyser”

Last month a firefighter suffered serious burns when gasoline forcefully vented while he was removing the fuel cap on a Stihl MS461 chainsaw.

The incident occurred October 10, 2016 (we first reported it here) on the Pingree Hill prescribed fire near Rustic, Colorado. For years the land management agencies have been warning firefighters about the dangers of gasoline being forcefully released from chain saws. Some of these incidents have occurred with saws that have the new quarter-turn gas caps. After a chain saw has been running for a while pressure can build up in the gas tank causing vapor lock, which can prevent the saw from running. Thinking it may be out of fuel, the operator opens the quarter-turn gas cap and the pressure in the tank forces out fuel and vapor. If there is an ignition source nearby, it can quickly ignite and cause very serious injuries.

Below is an excerpt from a report issued about the October 10 incident. We pick up the narrative as the saw team is finishing a break:

…After roughly fifteen minutes, the sawyer sizes up the second snag and identifies a rock adjacent to the tree that he can stand on to make his cuts. He enters the burned area, steps onto the rock, and pulls on the starter cord. The saw starts but quickly sputters and dies, he opens the choke and tries again with the same result. After two or three more tries he thinks the saw may be out of gas. The saw is equipped with the newer “1/4 turn” quick release fuel and oil caps making it easy to simply flip the saw on its side and open the cap while remaining in a standing position. On older model saws with the threaded caps, this process involved using a scrench to loosen and unscrew the cap, making it difficult to open the tank without setting the saw down.

As he opens the cap the fuel sprays out in two distinct bursts spraying liquid and vaporized fuel on his stomach area and right arm. He quickly realizes this is a very dangerous situation… “I had an oh s*** moment!” The swamper looks, and notices fuel “boiling and bubbling” out of the fuel tank and sees open flame beneath the sawyer’s feet. He yells to the sawyer, but it’s too late. Fuel ignites from the ground, running up toward the saw and the sawyer. Immediately the sawyer’s nomex shirt ignites around his right arm and stomach area. He swings the saw to the left, drops it in the rocks, then sprints downhill through the black to the unburned area beneath the handline and drops to the ground. The swamper reacts and jumps on top of the sawyer and helps extinguish him by throwing dirt on the flames and rolling around to smother the fire.

Once the fire is extinguished the sawyer grabs a radio and calls the Supt. and initially gets no response. He calls the Crew Boss Trainee who responds immediately. The sawyer calmly states “I am burned pretty bad, code red, need an air transport, need to go to the hospital now.”

[…]

The patient is in good spirits and is recovering well but did say:

“The one thing I hope comes out of this is that people will give it one last second thought…before you pop the cap”.

The firefighter received 2nd and 3rd degree burns on his right arm and abdominal area.

The report says the extraction of the firefighter went smoothly, thanks largely to the incident within an incident training the crew conducts on a regular basis. About an hour elapsed between the injury and the helicopter taking off to fly him to the burn center.

Two firefighter injuries, a snakebite and gasoline fire

Reports about two notable injuries to wildland firefighters have been released in recent days.

A “72-hour” report provides very little information about another in a series of accidents that may involve a “gasoline geyser”. The document does not include the date of the injury, the location of the accident, or the name of the fire or incident, but it was issued by the Arapaho and Roosevelt National Forest and Pawnee National Grassland headquartered in Fort Collins, Colorado. It is titled “Pingree Hill Chainsaw Incident” and says a firefighter that was working on a prescribed fire sustained gasoline fire burns to the abdomen, arm, and wrist related to a chainsaw while working on a prescribed fire. He was flown to the Northern Colorado Burn Center where he is recovering.

Since at least September 30, 2016 Inciweb has had information about a 2,027-acre “Pingree Hill Prescribed Fire” near Rustic, Colorado that apparently is being conducted on an intermittent basis.

Many injuries have been reported in the last couple of years related to gasoline being forcefully released from chain saws. Some of these incidents have occurred with saws that have the new quarter-turn gas caps.

Here is a video released a year ago on the subject:

The second injury is titled “Rattlesnake Bite” in the Rapid Lesson Sharing report that was released by the Wildland Fire Lessons Learned Center. It happened on the Kent Fire in Montana July 24, 2016. The firefighter never saw or heard the snake that bit him, the report says.

Below are excerpts from the report:

A team of more than five EMTs were assigned to patient care, with one EMT identified as lead caregiver.

[…]

Disagreement Involving Interventions and Patient Care

Once the ambulance arrived on scene, there was a disagreement between the ambulance personnel and onsite EMTs involving interventions and patient care being provided. Because of the dispute and increased level of pain experienced by the patient, Division Whiskey decided to transport the patient via the DNRC [Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation] helicopter.

The lead caregiver and one other DNRC EMT joined the patient in transit to Baker. The DNRC Task Force Leader followed via ground transport in order to bring the EMTs back once patient care had been transferred.

Upon arrival at the Baker Municipal Airport, the patient was transported to the Fallon Medical Complex emergency room. Medical personnel assessed the bite and cleaned wound.

Because it was determined that side-effects could have adverse effects on this patient, it was decided to hold off on administering antivenin, a biological product used in the treatment of venomous bites and stings. After tissue samples were taken and sent to the lab, it was determined that the bite was nonvenomous.

The patient was monitored and released that evening.

Two fire crew vehicles hit by truck, 5 firefighters injured

Five members of the Mid-Plains Interagency Hand Crew received minor injuries.

Mid-Plains Interagency Hand Crew
File photo of the Mid-Plains Interagency Hand Crew at the Beaver Creek Fire in Colorado. It was posted July 4, 2016 on the Mid-Plains Crew’s Facebook Page. The composition of the crew on July 15, the day of the vehicle accident, may have been different.

Two vehicles transporting members of the Mid-Plains Interagency Hand Crew were involved in a serious vehicle accident Thursday afternoon.

Five of the firefighters were transported to the Medical Center of the Rockies in Loveland, Colorado where they were treated and released with minor injuries.

At the time of the accident they were on Interstate 25 near Fort Collins en route to the Hayden Pass Fire south of Salida, Colorado. Traffic ahead of them came to an abrupt halt and the two vehicles were able to stop but the one in the rear had to swerve to the left to avoid the first crew vehicle.

A semi truck behind them tried to stop but careened into both firefighter vehicles, pushing the second truck into a cable median. A fuel tank on the semi truck ruptured, spilling about 50 gallons of fuel on the highway.

One of the crewmembers is a paramedic who was carrying Advanced Life Support equipment. That individual took charge of the medical response immediately at the accident scene.

The word we received is that both firefighter vehicles were totaled.

The Mid-Plains Interagency Type 2 Initial Attack Hand Crew can be assembled from a roster of fire-qualified personnel from Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas, and South Dakota. They can be from the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, local fire departments, state agencies, or other organizations.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Mike.