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Incident Name: forest fire near Indian Creek, Lincoln National Forest, near Capitan, NM
Date: incident 8/23/24, died 8/27/24
Personnel: Ed C Pfingsten
Age: 55
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: firefighter

Summary: Firefighter Ed Pfingsten and his forest ranger RV Galt were en route to a forest fire near Indian Creek in the White Mountains near Capitan, NM (and Nogal) on August 23, 1924. After traveling all day and having abandoned their horses due to rough terrain, they came near to where the fire was burning. Pfingsten attempted to pass along the lower edge of a cliff. He put his hand against the rock face to steady himself when suddenly the whole face gave way and he was swept down the side of the mountain in an avalanche of stone and earth. One of Pfingston's legs was badly crushed and bleeding. After extracting him and administering first aid, Ranger Galt went for help, returning at 4 AM. It took several days for Ranger Galt and other rescuers to get Pfingsten to the US Marine Hospital at Fort Stanton. Ed died in the hospital in spite of the best efforts to save him.

 

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Maps

Forest fire was near Indian Creek in the White Mountains east of Capitan, NM

US Marine Hospital at Fort Stanton, NM is where Ed died.

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • USFS Heroes Memorial Page: Ed Pfingsten
  • Government Pensions Widow of Firefighter Killed in Rock Slide

    March 7, 1925 | Arizona State Miner, Wickenburg

    Mrs Maggie E Pfingsten, Nogal, NM, whose husband Ed C Pfingsten, a Forest Service firefighter, died last August from injuries received by being caught beneath a mass of sliding rock in the White Mountains (Sierra Blanca) east of Capitan, NM, while on his way to a forest fire, has been granted a pension for the support of herself and children, according to District Forester Frank C W Pooler.

    Mrs Pfingsten's husband, previous to his death, had been employed by the Forest Service off and on for about twenty years. He had worked as carpenter, trail foreman, fire guard and fire fighter and was acting in the capacity of fire fighter when he was caught in the rockslide that caused the injuries from which he died. The Forest Supervisor under whom Mr Pfingsten worked regarded him as a man of great courage and a faithful and efficient workman.

    In company with Forest Ranger R V Galt, Pfingsten set out horseback, morning of August 23, for a forest fire the smoke of which they had spotted from a lookout point. They calculated the fire to be in the region of Indian Creek in the heart of the White Mountains. The mountains are exceedingly rough and precipitous and the men found such hard going that they were compelled to leave their horses long before the vicinity of the fire was reached. Taking food and water they proceeded on foot for about two hours and a half through a country that was almost impassable.

    About five-thirty in the afternoon, according to the report afterwards submitted by Ranger Galt, after traveling all day they came near where the fire was burning, Pfingsten arttempted to pass along the lower edge of a cliff. He put his hand against the rock face to steady himself when suddenly the whole thing gave way and he was swept down the side of the mountain in an avalanche of stone and earth. He came to a halt when his legs were wedged fast between the rocks and a tree. By the use of dry poles, Ranger Galt was able to move the mass of rock and release Pfingsten. One leg was badly crushed and was bleeding profusely. Galt administered first aid and set out for help.

    About four o'clock in the morning Galt returned with a doctor and some other men. The whole night had been spent in travel during which Pfingsten laid on the ground alone and unable to move. A stretcher of poles and a piece of canvas which Galt had brought for the purpose was improvised and after such temporary relief as the doctor could give without hospital facilities, the trip down the mountain began. More than two days and nights were required for carrying the injured man out of the mountains to the marine hospital at Ft Stanton. They were days of heroic stoicism on the part of the sufferer, to whom every jolt of the litter brought almost unbearable pain, and of hardship and fatigue to his rescuers.

    Mr Pfingsten was unable to withstand the shock of exposure, loss of blood and intense suffering and died at the hospital in spite of efforts of the best physicians to save him. The government had borne all the expense incident to the death and burial, the District Forester states, and now has given final approval to a grant of $66.67 per month for the benefit of the widow and children which will continue as long as their status remains within the scope of the Employees' Compensation Act.

  • Ed C Pfingsten

    Birth: Jul. 20, 1869, Omaha, Douglas County, Nebraska, USA

    Death: Aug. 27, 1924, Fort Stanton, Lincoln County, New Mexico, USA

    Died of an accident from falling rock at the age of 55 yrs. 1 month, 7 days.

    Father - Henry Pfingsten, Mother - Sophie Barre

    Funeral billed to U. S. Employers

  • New Mexico Death Record: Ed. Pfingsten (from familysearch.org)

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

Photo credits: Ron at findagrave.com and Sierra Blanca Peak from Wikimedia

Ed Pfingsten Headstone Ed Pfingsten Headstone
Sierra Blanka Peak, modern day Sierra Blanka Peak, modern day

 

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Contributors to this article: John Miller, Mellie, Debi Brown (Ed's great granddaughter), Ron


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