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California Briefing / Humboldt County

Firefighter dies from training fall

July 22, 2009|Julie Cart

A 20-year-old U.S. Forest Service firefighter died Tuesday after falling while rappelling from a helicopter during a training exercise near Willow Creek, in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest.

The firefighter, who was not identified, fell 200 feet into the Trinity River during a required safety training exercise, according to Humboldt County Coroner Dave Parris. He said the accident appeared to be the result of a mistake on the part of the firefighter or the helicopter crew.

"From the statements we have so far, it's definitely a safety oversight on behalf of the crew," Parris said.

The helicopter crew was stationed at a nearby helibase, working the 6,300-acre Backbone fire in the Trinity Alps Wilderness, said Kent Romney of the Forest Service. The fire is burning in the Shasta-Trinity and the Six Rivers National forests, about 12 miles northeast of Willow Creek.

The accident occurred about 10:15 a.m. while the crew was performing a required proficiency and safety exercise, Romney said. The male firefighter was treated at the scene by an ambulance crew assigned to the fire, which was started by a lightning strike July 1.

Last August, nine firefighters died in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest after a helicopter ferrying them to a fire camp crashed.

-- Julie Cart

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