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Incident Name:  Pilliken Fire, Eldorado National Forest
Date: 9/9/73
Personnel: Gerald Westley Karnes
Age: 33
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: faller

Summary: Gerald Karnes was a local logger hired by the Forest Service to cut hazard trees. He had worked as a faller for the FS before and worked with a partner on that fire. He and his partner were about to cut a big burned fir when the top fell out and hit him on the head and upper body. The accident occurred in the afternoon. He was airlifted out but died at the hospital that night.

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Maps

More than 10,000 acres burned, the Pilliken Fire stretched from Whitehall to Kyburz to the south of Hwy 50. The pin is in Kyburz.

 

Pilliken Fire Map Pilliken Fire Map

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • The Mountain Democrat (Placerville newspaper) reported on 9/13/73 that Gerald W. Karnes, 33, died on September 9th. He was an indirect victim of last month's Pilliken Fire. He was felling snags for the USFS with his partner Robert Patterson near Alder Creek. He was one of several self-employed log cutters working for the USFS under contract. Mr. Karnes and his partner were preparing to knock down a large burned white fir when the top eight feet fell according to Dick Serino, the USFS information officer.

    Although they heard a shouted warning from another man, they did not have time to get away, Patterson said. Karnes took the full force of the falling tree on the head and shoulder. He was evacuated by Pine Belt helicopter and died at 6:55 PM at Marshall Hospital about three and a half hours after the accident.

    The obituary also from The Mountain Democrat, same date states that he is survived by his wife Melvina, three sons and a daughter. --submitted by Brother Cub

  • US Social Security Death Index: Gerald Karnes
  • Forest Service Heroes Memorial: Gerald Westley Karnes (scroll down to 1973)

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Contributors to this article: Old LPF, John Mac, Siski Sam, Brother Cub, AL

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