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Undercut or Facecut:
The summer of 2008 was a very active fire season in the western United States, particularly in Northern California. EM was excited to get their first out-of-park assignment. Although EM was on a day off, and out of communication, the resource order was accepted. The departure time was delayed for close to 12 hours due to two crew members being out of phone contact during the day the order was received. The decision was made to begin travel from Port Angeles, WA to Junction City, CA, late in the evening. En route to California the engine had numerous major mechanical problems. In spite of these mechanical issues, EM continued on. Shortly after reaching fire camp, the engine completely broke down and had to be towed to a repair shop. Unable to go out on the line, arrangements were made for EM-CAPT to work in camp, while CAPT accompanied the engine to town and then worked to get a loaner engine from WNRA. Suggestions from NPFMO to “get a job as fallers” while the engine was down, were taken to heart as the young crew was eager to go to work on the fireline. On the morning of July 25, 2008, OBDt received a request for fallers to work in front of mop-up crews on Division B. OBDt had been told by EM-CAPT that EM-CAPT were fallers and knew EM-CAPT were from an area with large timber. When presented with the opportunity to work as fallers, EM-CAPT jumped on it. OBDt recognized EM-CAPT’s limited qualifications as fallers, and counseled EM-CAPT on that fact. When EM-CAPT presented themselves as fallers to DIVB at the Division break out meeting, both DIVB and TFLDt assumed EM-CAPT were a class C falling module. At some point during the day, a decision was made to fall Tree 1, a class C tree. Due to inexperience with the felling of large trees, great difficulty was encountered with the undercut. The procedure of getting the undercut in most likely took a fairly long time. When Tree 1 fell in an unexpected direction, setting into motion an unanticipated chain of events, FC1 had limited time to react to the danger. Unable to make it to a safe area FC1 was struck by Tree 2. When FC2 and FC3 realized that their crewmember and friend was severely injured, FC2 and FC3 did their best to help FC1 based on FC2’s and FC3’s limited experience and training for the emergency situation at hand. FC2 and FC3 continued to remain with FC1, talking and offering encouragement and comfort, during the long process of extracting FC1 from the hill.
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