David Arthur Martin, Firefighter

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Firefighter Martin and the members of his department responded to a wildland fire. He was riding in the back of a pickup operating a hoseline along the boundary of the fire. The pickup was equipped with a slide-in tank/pump unit. Firefighter Martin was thrown from the pickup and landed in the flames at the head of the approaching fire. The driver of the pickup was not aware that Firefighter Martin had been thrown off. When the driver realized that Firefighter Martin was gone, he attempted to locate him. The driver’s view of the scene was obstructed by smoke and flames. When Firefighter Martin fell, he lost his eyeglasses. After the fall, Firefighter Martin began to walk or run for about 200 feet in an attempt to escape the flames. He attempted to seek refuge from the fire in a brush covered dry creek bed but was blocked by a fence. He then walked or ran an additional 374 feet in an unburned area along a fence. He was discovered by other firefighters and moved to a safe haven. He was transported by helicopter to a regional hospital and then transferred to a burn treatment facility. Firefighter Martin died as the result of complications from his burns on August 6, 2002. He was burned over 80 percent of his body. The fire was intentionally set and his death was classified as a homicide.

Department information

Opal Volunteer Fire Department
P.O. Box 48
Opal , South Dakota 57765

Chief: Charles Vansickel

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David Arthur Martin was honored on the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland and was included in the USFA’s annual report Firefighter Fatalities in the United States.
Age: 48
Rank: Firefighter
Classification: Volunteer
Incident date: August 1, 2002 14:45
Date of death: August 6, 2002
Cause of death: Fall
Nature of death: Burns
Activity type: Advance Hose Lines/Fire Attack (includes Wildland)
Emergency duty: Yes
Duty type: On-Scene Fire
Fixed property use: Outdoor Property