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Home / WLF TheySaid / L.A. Co.’s Wes Hartman, 40 years ago today.

  • 07/05/2016
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Forty years ago today, Los Angeles County Fire Crew Foreman Wes Hartman passed away while protecting the citizens of Ventura and Los Angeles Counties.  He was leading his inmate crew cutting line up a canyon bottom on a wildland fire near Lake Sherwood when he was struck by a rock which was unknowingly dislodged by a bulldozer working above his crew and the crew I worked on.   We all knew the hazards of working below dozers but it didn’t seem to be a severe hazard at the time because the dozer was not directly above us and was quite a ways up canyon.  A boulder became dislodged and rolled into the canyon bottom in the direction of our crews.   We all scrambled up the sides of the canyon bottom out of the path of the approaching boulder.  As the boulder rolled by Mr. Hartman’s crew it struck another rock and exploded and unfortunately Mr. Hartman was struck.  I’m sure that he was up watching to make sure that his crew was safe.  It can’t be overemphasized enough of the dangers of rolling materials on wildland fires.  Not just rocks from bulldozers working above but from rocks, logs and other debris dislodged  from vehicles, retardant drops and especially other personnel.  There is also an extreme hazard of material rolling out as vegetation burns away such as leaning rocks and logs.  Daytime is bad and night time is worse due to the lack of visibility.  I know that this incident made a huge impact on me early on in my career and I’m sure it did on the rest of my fellow crew members and Mr. Hartman’s as well.  This was a hard lesson learned and I felt compelled to recognize Wes Hartman for his sacrifice, to keep his memory alive after forty years and to hopefully keep more people safe as a result of looking up, looking down and looking around.  Be aware of the hazards, use the utmost caution and steer clear of working anywhere near heavy equipment.  My sincere condolences still go out to Mr. Hartman’s family and friends.

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    July 10, 2016 Reply

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