Informational Summary Report of Serious CAL FIRE Injuries, Illnesses, Accidents and Near-Miss Incidents.
Tree Felling Incident / Inmate Firefighter Serious Injury
March 20, 2012
Lockheed Incident - 12-CA-CZU-002307
Empire SART - 12-CA-CZU-002317
California Northern Region
A Board of Review has not approved this Summary Report. It is intended as a safety and
training tool, an aid to preventing future occurrences, and to inform interested parties. Because it
is published on a short time frame, the information contained herein is subject to revision as
further investigation is conducted and additional information is developed.
Empire Green Sheet
Lookouts Communications Escape Routes Safety Zones
On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, at 1115 hours an inmate firefighter from Ben Lomond Camp was
struck by a felled tree at a fuels management project approximately three miles northwest of Ben
Lomond Camp in Santa Cruz County. The inmate firefighter sustained fractures to a leg, arm,
and lumbar vertebra.
|Empire Green Sheet Plot Map|
Topography: Varied 30-60% slope
Fuel Type: The incident occurred in a fuel model 9 consisting of an overstory of Tanoak,
Madrone, Live Oak, and Douglas-Fir. The understory consisted of manzanita and various brush
Weather Observations: March 22, 2012, 1100 hours from Ben Lomond RAWS Station
Temperature: 53 Degrees Fahrenheit
Winds: 3 MPH SSW, Gusts to 7 MPH
Rainfall: The last rainfall reported by the Ben Lomond RAWS Station on March 18, 2012 was
Equipment: Husqvarna 575XP Chainsaw with 24” bar
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS
On Tuesday, March 20, 2012, Ben Lomond Crews 1 and 5 were assigned to a fuels management
project in Santa Cruz County off of the north end of Empire Grade Road. The crews arrived at
the project at about 1000 hours. The project consisted of brush removal and some tree felling on
slopes of up to 60%.
An inmate firefighter faller trainee from Crew 5 was assigned to fell a 60’ Tanoak tree with an
approximate 16 inch Diameter Breast Height (DBH). The lay of the tree was determined to be
uphill and an appropriate undercut was made on the tree. Upon making the back-cut, the tree fell
away from its intended lay approximately 90 degrees and struck another inmate firefighter
working within the fall zone.
The Crew 5 Captain took immediate action to have the inmate extricated from under the tree,
while the Crew 1 Captain notified Felton ECC of the medical emergency and requested
The two crews worked together to extricate and package the injured crew member for transport.
The injured inmate firefighter was air lifted to Stanford University Hospital.
The crew member sustained fractures to the right femur and tibia, left ulna and radius, and a
fracture of the lumbar spine.
SAFETY ISSUES FOR REVIEW
• Establish cutting area control ensuring NO ONE is working within TWO times the
height of the tree to be felled.
• Review tree felling procedures with assigned personnel in a Tailgate Safety Briefing.
• Review and maintain LCES.
• Be aware of complacency due to repetitious activity.
• Maintain situational awareness when involved with all saw operations, particularly tree
• Follow standard operating procedures for felling per Section 4044.1.1 of the Training
Handbook and Cal OSHA Title 8, Div 1, Chapter 4, Subchapter 13, Article 5 Falling and
End Empire Green Sheet
LCES: Lookouts, Communications, Escape Routes, Safety Zone