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Release Date: 09/04/09
Contacts: Lynn Barclay 970-826-5096    
  Vanessa Delgado 303-239-3681    

BLM Releases Freeman Reservoir Accident Report

CRAIG, Colo.— The Bureau of Land Management today released the Serious Accident Investigation Team (SAIT) Factual Report concerning the June 26, 2009 death of BLM engine captain Brett Stearns, during a tree felling exercise. The SAIT was tasked with investigating and documenting facts related to the accident.

The SAIT concluded that Stearns was fatally injured when the dead tree he was cutting down unexpectedly broke in the middle, causing the upper portion of the tree to fall backward and strike him.  The report noted that Stearns and his crew were working within accepted safety protocols and procedures when the accident happened.

“Many aspects of firefighting, like tree felling, are hazardous,” said Little Snake Field Manager John Husband.  “The Bureau of Land Management makes every effort to train and equip our firefighters to handle this work safely, yet unexpected events can occur.  Brett’s loss is still painful for our employees, his family, and those who knew him.  We will never forget Brett’s contributions as a firefighter and individual.”

The mission of the SAIT is to gather information regarding accidents for the purpose of identifying steps that may prevent similar accidents in the future. The BLM and other wildland fire management agencies continuously strive to identify hazards, manage risks, and put standards in place to protect employees and the public.

The report is posted on the BLM Colorado fire page and at

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land, the most of any Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. In Fiscal Year 2015, the BLM generated $4.1 billion in receipts from activities occurring on public lands.

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Last updated: 01-22-2010