Three firefighters were injured Friday, July 3, when a large oak tree fell on them during mop-up operations on the Case Mountain Fire along the Salt Creek Ridge above Three Rivers. The injuries occurred at 6:30 p.m. in the aftermath of the lightning-caused fire that started at 2 p.m.
Two of the firefighters were inmates who sustained minor to moderate injuries. They were airlifted to a landing zone and transferred via ground ambulances to an area hospital.
Both of the inmates were treated and released back to California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. The other injured firefighter was Damien Pereira, a Cal Fire-Tulare Unit Firefighter I from San Luis Obispo.
Pereira, 25, was pinned under the tree and sustained major injuries. He was airlifted via the National Park Service helicopter to the trauma center at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Pereira sustained injuries to his spinal cord and vertebrae and underwent surgeries on July 4 and July 6. An update on his condition will be made public soon.
The Case Mountain Fire was contained at 2.6 acres. It was one of five area wildland fires that Cal Fire responded to resulting from the July 3 lightning storm.
Sheep Fire— The most dangerous of the other fires was the Sheep Fire that was started by a lightning strike on Friday, July 3, seven miles up North Fork Drive near the Paradise area.
That fire in steep terrain was contained at 10 acres. There were 174 confirmed down lightning strikes in Cal Fire’s Tulare Unit area of responsibility.
The majority of these strikes from the July 3 storm were in the Kaweah drainage.
Additional fires— There were eight new lightning-caused fires reported within the boundaries of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. Two of the fires that were discovered burning in the Garfield Grove area in the South Fork drainage were suppressed.
The Big Five Fire (84 acres) that has been burning in the backcountry northeast of Mineral King since a previous lightning strike received more than an inch of rain from recent storms and only remains active in an area less than an acre.
There are no current trail closures or threats to people or any infrastructure in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks.
The July 3 lightning storm also caused a dozen new fires in Sequoia National Forest and Giant Sequoia National Monument. The largest of these fires was the Grey Fire burning in the Golden Trout Wilderness 15 miles northeast of Springville.
Three 20-person hand crews put out hot spots around a 12.5-acre burn plot to manage the fire using Minimum Impact Suppression Tactics. MIST is employed because the fire is in a designated wilderness area.