Fallen firefighter rescued with style
A Tahoe-Douglas firefighter was in good company when he suffered serious injuries in a backpacking accident.
Joseph Anderson, 45, was on a fishing trip with three other off-duty firefighters, all trained as paramedics, when he slipped Monday night while climbing down from Mud Flat, one of his favorite fishing spots. He fell 30 feet and broke three ribs, a hip, his pelvis, his right knee, and possibly his wrist.
Todd Moss, Dave Hekhuis and Tim Allison are the firefighters who were with Anderson.
“They didn’t witness the fall,” said Tahoe-Douglas Assistant Fire Chief Bruce Van Cleemput. “They heard it. They assessed his injuries … and decided to send one guy for help and he ran five miles to a cabin to get 911 notified.”
The accident happened at Sayles Canyon, a wilderness area five miles south of Sierra-at-Tahoe. About 24 rescue workers from Lake Valley Fire Protection District, El Dorado County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue Unit and Lake Tahoe Ambulance reached Anderson around 10:45 p.m., nearly four hours after Anderson fell.
Because it would have been very painful for him to be carried several miles out of the treacherous area, rescuers called for a helicopter. But it was dark and helicopters owned by Cal Star and Careflight could not see well enough to land.
Because of the severity of Anderson’s condition, a helicopter with night vision, a Black Hawk operated by the Nevada National Guard, was called to the scene.
It landed around 3:30 a.m. Tuesday at Round Meadows, an area near a trailhead that leads to Sayles Canyon, and flew Anderson to Lake Tahoe Airport. There he was airlifted to Washoe Medical Center where Tuesday he was listed in satisfactory condition.
Anderson, who has worked at Tahoe-Douglas since 1987, has eight children ranging in age from 3 to 19. His wife, Lauren, rushed from their Meyers home and hiked alongside rescuers to be with her husband.
“When I went out there I thought he was dying and I wanted to be there before anything happened,” she said. “Then I heard from a radio that he was stable and I knew that was good.”
She said her husband was in a lot of pain, but was nauseous and afraid to take medication because of his ribs. Lauren said she finally convinced him to take some medicine.
“We’re just glad he is alive and I think he will fully recover,” she said. “He has to have some orthopedic work down and have a couple of operations, but he should be OK. The helicopter saved him a lot of pain.”
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