For a seasonal firefighter, it was a fairly routine day — a hot, lengthy hike up Case Mountain near Three Rivers and putting out a small, brush fire, reports visaliatimesdelta.com.
All that was left to do in the early evening of July 3 was for CAL FIRE firefighters and the inmate firefighters working with them to “mop up,” putting out hot spots and stripping bark from the burnt remains of trees to make sure no fire still was smoldering remained inside.
That’s what CAL FIRE firefighter Damien Pereira was doing “When I heard the worst sound you could ever hear. The only way I could explain it is you know when a board snaps? It’s like that board being several thousand pounds.
“It made the ground shake. You could literally feel it in the air,” said Pereira, who knew instantly from the sound that the trunk of a tree somewhere behind him had snapped, and without looking back he knew he had to run away.
But a pile of burned trees on one side of him and heavy brush on his other side allowed him only one direction to run, and he hardly had taken two steps when the oak tree fell on him.
“The first place it hit me was my head, and then it crushed me like nothing.”
Pinned under the tree, Pereira said he couldn’t move, and could barely breath, as a portion of his chest was crushed. “It was the most powerless I’ve felt in my entire life.”
“I could barely manage the words, ‘Get this [expletive] tree off of me,'” he recounted Thursday from the bed of his hospital room at Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno.
Two of his buddies and fellow firefighters, Kevin Potts and Joe Willingham did just that, coming to his aid in just about a half minute and managing to lift the tree high enough to get it off Pereira’s chest, likely saving his life.
Pereira’s legs were pinned under the tree, and the firefighters used chain saws to cut away a section of the tree to free him.
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