Sunday, August 3, 2008

The hazards of snags

Here is the beginning of an article in the Great Falls Tribune about the hazards of snags.
Weston Spotted Eagle stuck yellow plugs in his ears, picked up his chainsaw and went to work cutting down a potential killer.

"Falling!" he shouted.

When he was finished, the forest fire near Neihart was a safer place to work.

The old lodgepole, its shallow root system compromised, could have tipped over on its own and landed on one of Spotted Eagle's co-workers, who are firefighters.

Falling trees, which last week sent one of Spotted Eagle's colleagues to the hospital and killed a firefighter in California, have always been a threat in the unpredictable workplace of the wildland firefighter. There are 34 fires burning nationwide, including three in Montana.

But forests with aging, diseased or previously burned trees, which can topple seemingly out of nowhere, are a growing concern in today's fire camps, fire officials say.

"There's a large number of dead and dying trees in the woods, and those trees tend to fall over," said Dick Mangan, a wildland fire consultant who is retired from the U.S. Forest Service.

Accidents, vehicle crashes, heart attacks and burnovers accounted for 89 percent of the 310 wildland firefighting deaths between 1990 and 2006, according a report by the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

The rest of the article is HERE.

National Park Service firefighter Andrew Palmer was killed during a tree falling operation in northern California on July 25.

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