Chainsaw fuel implicated in Temple Fire firefighter injury |

Chainsaw fuel implicated in Temple Fire firefighter injury

Lauren Blair and Matt Stensland

More information is now known about the cause of injury to a firefighter who was burned in the Temple Fire earlier this month west of Craig.

The firefighter had stepped away from the fire to open the fuel tank of his chainsaw after it failed to start, and when he returned to cut a burning juniper tree, his chaps and pants caught on fire, according to a memo posted to Colorado's state Bureau of Land Management director, Ruth Welch.

The U.S. Forest Service firefighter, a man in his 20s based out of Steamboat Springs, was burned across 10 to 12 percent of his legs, said Forest Service liaison Mark Cahur. His name is not being released.

The memo described second-degree burns on his inner thighs, back of legs and top of calf areas, for which he was initially treated at The Memorial Hospital in Craig.

The incident occurred the afternoon of June 10, as a wildland fire module was constructing a fire line around the 67-acre Temple Fire, burning in pinon-juniper vegetation mostly on BLM land.

The firefighter was attempting to cut a juniper tree that was burning at the trunk, when his chainsaw died, according to the memo. After attempting to restart it to no avail, he stepped about 10 feet away into the unburned area, opened the cap to the fuel tank and saw it was still about half full.

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He replaced the fuel cap, started the chainsaw, and approached the tree to start cutting again when he suddenly looked down and discovered his chaps and nomex pants, that offer protection from fire, were engulfed in flames, the memo said.

"He quickly dropped the saw, and began fumbling with the chaps attempting to remove the buckles. The swamper yelled at him to drop and roll, which he did," the memo said.

The fellow firefighter doused him with a water bottle, extinguishing the remainder of the flames. After being treated on site by EMTs, he was transported by ambulance to TMH.

“He’s doing well,” Cahur said earlier this month. “He’s going to make a full recovery. It’s just going to be a matter of time.”

Cahur said the firefighter is originally from Maine. He is a seasonal firefighter, and this is his first season working out of Steamboat, but not his first season fighting fire.