The following is an excerpt from the Kelly Creek Project Hit by Log FLA

Kelly Creek

On June 3, 2018, the crew arrived at the Kelly Creek unit midday. They had established good communication with dispatch. The crew held a briefing, discussed their plan for the remainder of the day, and began work. They identified two helispots at Kelly Creek – one on top (H-1) and one at the base of the slope (H-2). The crew flagged and improved the route to H-2 in preparation for the felling operations that would begin the next day. Some saw work was necessary to accomplish this task.

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Map with key points

At 0730 on June 4, 2018, the crew checked in with dispatch and completed their morning briefing before breaking out into their saw teams. The five saw teams consisted of 10 Faller 2s (FAL2), and each sawyer rotated every 45 minutes, or each tank of fuel. The five saw teams lined up from east to west (team 1 on the east end and team 5 on the west end). They began working downslope; horizontally aligned and working in vertical lanes. The prescription for the unit called for all trees smaller than 12” diameter at breast height (dbh) to be felled.

Tree density on the slope varied. Saw teams 1, 4, and 5 had more trees meeting prescription in their lane, which created a difference in the amount of time it took for the saw teams to advance downslope. Both project lead and crew reported that there was not an emphasis on production or pace; this was an opportunity for the crew to continue saw training in the field. Taking time to learn and improve technique was emphasized, while also correcting any identified deficiencies. Saw teams took the time to stop, discuss technique and ask questions of each other. The crew believed this was an important part of their training.

Saw teams 2 and 3 progressed much faster down the slope. This created line of sight and communication issues (slope went from 30 degrees near the top to 45+ degrees at mid-slope).


Saw team 4 felled a tree on the upper slope. This left a tall stump on the slope that needed to be low stumped. The low stumped section was green and heavy; making it difficult to manage on the moderate to steep slope. Once the low stumped section was released from the stump, it got away from Team 4 and began rolling down-slope. The team began shouting “Roller!” repeatedly while running down the slope. It looked as if the log would stop in the trees below. As the sawyer on Team 4 ran far enough downslope to see the creek at the bottom of the slope, it was apparent that the log was still traveling down slope catapulting end over end at a high rate of speed toward the creek below. Saw team 2’s swamper heard something, looked up, saw the log, and screamed “Roller!” to team 2’s sawyer. Sawyer 2 released the trigger of the chainsaw, looked up, and received a direct hit from the stump.


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Stump that struck Sawyer 2

The log made impact with the chainsaw, which was held in front of the Sawyer 2’s waist. Both the chainsaw and log were driven into the sawyer’s body. Sawyer 2 was driven violently backwards into the ground. Sawyer 2’s saw team partner witnessed the strike and immediately went to assess Sawyer 2’s condition.

Patient Care

Four of the crew’s five emergency medical technicians (EMTs) responded immediately to Sawyer 2’s location and began providing care and holding c-spine. (Sawyer 2 is the senior EMT on the crew and fifth EMT.) Sawyer 2 was unconscious, bleeding from the head, and breathing laboriously. Within minutes, Sawyer 2 regained consciousness, appeared alert, and began breathing normally. Another crew member also arrived on scene with the trauma kit (from the top of slope), while another crewmember arrived with the Traverse Rescue Stretcher (TRS), which had been staged near H-2 on a flagged path. The crew’s four EMTs performed assessments, controlled bleeding, and packaged Sawyer 2 for transport.

Sawyer 2 was stabilized, bandaged, and loaded onto the TRS in less than 15 minutes from time of impact. Sawyer 2 was transported from the bottom of the slope to the vehicle on top of the hill in 11 minutes.

Radio communication was seamless. The crew notified the superintendent immediately via radio and continuously provided updates until Sawyer 2 was at the superintendent’s vehicle. The superintendent was on the phone with dispatch initially, who was also able to listen to radio communications. Dispatch notified local emergency medical services (EMS) for a medical response to the area. The Forest Service law enforcement officer (LEO) heard the call to dispatch on the radio, and headed towards the area. The FS LEO had good communication with the ambulance, and provided updates to EMS as they were responding. The FS LEO led the ambulance into the area, which expedited their response.

Patient Transport

Due to the remote location of the project site, poor road conditions, and urgency in getting Sawyer 2 to definitive care, the crew superintendent and one EMT planned to drive “until (we) meet the ambulance.” A second truck with the remaining EMTs from the crew followed the crew superintendent’s truck in the event that Sawyer 2’s condition changed, or something happened to one of the vehicles while en-route. While en-route, the lead EMT continued to monitor Sawyer 2’s condition and record vital signs. Excellent radio communication was maintained between the superintendent, dispatch, and the FS LEO, who updated EMS.

At about 1045, Sawyer 2 was transferred to the ambulance and transported the remaining distance to the hospital. The lead EMT stayed with the Sawyer 2, while the two crew trucks followed the ambulance to the hospital. After imaging and a thorough examination at the hospital, Sawyer 2 was treated for injuries and released.


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