Coal Canyon fire injury update

Jim Strain, Assistant Chief for Operations with the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression, distributed the information below about the condition of Austin Whitney who was seriously injured while fighting the Coal Canyon fire north of Edgemont, South Dakota on Thursday, August 11. This is the same fire on which Trampus Haskvisk was killed when their engine crew was burned over. Information about Trampus’ funeral can be found HERE. Three other firefighters were also injured on Thursday but were treated and released.


Just wanted to pass on an update on the condition of Austin Whitney, the SDS WFS seasonal firefighter that was involved in the burn over of State Engine 561 on the Coal Canyon fire on Thursday.

This information has been provided by the family and Austin, and they want to share this information, so feel free to pass on to anyone else that wants to know. My e-mail list is by no means inclusive.

Austin is at the Western States Burn Unit in the North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley.  I accompanied the family down to Greeley on Friday, and have been in contact since my arrival back home.  But as of today, Austin had 13% of his body burned, and will be going procedures starting Monday to skin graft the serious burned area on his left elbow and arm.  Thankfully, his lungs and airways were spared from the heat. But he has a long road ahead with recovery and rehab.   Austin is engaged and alert, shows a determined spirit, visits with the nurses and family when he can, and is talking to friends and family on his cell phone.

The family asked if some of fellow fire crew members from the Hot Springs field office could visit, so I have sent down Steve Esser, Ben Maisel and Kevin Fees today to visit with family and Austin before he starts the skin graft procedure.  Steve will provide an updated report to us when gets back. In addition, Bob Whitney, Austin’s dad, did an interview with the Rapid City Journal about Austin, and that should be in the newspaper soon.

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation has been most supportative and helpful.  They have provided the rental car and motel rooms for the family and his fiancé, Becky Dawson. The Greeley Fire Department has dropped by everyday to check on the family.

Cards and letters can be sent to: North Colorado Medical Center, Attn: Austin Whitney, Burn Unit, 1801 16th St, Greeley Colorado, 80631.  We will be working with the family to get a Caring Bridge website set up. Bob and Julie Whitney, Austin’s mom and dad,  are always appreciative of any support they can get at this time.


Jim Strain

Asst Chief Operations

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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.

One thought on “Coal Canyon fire injury update”

  1. Wishing the best to Austin Whitney.
    Hope you don’t let this stop a promising future firefighting.
    BOB Allen,
    Blackdog Firefighting


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