Hit by burning tree top

by: SUBMITTED PHOTO - John HammackA Madras man who was a member of a tree-falling crew on a fire in the Deschutes National Forest died last Thursday, when he was struck by a falling snag.

John Hammack, 58, was killed and Norman Crawford, 48, of Sisters, was injured just after 9 a.m. Aug. 1, while working as a two-man tree-falling crew in the Mount Washington Wilderness, near Dugout Lake. The men were contractors working for R&K Water Services, of Bonney Lake, Wash.

According to the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office, which investigated the incident, the men were attempting to clear away a hazardous tree on a small wildfire when the top of the tree broke off and fell on them.

Crawford, who was struck by falling limbs, was able to notify U.S. Forest Service employees of the accident, and the USFS contacted the Deschutes County 911.

Because of the high level of fire activity in the area, deputies and search and rescue personnel were unable to enter the area upon arrival. Firefighters remained on the scene until Friday, when Hammack's body was recovered and escorted by a procession of emergency personnel and firefighters to a funeral home in Redmond.

However, Crawford was transported out of the fire area by the Sisters-Camp Sherman Fire Department on Thursday, and transferred to an AirLink ambulance. He was transported to St. Charles Bend, where he was treated for a shoulder injury and released later that day.

Formerly of Sisters, Hammack farmed south of Madras. He was well-known in the rodeo world for bareback riding and steer wrestling, and had competed in the International Professional Rodeo Association circuit for many years. He won all-around honors in the IPRA in Madison Square Garen in the 1970s, as well as all-around honors at the Sister Rodeo in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hammack was the second firefighter killed by a falling snag, and the 27th killed in the line of duty on wildfires this year. The 27 deaths include 19 firefighters who were part of a hotshot crew that died in June in an Arizona wildfire.

The fire, Incident No. 398, was started by a lightning storm that passed through on July 31, and was contained at 1/10th of an acre.

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