Body of missing firefighter discovered in New Mexico

(UPDATE at 9:50 a.m. MDT, September 11, 2013)

The memorial service for Captain Token Adams will be Thursday September 12th, 2013 at 10:00 am at:

Calvary of Albuquerque
4001 Osuna Rd. NE
Albuquerque NM 87109

To get further information about the service please go to


Token Adams
Token Adams, USFS photo

The body of U.S. Forest Service Engine Captain Token Adams was found today. Missing since Friday, August 30, he was last seen when he boarded an ATV to attempt to locate a smoke that had been reported on the Santa Fe National Forest in northern New Mexico. His crew of three split up when they arrived at the general location of a smoke report but he did not return to the agreed upon meeting place. For the last eight days hundreds of people have been searching for him over dozens of square miles of the National Forest.

At 11:45 a.m. today searchers discovered his remains about one-quarter mile from the nearest road. In a video about this development at KRQE, the reporter said there was an apparent crash of the ATV and that Captain Adams had been wearing full protective gear, but the exact cause of death has not been determined.

Below is an announcement issued Friday afternoon by the Incident Management Team managing the search organization:

Friday September 6 2013 – 4:45 pm

We are sad to announce that the body of Jemez Ranger District Engine Captain Token Adams has been located. Token was dispatched to locate a smoke reported on Friday August 30 2013. Search efforts began late Friday afternoon and continued through this morning when his body was discovered.

Token was an Engine Captain working in Jemez Springs NM. He was 41 years old and had been an Engine Captain on the Jemez Ranger District for 1 ½ years. He was a wildland firefighter for 10 years including previous experience as a hotshot. Before coming to the Forest Service Token served in the U.S. Navy. Token grew up in the community of Coarsegold California and was a 1990 graduate of Yosemite High School in Oakhurst California.

Token is survived by his wife Heidi a 3 year old son Tristan his mother a brother and sister. Token’s wife Heidi is expecting their second child.

All public and media are asked to please respect the privacy of the firefighter’s family during this time of mourning. We will release all details of this tragedy when more information becomes available.

Wildfire Today had been publishing daily updates on the search since it became public on September 2, 2013.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family and co-workers of Captain Adams.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

13 thoughts on “Body of missing firefighter discovered in New Mexico”

  1. A sad and tragic ending for sure. I, too, wish that it didn’t turn out this way. Accidents do happen. But for the NM governor to refer to him as a hero…. that word is used much too loosely these days. I mean, he screwed up riding an ATV. Injury happens to unaccomplished ATV riders frequently and to competent riders as well.

    I am curious if USFS or any other wildland fire agency administers any sort of ATV training or certification program. If not, shame on them for being so lackadaisical about the use of a diminutive but potentially dangerous patrol/response vehicle by their paid employees and volunteers.

    1. I don’t necessarily agree with your assumption that he screwed up… sure, there *may* be issues with policy, safety, procedures, etc, or it *may* have been human error or a complete accident. It’s too soon to tell so I won’t speculate.

      I do, however, agree with your comment about the word hero being thrown around too easily. Not to say the he wasn’t, I know nothing of the man’s character or actions. But the second someone dies, we call them a hero. By extension, does that make all of us going about our jobs fighting heroes? I don’t think so. I don’t think I do anything particularly heroic on a day to day basis. I make decisions based on objectives and observations. I get a good paycheque. I do my job just like millions of other citizens do every day in any number of jobs. Are we all heroes then? I think we need to stop throwing that word out so often, it’s becoming a bit of a hollow platitude.

      This story, however, is tragic. My thoughts are with his fellow firefighters and his family.

  2. Lone Ranger – I agree with you on the use of the term “hero”. It is used way too much in a way that seems to diminish the true meaning. I’m very saddened by this accidental death, feel really bad about it having happened, and in no way mean to reflect any disrespect by having said that, however!

    Regarding FS and the use of an ATV – yes, Forest Service does require specific training and certification, and they also require refresher training. They are not the least bit lackadaisical about it. They also require certain PPE while in use and those requirements are as tight as any agency I know.

  3. He served in the military prior to becoming a wildland firefighter. In my book, he is a hero. What was the governor supposed to say? Certainly I would hope he wouldn’t say something like “he screwed up riding an ATV.” He did what few people are willing to do. What is the criteria for being a hero? Did he have to die in a blaze of glory? Did he need to save somebody?

    1. Jeremy, few people are willing to be garbage men, so should we call all garbage collectors heroes too?

    2. > Did he need to save somebody?

      That could work. What criteria would you propose?

      I find heroes everywhere and all the time in people who knowingly put themselves in harm’s way or make a significant sacrifice in the service of strangers. You don’t need a uniform, and you don’t need to die.

      Mr. Adams was a hero in his day job, just making hose packs and teaching newbies. So are the people who went out to look for him when he came overdue. In death, he is a public employee who went out to do his job and did not return. Is it more or less heroic that he died while scouting a wildfire — rather than laying out a Rx fire, or counting bird nests, or inspecting a timber sale, or cleaning toilets? Why?

      1. It’s time that we recognize that we are surrounded by virtuous people everyday, who do thankless jobs that are important to society. One doesn’t need to be dead to be a hero. Perhaps we should recognize more individuals and professions without someone being dead first and not take them for granted on the “ordinary” days.

        1. I thought about this for a while before I responded. I am unwilling to make the comment section on this website like so many of the other ones. I hope we are all here for the right reason. That being said, I guess what I meant by “willing” is that he had the guts to choose a profession where danger is part of life. Being a garbage man, which I am by no means demeaning, probably doesn’t come with all of the risks that being a wildland firefighter does. In addition to being a firefighter, he was also a member of the armed services and I don’t know what he did while he was serving, but for that, I am grateful. I am a wildland firefighter and I certainly don’t feel like a hero, nor do I believe that most of us do. We have countless hours of project work, cleaning, paperwork, and general nonsense that isn’t glamorous. But, when one of us dies in the line of duty, it has a tendency to put things into perspective. Our job is dangerous when it all boils down to it. We run chainsaws, work with helicopters, work in unpredictable environments, and drive 4 wheelers into rugged and unforgiving country and sometimes it doesn’t end well. I didn’t know Mr. Adams, but his track record is pretty impressive. Navy, Hotshots, and then an engine foreman. Maybe he did make a mistake. We all do. But his decisions to serve, both in the military and in the Forest Service as a firefighter, qualifies him as a hero in my book. An open forum where his family and friends can see negativity, and potentially hurtful comments in a time of loss is not the place to begin question the word “hero.” That is all I have- Strength and peace to his family during this difficult time.

  4. A tragic ending on this. I grieve for his family and friends. We work by choice in dangerous, risky environments and sometimes the hand of fate is unkind. In end he lost his life doing what he wanted to, in the place he wanted to be.

  5. please remember how your words will affect any family he has reading this. And familiies will, and do read all they can about their loved one.

  6. I do not wish to enter into the debate on whether or not all LODD’s should be regarded as heros, I have my own thoughts and that is good enough. I do not believe that a person’s status as a hero or not changes the fact that we need to learn from events such as these and others.

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