Konrad D. Nygaard rescued Ian R. Matheson from an attacking bear, Fort McMurray, Alberta, June 19, 1994. Matheson, 30, and Nygaard, 20, fire- fighters with the province’s environmental protection department, were encamped in a remote area 100 miles from Fort McMurray while fighting a forest fire. As they slept, a 275-pound, adult male black bear approached; Matheson awoke to find the bear standing over him. Shouting to Nygaard for help, Matheson attempted to get up, but the bear bit him in the back. Nygaard grasped a firefighting axe that had been positioned nearby and swung it at the bear. He missed. Matheson stood and attempted to flee, but the bear grasped him with its claws and bit him again. Nygaard took another swing with the axe. He struck the bear in the back, paralyzing its hind legs. The bear released Matheson and hobbled off. The men radioed for help, then Nygaard worked to clear a landing site for their evacuation by air. A helicopter arrived shortly and removed the men to a base camp, from which Matheson was flown to a hospital. He was treated for puncture wounds, scrapes, and bruises.
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