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Thread: Oregon Wildfire Crew Leader Dies During Pack Test

  1. #1
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002

    Oregon Wildfire Crew Leader Dies During Pack Test

    Oregon Wildfire Crew Leader Dies During Pack Test

    Firehouse.Com News

    Oregon Department of Forestry employee Larry J. Hoffman collapsed and died while taking the Pack Test Saturday morning in The Dalles, Oregon.

    Hoffman had passed the test several times in recent years and showed no signs of distress before his collapse, said Oregon Department of Forestry spokesman Rod Nichols. He said Hoffman was taking the most arduous version of the Pack Test, which requires a hike of three miles with a 45-pound pack within 45 minutes.

    Two EMTs were on site to monitor the participants and provided immediate medical assistance, and an ambulance quickly transported Hoffman to the hospital, but he didn't make it. Hoffman was 51 years old and is survived by his wife Karen and his daughter Teri.

    "He will be greatly missed," Nichols said. "He was very well-liked by his co-workers as well as the public, and just went the second mile on everything he did."

    Nichols said the cause of death is not yet available. He added that the department is conducting an investigation to make sure that all policies were followed, including a self-assessment prior to the test for any risk factors. "I expect occasionally we're going to have accidents in the department because people are flying in airplanes and helicopters on dangerous firefighting duty," he said, "but you just don't expect this kind of thing to happen."

    He said Hoffman was always hands-on in directing firefighting activity and had been instrumental in fighting several recent wildfires, including the fast moving Sheldon Ridge Fire two years ago that threatened the city of The Dalles.

    "Larry will be remembered by his co-workers as a conscientious, hard-working professional who always went the extra mile to safeguard the forest resource," Nichols said.

    Hoffman began his career with the Oregon Department of Forestry in May 1976 when he was hired as a service forester in the Klamath-Lake District. He transferred to the Astoria District in 1978 to accept a management forester position.

    His next assignment took him to the other side of the state, and in 1979 he filled a forest practices/service forester slot in the Pendleton Unit. Then in 1987 he accepted a service forester job in the Prineville Unit. Two years later, he was promoted to protection unit forester for The Dalles Unit, the position he held until his passing.

    While serving at The Dalles, Hoffman was affectionately dubbed the "Detroit Kid," having grown up in the suburbs of Detroit, Michigan, Nichols said.

    A memorial service will take place on Friday, June 11 at 1:00 p.m. at St. Peter's Catholic Church at 1222 West 10th Street in The Dalles. A reception will follow immediately after the ceremony in the Parish Hall.

    Hoffman's wife Karen and daughter Teri, have asked that donations in his memory be made to St. Mary's Academy at 1112 Cherry Heights in The Dalles, Oregon 97058.

    Obituary Courtesy of The Dalles Chronicle
    June 7, 2004


  2. #2
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002
    Man who led crews fighting wildfires dies during fitness test

    Larry Hoffman, 51, of The Dalles passed the firefighting screening tool, now fatal to 10, several times before

    Wednesday, June 09, 2004

    A longtime state forester in The Dalles on Saturday became the 10th person in the nation since 1998 to die while taking a government fitness test for crews who battle wildfires.

    Larry Hoffman, 51, who supervised the Oregon Department of Forestry office in The Dalles, was the second firefighter to die in Oregon in the course of the test. The first was in Coos Bay in 1998. State officials called Hoffman's death tragic and said an investigation is under way.

    Hoffman had helped direct crews against a 2002 wildfire that threatened more than 200 homes in The Dalles and another blaze that threatened homes in Cascade Locks last summer.

    The continuing deaths attributed to the Work Capacity Test puzzle officials who developed it as a physical screening tool that mirrors the rigors of battling wildfires.

    "It's perplexing to have that happening in a profession that by and large has been an active and outside type of group," said Brian Sharkey of the U.S. Forest Service's Missoula Technology and Development Center in Montana.

    State and federal agencies employ the test to ensure that firefighters are up to the physical demands of the job.

    Hoffman was taking the most strenuous form of the test Saturday morning, said Rod Nichols, a spokesman for the state Forestry Department. It involves walking three miles within 45 minutes carrying a 45-pound pack.

    Hoffman had passed the test several times before and was in good physical condition, said Bob Young, district forester in Central Oregon. Hoffman was in good spirits and joked with other employees taking the test with him in The Dalles.

    About two-thirds of the way through the test, Hoffman collapsed. Fellow employees trained in emergency aid rushed to his assistance, and an ambulance took him to the hospital within 10 minutes, to no avail, Nichols said.

    State employees who take the test must complete a screening questionnaire for health risks, Young said. If they have such risks, they are encouraged to be examined by a doctor.

    State policy recommends at least six weeks of training for employees planning to take the test, Nichols said. They can also request a waiver exempting them and instead obtain a doctor's assurance that they are physically qualified for the work.

    The Work Capacity Test has come under scrutiny since it was adopted in 1998 because of fatalities among firefighters taking it. Nine deaths had been attributed to the test before this year, said Mike Apicello of the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise.

    He said officials have tried to reduce the safety concerns connected with the test through improved health screening.

    Hoffman joined the Department of Forestry in 1976 in Southern Oregon. He later worked as a forester in the Astoria area, Pendleton and Prineville before he was promoted to protection unit forester in The Dalles in 1989.

    Fellow employees said Hoffman was devoted to his family, friends and forestry and was respected for his expertise in predicting the behavior of wildfires and investigating their causes.

    "Larry was so full of life. This definitely leaves a big hole," Young said.

    A memorial service for Hoffman will be at 1 p.m. Friday in St. Peter's Catholic Church in The Dalles. It will include a pipe and drum corps from Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue, an honor guard from the state fire marshal's office and a procession of firetrucks.

    Michael Milstein: 503-294-7689;

  3. #3
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002
    Hoffman, Larry J

    Age: 51
    Cause of Death: Stress/Exertion
    Rank: Protection Unit Supervisor
    Nature of Death:
    Status: Career
    Emergency Duty: No

    Incident Date: 06/05/2004
    Duty Type: Training
    Incident Time: 10:30
    Activity Type: Fitness Activity
    Death Date: 06/05/2004
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    Oregon Department of Forestry
    2600 State St.
    Salem , Oregon 97310
    Chief: State Forester Marvin Brown

    Initial Summary:
    Collapsed and died while taking a pack test from a cause still to be reported by the medical examiner.

    Memorial Fund Info:
    Donations in memory of Larry J. Hoffman can be made to St. Mary's Academy, 1112 Cherry Heights, The Dalles, Oregon 97058.

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