Firefighter killed by falling tree in Australia

A firefighter who worked for the National Parks and Wildlife Service in New South Wales, Australia was killed Friday, Feb. 4 when he was trapped under a falling tree while he was working on a bush fire near Quorrobolong, south of Cessnock (map). Here is an excerpt from an article at The Herald:


A National Parks and Wildlife Service firefighter described as a ‘‘larger than life classic bush character’’ and devoted family man died yesterday doing the job he loved.

John Garland, 65, of Muswellbrook, was killed after a tree fell on him during a bushfire operation at Quorrobolong, south of Cessnock.

The father of six and great-grandfather was a divisional commander and firefighter with the Upper Hunter office at Scone for the past 11 years.

Regional manager Robert Quirk described him as a ‘‘truly wonderful human being who loved his job’’.

Mr Quirk said that at 65, Mr Garland was not ready for retirement and was talking about staying until he was 70.

‘‘He was fit and strong and worked as hard as anyone – it showed the measure of the man,’’ he said.

Mr Quirk said he had a love of the forest and had worked in the timber industry before joining the national parks.

‘‘He was passionate about his job, he was always the first one on and last one off the fire ground,’’ he said.

‘‘He had a sense of pride, that he was working on behalf of the community.’’

Mr Quirk said Mr Garland was an occupational health and safety committee member. He was ‘‘one of the safest blokes’’ he knew and would have had ‘‘his eyes open to everything’’.

‘‘It is just an awful tragedy,’’ he said. ‘‘It goes to show how dangerous fighting fires is.

‘‘… he was doing what he loved.’’

The accident occurred about 12.30pm near a 70hectare bushfire at Baraba Lane, which had been burning since Monday.

NPWS head Sally Barnes said in a statement that Mr Garland, an advanced tree feller, was working to remove problem trees from the fire ground when the incident occurred.

She said crews worked frantically to free him but he died before the tree could be moved.

Ms Barnes said the accident devastated colleagues. Mr Garland was an experienced, senior firefighter and much-loved mentor.


Our condolences go out to Mr. Garland’s family and co-workers.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

2 thoughts on “Firefighter killed by falling tree in Australia”

  1. Unfortunately,there is not the focus put on assessing areas for dangerous trees BEFORE workers enter these work sites. British Columbia is the only jurisdiction that has a Danger Tree Assessment process that is required for all wildfire activities.

  2. Falling trees and snags are a world-wide problem for wildland firefighters: they killed 14 US firefighters from 1990-2009, and killed another Aussie last year. At the Missoula Safety Summit in April, Sonny Stieger of FireSafe Montana is scheduled to give a talk on “Firefighter Safety and the Mountain Pine Beetle” which I’m sure will address the hundreds of thousands of dead and dying trees in the western US and Canada, and the risk to folks working under them.


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