Local firefighter hit by falling tree, rescued during ice storm

CLIMAX, N.C. — A volunteer firefighter in Randolph County says an electric crew worker rescued him from underneath a fallen tree during last week’s ice storm.

Gary Woolman lives in Climax and was working with other volunteer firefighters on Mack Lineberry Road early Friday morning. He never predicted needing emergency assistance for himself.

More than forty trees and power lines came down on the road because of ice. The volunteers were working to clear the road so emergency vehicles and power crews could navigate overnight.

Line Supervisor Mike Hodges with Randolph Electric Membership Corp. was also responding to calls in the area and came across the firefighters trying to remove a tree that was completely blocking the road.

“No notice, no noise or anything. As we were cutting this tree up, another tree fell directly in front of us,” Hodges explained.

Woolman said, “The tree hit me from behind and just buried me. As I tried to get out, I knew my leg was injured.”

Hodges and the other firefighters hopped into action. “We just saw it hit him and as soon as it hit him we just laid down everything and went to his aid.”

The tree crushed Woolman’s leg and the other men could not even see him under what they described as a 60-foot Pine tree.

Woolman was groggy, but clearly remembers Hodges finding him under the tree. “His hands grabbed me, and he and one of the firefighters freed my leg and got me out.”

Hodges put Woolman in his truck and drove him to the closest fire station. It took an ambulance five hours to get him to the hospital because of storm and ice conditions.

Woolman will have surgery on his leg this week, but he said it would have been worse if Hodges and the other firefighters hadn’t acted so quickly.
“The REMC crews don’t get enough credit. They’re the unsung heroes who get our power back on,” said Woolman.

Hodges said he was just in the right place at the right time.

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