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November 18, 2011

Utah firefighters on the mend after truck rollover

By Wendy Leonard
Deseret Morning News

CENTERVILLE, Utah — Three Farmington firefighters are recovering at home Thursday from injuries they suffered when the 10-ton rig they were in rolled down a steep embankment on the unimproved firebreak road above Centerville.

Farmington Fire Capt. Jed Done was flown to the Intermountain Medical Center with head injuries after the training exercise went wrong Wednesday night. He was one of three fire officials injured in the rollover.

Capt. Rick Wesche and volunteer firefighter and paramedic Jay Burnam were also injured and taken to area hospitals with less serious injuries. Both Wesche and Burnam were released and able to go home Thursday morning.

Done remained hospitalized into the late afternoon, but was eventually released as well.

Investigators do not believe there was any kind of mechanical error that led to the crash, though they were going to survey the vehicle further, Centerville Police Lt. Paul Child said Thursday.

Child said the firefighters were already in a tight spot before the crash.

"The truck did go off to the side of the road after completing a turn," Child said. "As the truck made that turn, instead of straightening out on that narrow road, it continued off to the right and went down the embankment."

All three firefighters were wearing seat belts in the vehicle when it rolled, he said. Other Farmington firefighters were on scene when the truck tumbled and were able to assist in the rescue operation.

Multiple agencies have also provided various assistance.

The six-wheel drive fire truck was previously a military vehicle purchased by Farmington and modified to function as a wildland firefighting vehicle.

Dave Millheim, Farmington city manager, said the city recently bought two of the converted military vehicles, which are capable of taking firefighters to difficult-to-reach locations. The area where the accident took place has a history of wildfires, Millheim said.

One recent fire, on Sept. 15, forced the evacuation of four homes. "We're used to being up here," Millheim said. "We're used to dealing with these hills. But it doesn't make it easy when something like this happens."

Police are using what happened to warn adventure-seekers — especially heading into winter — that if accidents can happen to professionals during training, they can happen to anyone.

"We need to all be cognizant that when you get off-road like this, you need to have the proper vehicle and the right training," Child said.

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