LODD – North Carolina Forest Service Firefighter – Curtis Jessen
A North Carolina Forest Service firefighter who fell off a cliff at Big Bradley Falls and died has been identifed as Curtis Jessen, the division’s assistant district forester in Asheville.
Jessen suffered critical injuries after falling from the Big Bradley Falls near Saluda.
Medical personnel pronounced Jessen dead a short time later.
“This is a very sad day for the entire Division of Forest Resources and all of our firefighting partners,” said Wib Owen, the director of the Division of Forest Resources. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Curtis and his family.”
Jessen, 32, was working on the fire when he fell from a cliff. Authorities are investigating the circumstances surrounding Jessen’s fall and the fire.
Jessen began working with the N.C. Division of Forest Resources in February 2002. Since that time he has worked as a forest inventory analysis forester and a service forester before being promoted to assistant district forester.
Rescue workers and firefighters pulled vehicles up to block the view as the rescue effort came to an end. The ambulance, which had backed up to a trailhead at Bradley Falls, pulled away silently, escorted by a sheriff’s cruiser.
Jeremy Gregg, a spokesperson with Saluda Fire and Rescue, confirmed at 1:35 p.m. that rescue workers had reached Jessen.
Rescue workers used all-terrain vehicles to reach the firefighter. The falls are a 25-minute hike from Holbert Cove Road.
“This is steep terrain in a rugged area. Any rescue we perform in this area is tough,” Gregg said.
One firefighter who responded suffered heat exhaustion but refused medical attention from EMS after his vitals were checked and were found to be OK. Another firefighter had an allergic reaction to a bee sting and was being treated.
David Boykin, a firefighter with Saluda Fire and Rescue, said he was hiking with the department’s chief deputy on Holbert Cove Road at 6 p.m. last night when they saw smoke from a brush fire. After talking with the county ranger, they decided the fire wasn’t a threat and they would come back today to check on it.
The brush fire has been contained.
The Polk County Rescue Squad, Henderson County Rescue Squad, Mountain Home Fire Department, Valley Hill Fire Department, Green River Fire Department and Dana Fire Department responded to the scene. The Blue Ridge Fire Department is manning the Saluda fire Department.
The American Red Cross responded with food and water for rescue workers.