(UPDATED at 1:38 MDT July 20, 2017)
A firefighter working for a private company was killed July 19 while working on a wildfire in western Montana. Trenton Johnson 19, was struck by a falling tree while helping to suppress the Florence Fire, a small fire near Florence Lake on the Lolo National Forest northeast of Seeley Lake.
Mr. Johnson, a resident of Missoula, Montana was a member of a Grayback Forestry Inc. 20-person hand crew under contract to the U.S. Forest Service.
Kelli Matthews, a spokesperson for Grayback, said as the crew was getting lined out to begin work on a small fire the top broke out of a burning tree and struck Mr. Johnson. He was taken to the nearest heliport about half mile from the fire where he was airlifted to Saint Patrick Hospital. He was later declared deceased.
Mr. Johnson was a sophomore at Montana State University in Bozeman.
Lolo National Forest Supervisor Tim Garcia issued a statement Thursday saying in part:
This is a heart-wrenching loss of life and Trenton leaves behind many friends and family members who are feeling this profound loss right now. This loss is rippling across the Lolo National Forest this morning and is most keenly felt on the Seeley Lake Ranger District, where Trenton’s sister works as a Forest Service employee.
Between 1990 and 2014 18 firefighters were killed on wildland fires by hazardous trees, which was 4 percent of the 440 firefighter deaths in the stats for that period kept by the National Interagency Fire Center.
Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Johnson’s family, friends, and coworkers.
Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chris and Paula.
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