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Broken Leg
by Dan Thorpe
August 31, 1993
 
It was my first chance to talk face-to-face with our Operations Chief after hurriedly responding to the brush fire an hour before. By now, the fire was close to being under control.  After talking with him for about 20 minutes regarding our mop-up plans, he casually asked if I could take a fire fighter to the doctor on my way back to the station.  I recognized him as one of our new employees who had just completed fire school the previous week.
 
I didn't think much of it, since the fire fighter had been waiting in the truck for 20 minutes; it must not be too serious and the Operations Chief had said nothing about any accidents or injuries. We have a vigorous safety program and significant incidents get reported immediately.
 
Imagine my shock when he hopped the several steps between our two vehicles on one leg and then proceeded to brace himself between the vehicles to get into it.  In the loading process I noticed his injured leg was nearly horizontal to the ground while his foot dangled loosely at a grotesque angle toward the ground.
 
A dozen questions went through my mind, but my mouth couldn't overcome my horror to ask any of them!  After several seconds of my staring wide-eyed and open-mouthed, the fire fighter explained he had gotten his prosthesis stuck between two rocks and it broke, hanging uselessly from its hardware.
 
He had convinced our supervisors that he could fight forest fires with a wooden leg, now he just had to get one that could stand up to the rigors of the forest.
 
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Dan Thorpe is currently District Forester for the Southwest Oregon District of the Oregon Department of Forestry