Two firefighters struck by a rolling boulder while working one of the lightning-sparked fires in the Trinity Alps Wilderness were hoisted from the mountainside in the dark as the fire continued to burn.
The two have since been released from the hospital and are doing well, said Paul Asher, safety director at the company the firefighters work for, GFP Enterprises.
Asher said the men were part of a 20-member hand crew who had hiked in about three hours to do initial attack on the Middle fire northeast of the Canyon Creek Trailhead. They were dispatched at around 3 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 5, arriving about 6 p.m.
“They were about ready to call it a day, had dug some handline around the fire,” Asher said, when a soccer-ball sized boulder rolled down the hill.
“It struck one of our guys and then another,” he said.
Asher was called about the incident at about 9 p.m. by the U.S. Forest Service, which was working to get the injured firefighters extricated from the steep and rocky terrain.
Asher said work by the company’s crew boss and EMTs at the scene, the Forest Service coordinating the rescue, and the Coast Guard crew that hoisted the men to safety in the dark all led to a good outcome.
The complicated rescue was pulled off, and the injured men were taken to Mercy Medical Center in Redding early the morning after the incident.
Asher said the entire crew was on the hill for an extended period while waiting for the rescue. Some personnel had to move to another predetermined area after a log rolled past the fire line.
The crew had dug “cup trenches” to catch rolling debris, but depending on where and how big the item is it might get past, Asher said.
The crew hiked out in the morning and after staying off-shift an additional operational period was sent to a different incident.
Asher said he can’t provide information on the firefighters’ injuries, but early this week he was happy to report that both were at home and in good health.
“They’re awesome guys with great attitudes,” he said, and full recoveries are expected.