Early Sunday, June 16, Luther E. Larkin, Sr., 51, a firefighter working the Big Meadows Fire, collapsed due to sudden cardiac arrest while hiking to the fire line with his fire crew. Crew members acted swiftly by administering CPR and requesting aid from fire-line paramedics from Grand County Emergency Medical Services assigned to the fire, who utilized an Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) to successfully resuscitate the man after approximately 10 minutes of him having no pulse.
Larkin is a senior member of the Horseshoe Meadow Type I Interagency Hotshots based out of Sequoia National Forest in California, is said to be in good condition after the incident, and is sitting up and recognizing his crew members.
Officials attribute the survival of the man to the quick response by crew members and medical personnel as well as the availability of advanced medical care and an AED on the fire line.
Once the man was resuscitated, his crew members transported him to the nearest helispot, about a quarter of a mile away, where he was flown to a cardiac care hospital.
“The timing was impeccable,” said Shane Del Grosso, incident commander for the Big Meadows Fire. “Flight for life landed at the same time they were transporting the individual to the helispot.”
“Prompt ordering of the emergency medical helicopter by Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) dispatch, and placing it on aerial standby, was critical to the successful outcome of this life threatening event,” said a press release issued Wednesday, June 19, by RMNP and fire officials.
Early in response to the Big Meadows Fire, Rocky Mountain Incident Management Team A, in coordination with RMNP officials, began extensive preparation for any emergency response, in part due to new protocols that were established in response to the death of a California firefighter.
Eighteen year old Andrew “Andy” Palmer was struck by a falling tree in 2008 while working the Iron Complex Fire in northern California. He died during medevac flight while in route to a local hospital. After his death, protocols were put into place to prevent similar loss of life in the already dangerous environment in which wildland firefighters work. These protocols, which were implemented during the Big Meadows Fire, very well could have helped to save Larkin’s life.