Outdoors

Camper killed by falling tree in storm; Panhandle forests evaluating campgrounds

Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars near Stagger Inn Campground northwest of Priest Lake. (Rich Landers)
Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars near Stagger Inn Campground northwest of Priest Lake. (Rich Landers)

UPDATED: 2:55 p.m.

CAMPING — Idaho Panhandle National Forests staffers are scrambling to assess tree damage at developed forest sites after a visitor was killed in the Stagger Inn Campground northwest of Priest Lake by a damaged tree related to thunder storms on Sunday night.

Kyle L. Garrett, 48, of Sandpoint, died when a 200-foot-tall tree uprooted and fell on his tent, according to the Pend Oreille County Sheriff’s Office. A 52-year-old woman was also injured and was treated for non-life threatening injuries.

The Stagger Inn is a small primitive campground at the Roosevelt Grove of Ancient Cedars in Pend Oreille County just west of the Idaho state line.

Other campgrounds are being evaluated before the Labor Day holiday.

Here's the info from Panhandle Forests spokesman Jason Kirchner:

High winds throughout the Idaho Panhandle last night caused numerous trees to weaken and fall resulting in one fatality at the USDA Forest Service’s Stagger Inn Campground in Pend Orielle County, Wash. Investigation into the accident is being led by the Pend Orielle County Sheriff’s Department. Due to these hazardous conditions, and in advance of the Labor Day holiday weekend, the Idaho Panhandle National Forest has begun a widespread assessment of its developed recreation sites to identify additional areas where storm damage may have weakened trees. Rapid assessments of campgrounds, picnic areas and other developed recreation sites will determine whether temporary closures are needed to provide for public safety until crews are able to remove hazardous trees.

“We are deeply saddened by the tragic accident at our campground and are making every effort to ensure that last night’s storm damage has not left hazard trees in our developed recreation sites,” said Idaho Panhandle National Forest Supervisor Mary Farnsworth.

To ensure a rapid and comprehensive response to last night’s storm damage the forest has activated an Incident Management Team, like those used to manage wildfires and other emergencies, to quickly assess and manage hazards discovered in recreation sites across the forest. Assessment will focus only on developed sites, such as campgrounds and picnic areas. Further assessment updates, including any temporary closures will be posted at www.inciweb.org.

It is vitally important for forest visitors to understand that hazardous trees may be present anywhere on the national forest. Visitors are encouraged to take a hard look at their surroundings when recreating throughout the forest, and especially when selecting a campsite. Hazardous trees are not always readily apparent, but some obvious indicators of dangerous trees include damage to roots, branches or trunk; insect infestations; leaning trees; or dead trees. These types of trees are especially hazardous when the wind is blowing.




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Rich Landers

Rich Landers’ Outdoors blog


Rich Landers writes and photographs stories for a wide range of outdoors coverage, including a Sunday feature section and a Thursday column. He also writes the Outdoors Blog.


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