A firefighter who was run over by a pickup truck during last month’s deadly Southern California wildfire was sleeping in an unmarked area but received prompt care for his minor injuries, a new state fire report said.
South Kitsap Fire & Rescue Lt. Terry Geiselman, 46, was with a team from Washington state that had arrived to help battle the Woolsey Fire that ripped through communities west of Los Angeles from Ventura County southward to Malibu. The fire that began on Nov. 8 burned 1,500 homes and other buildings and killed three people.
Geiselman, of Gig Harbor, was identified by his local fire department after the accident.
The firefighter was with a strike team that was on a 24-hour shift on Nov. 14, according to the Los Angeles Times. At 11:45 p.m., the firefighters spread out to rest, according an accident summary report from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Their engine parked on a dirt road in a plowed field in the Malibu area and three firefighters rested on top of the vehicle while Geiselman lay down in a grassy area about 15 feet away from the engine and dozed off, according to the training document, which was released last Friday.
A civilian pickup truck drove down the dirt road. As the driver approached, “he turned off the headlights (so) as to not disturb the resting firefighters” and maneuvered around the engine blocking the road, the report said.
As he passed by the engine “a scream was heard,” according to the report.
The pickup parked and firefighters found Geiselman on the ground. The pickup’s tires had driven over his upper chest.
“It’s unfortunate that the driver of the pickup had turned his lights off … he did not see the other firefighter who was lying in the grass. You have to be very careful no matter what you’re doing or where you’re going, especially on the fire line,” Cal Fire spokesman Scott McLean said Monday.
McLean said he did not know what the civilian pickup truck was doing in the fire area.
Geiselman’s teammates radioed for help. Paramedics arrived and a rescue helicopter flew the firefighter to a local trauma center where he was treated for minor injuries, including scrapes and bruises, and released 37 hours later, the accident review said.
“Lying in soft dirt potentially decreased the severity of injuries,” the summary said.
The report said medical plan procedures were correctly followed and it took only 41 minutes from the time the injury occurred for the firefighter to arrive at the hospital.
In its “lessons learned” section, the report included the safety recommendation: “Refrain from sleeping in un-marked, non-designated sleeping areas on an incident.”
Correction: A previous version of this story gave incorrect dates for when the Woolsey Fire broke out and when Lt. Geiselman was injured. The post has been updated.