Scuba Divers and Forest Fires
1998 Urban Legend
So you think you're having a bad day? In California, wildfires are part of the natural cycle of the forest. They are caused by lightning, by arson, by acts of God. Brave firefighters earn their livings extingiushing these ravenous blazes.
Recently, Fire Marshals found a corpse in a rural section of California while they were assessing the damage done by a recent forest fire. The deceased male was dressed in diving gear consisting of a recently-melted wetsuit, a dive tank, flippers, and facemask. Apparently the man had been participating in recreational diving fairly recently.
A post-mortem examination attributed death not to burns, but to massive internal injuries. Salt water was found in his stomach. Dental records provided a positive identification of a man who had been reported missing a week before, and the next-of-kin were notified. Investigators then set about determining how a fully clad diver ended up in the middle of a forest fire.
It was discovered that, on the day of the fire, the deceased had set out on diving trip in the Pacific Ocean. His third dive was 20 kilometers away from the location of a large brush fire which which was threatening the saftey of a nearby town.
Firefighters, seeking to control the conflagration as quickly as possible, had called in a fleet of helicopters to saturate the area with water. The helicopters towed large buckets, which were dropped into the ocean for rapid filling, then flown to the fire and emptied.
You guessed it! One minute our diver was marveling at the fish species of the Pacific, and in the next breath, he found himself in a fire bucket 300 meters in the air. He experienced rapid decompression caused by the altitude change, suddenly followed by a plummet into burning trees.
As a consolation to bereaved relatives, investigators calculate that the man extinguished roughly 1.78 square meters of the fire, approximately the area covered by a splattered human body. Bereaved are also consoled by the knowledge that he had enjoyed two rewarding dives preceeding his fatal third dive.
Divers and pilots alike are being warned to remain on the alert. Divers are encouraged to remain calm if scooped from the water, and to hang onto the bucket when the water is dumped on the fire. Decompression chambers will be available immediately upon landing.
Classified Urban Legend 17 October 1997The sister of the deceased in Scuba Divers and Forest Fires shows us his last email message to her in Bad Day at the Office.