Firefighter passes out behind wheel; dehydration suspected |

Firefighter passes out behind wheel; dehydration suspected

Nevada County Consolidated Fire Capt. Bruce Niederberger was being evaluated at Sutter Roseville Medical Center Monday after he passed out behind the wheel while on a call.

A stroke or heart attack have been ruled out, said Consolidated Fire Chief Tim Fike. The incident Sunday morning tied up traffic in Grass Valley, but a crash involving the engine was avoided.

Niederberger had been out on a stroke call, and his firefighter partner had accompanied their patient to Sierra Nevada Memorial

Hospital, Fike said. Niederberger was en route to the hospital to pick up his partner at about 10:30 a.m. and was on the 700 block of East Main Street when he “started to get tunnel vision.”

“He passed out” after turning on the siren and jamming his foot on the brake, Fike said.

Passersby found Niederberger slumped behind the wheel of the fire engine, which was in the middle of the road, and called 911.

“There was no damage to the engine, and he didn’t hit anyone,” Fike said.

When rescue personnel tried to get a semi-conscious Niederberger out of the engine, he became combative, Fike said. He was taken by air ambulance to Roseville.

“He sustained four fractured vertebrae in his back and a contusion to his face,” Fike said. “It could have been when he slumped over; he apparently hit the dash.”

At this point, it is believed Niederberger might have been suffering from dehydration, Fike said. He is expected to be off work for several months due to the back injury.

To contact Staff Writer Liz Kellar, e-mail or call (530) 477-4229.

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