Alpine, Wyoming, Man Dies In Tragic Wood Chipper Accident

An Alpine-area fire prevention worker died in a wood-chipper accident Tuesday. The man got entangled in the wood chipper and it had to be disassembled to get him out, but the accident was not survivable.

Clair McFarland

June 20, 20244 min read

Alpine Wyoming sign 8 1 23
(Cowboy State Daily Staff)

An Alpine-area man died in a wood chipper accident Tuesday, the Alpine Volunteer Fire Department reports.

The fire department was called to the scene near Alpine, Wyoming, at 1:34 p.m. Tuesday on a report that a man had gotten entangled in a woodchipper, Alpine Fire Chief Mike Vogt told Cowboy State Daily on Thursday.

One of about five firefighters on scene, Vogt pulled the man out of the device, he said.

A Star Valley Health Ambulance supervisor and five EMTs were on scene as well, said ambulance director Bud Clark.

Two Lincoln County Sheriff’s agents also responded.

The fire crew extricated the man by disassembling part of the wood chipper and lifting the cutting drum. The wood chipper appeared brand new, Vogt noted.

He said the man had been working as part of a contract program (not under Alpine Fire) to clear debris to prevent wildfires and died while still in the machine.

‘This Is Not A Normal Job’

Vogt said he did not know the victim personally.

Clark, however, said some of his EMTs did know the victim personally, and one had served with him in the military.

“That’s the problem with doing (emergency medical service) in a small community like ours,” said Clark. “We always end up running on people that we know.”

That can add to the trauma responders face, he said.

Clark hosted a critical incident stress debriefing that evening, where the first responders who attended were able to discuss the incident and shed tears. He said counseling and mental health are important components within the agency.

“This is not a normal job,” said Clark. “If you sent a bank teller to the scene we had up there, they’d be messed up for life.”

Not Survivable

Clark said the woodchipper incident was not survivable.

Vogt agreed, saying the injuries to the victim were too fatal to plague responders with thoughts of how they could have saved the man.

Though bleak, the thought helps fight back waves of guilt, said Vogt.

“There’s no way on this you could question: ‘We could have done this, or we could have done this to save him,’” he said. “There wouldn’t have been enough … time.”

Vogt said he was a fireman in Casper for 23 years before working in Alpine and has attended fatal scenes before. That has helped him handle the incident, though he’s concerned for the volunteers who work with him, he said.

Vogt said the incident also should be a learning opportunity and urges people to be careful around dangerous equipment and follow safety precautions. In a public statement dispatched earlier this week, he extended condolences to the victim’s family.


The job foreman who called 911, Oak VonSegderen, said though the incident is tragic, he was amazed at the speed and professionalism of both the fire and EMS responders.

VonSegderen was a career firefighter with about three decades of experience, including 27 years in Casper and five as Swan Valley fire chief.

“I’ve been and seen a lot of things, but I’ve never had to be on this end of it — and it’s very difficult,” said VonSegderen.

The fire and EMS response times to the hilly area off the highway were incredible for the crews of such a rural area, he said.

“The skill and the professionalism of the medics that showed up were as best as I’ve ever seen in my life,” VonSegderen added. “The volunteer firemen that showed up were so on it, everybody was on it (including) the dispatchers and — I don’t think, sometimes, if you don’t need us, rescuers, you don’t think about them.”

VonSegderen became emotional and asked his wife, Bridgett Ryan, to finish his interview.

Ryan said that her husband was alone in the hills when he called 911, but the dispatcher stayed on the line with him, which he needed.

She also credits Lincoln County sheriff’s personnel with helping on scene. And she said Clark connected VonSegderen this week with Sara Burnside, a therapist at Star Valley Health, which has been another blessing in the calamity.

Ryan had urged VonSegderen to speak to Cowboy State Daily so that even amid the tragedy, people may appreciate what emergency responders face for others.

“This is so tragic, it’s like there has to be something that comes out of it that’s somehow good,” said Ryan. “And right now that’s about all we can see.”

Clair McFarland can be reached at

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Clair McFarland

Crime and Courts Reporter