A Southern Stone County firefighter is recovering from what's known as a “widow maker.” While fighting a brush fire, a dead tree collapsed on his head. It’s a common danger for firefighters on windy, dry days.
Firefighters face danger from a fire itself and smoke inhalation, and they often must also dodge falling debris. "I got very lucky," firefighter Terry Coker said. The lucky guy was once at the wrong place at the wrong time. "It was just kind of a freak thing," Southern Stone County Fire Protection District Public Information Officer Eric Nielsen said.
While fighting a brush fire at Cow Creek Road and Nature Trail Road in Blue Eye, a large dead tree collapsed. "That's the last thing I remember," Coker said. He was knocked unconscious. "Especially when you hear the radio traffic of another firefighter calling in one of your firefighters is injured, it's not something you want to experience," Nielsen said.
When Coker woke up he learned he had a concussion and injured shoulder. "About the top 12 feet of it fell and struck me in the head," Coker said. "I was very lucky my crew was able to find me. I'm a big fan. I'm a believer now because I had my structure helmet on it probably gave me a little more protection.”
Firefighters say falling debris isn't just dangerous it can be deadly. "We had a near miss just last month," Nielsen said. “Really since the ice storm back in 2008 there are branches that are just dangling ready to fall."
Coker will return to his full time job Monday but will have to wait for his shoulder to heal before he is back to fighting fires. "We always have a brotherhood it will be great to have him back," Nielsen said.
Another firefighter is recovering from a tree collapse. The assistant fire chief in Marshfield is currently going through rehab at St. John's. He was injured when a tree limb hit him in the head. Ed Noland was first listed in critical condition.