Two wildland firefighters killed in Minnesota vehicle accident

(Originally published at 10:17 p.m. MDT August 27, 2017. Updated at 11:05 p.m. MDT August 28, 2016)

(UPDATE: the driver of the firefighters’ truck has been charged with a crime.)

Two firefighters with a Type 2 hand crew were killed in a traffic accident Saturday August 27 near Blaine, Minnesota. The Minnesota Incident Command System verified that the firefighters were part of the Beartown Fire Crew from the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in the upper Peninsula of Michigan that was en route to the Box Canyon Fire in Utah.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community confirmed the tragic accident:

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community learned this evening that our Beartown Firefighting crew was involved in a tragic traffic accident. Two of our fire fighters were killed and several others were severely injured. Our hearts are broken and our prayers are with the family members and those injured.

The seven other firefighters in the crew carrier that were injured in the crash are expected to recover.

The two deceased firefighters were identified Sunday by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community as James F. Shelifoe, Jr., 23, of Baraga Michigan, and Alan J. Swartz, 25, of Baraga, Michigan.

The Minnesota State Patrol said in a statement:

The truck was southbound on I-35W near 95th Avenue. The truck left the roadway for an unknown reason, struck the median cable barriers, and rolled. A total of nine people were in the vehicle.

There were 11 other firefighters en route to the same fire. They were traveling in a convoy but had become separated.

According to Minnesota Department of Transportation, that section of the Interstate was closed in both directions for about four hours after the accident.

The Keweenaw Bay Indian Community in cooperation with the Bureau of Indian Affairs manages the Beartown Firefighters Type 2 hand crew. It is based out of Baraga, Michigan and is available for dispatch locally as well as nation-wide.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, coworkers, and friends of the injured and deceased firefighters.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Tom.

Photos of ribbons being collected to honor fallen firefighter

Justin Beebe
Justin Beebe. USFS photo.

Photos are being collected of purple ribbons honoring Justin Beebe, the wildland firefighter killed by a falling tree August 13 while fighting the Strawberry Fire in eastern Nevada. The photos will be collected and then posted together on social media as a way to show Justin’s family respect, and honor his life.

If you would like to participate, take a photo of a purple ribbon on anything — a tree, utility pole, sign, fire truck — and Tweet it with the hashtag #rememberjustinbeebe. If there’s a clue in the photo about where in the world the photo was taken, that would be a bonus.

Below are examples.

remember justin beebe

justin bebee


I just ordered 100 yards of purple ribbon and should have it by mid-afternoon on Friday. If anyone in the Hot Springs, SD area wants some, send me a message.

The memorial service honoring Justin will be held at 11:00 a.m., Saturday, August 20 at Ogren Park at Allegiance Field, 700 Cregg Lane, Missoula (map). The public is invited to the memorial to pay their respects.

Justin is from Bellows Falls, Vermont and is a member of the Lolo Hotshots.

Additional information may be found at Condolences may be sent to

On August 17 Justin was flown in a U.S. Forest Service aircraft from Las Vegas to Missoula accompanied by fellow Hotshot crewmembers and a USFS Honor Guard. From the Missoula airport he was escorted to a funeral home in Missoula where he will rest until the Memorial Service on Saturday.

The Memorial service in Vermont will be on Saturday, August 27 at 1 p.m. at the Bellows Falls Union High School auditorium. The address is 406 Union High School Road, Westminster, VT 05158 (map).

Firefighter killed near Baker, Nevada

Justin Beebe was a member of the Lolo Hotshots

Justin Beebe
Justin Beebe. USFS photo.

A wildland firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service was killed Saturday August 13 while working on the Strawberry Fire near Baker, Nevada.

The National Park Service and the U.S. Forest Service confirmed that Justin Beebe, a firefighter with the Lolo Hotshots based in Missoula, Montana, succumbed to injuries suffered when he was struck by a tree. The line of duty death of the Bellows Falls, Vermont firefighter will be investigated by the Forest Service.

“This loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking,” said Park Superintendent, Steve Mietz “Please keep the family and Forest Service employees in your thoughts and prayers during this time.”

The Strawberry Fire is being managed jointly by Great Basin Incident Management Team 7, the National Park Service, and the Bureau of Land Management. It is burning mostly in Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada 10 miles west of the Utah/Nevada state line. Since starting from lightning on August 8 it has burned 4,600 acres, but satellites have not detected much heat on the fire since Friday, August 12.

map strawberry fire
The yellow dots represent the location of the Strawberry Fire August 14, 2016.
Strawberry Fire trees
Strawberry Fire. Photo by Steve Mietz.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Beebe’s family, friends, and coworkers.

Wildfires rage in Portugal and Spain; one firefighter killed

From the Daily Mail at 8:29 p.m. MDT August 8, 2016:

“More than 4,400 firefighters battled hundreds of forest blazes in Portugal as a man admitted causing a huge Spanish wildfire by lighting soiled toilet paper.

The National Civil Protection Authority in Portugal said by late afternoon almost 1,500 vehicles and 32 water-dumping planes were deployed at 702 wildfires, some of which have been burning for days.

Wildfires in Portugal
NASA satellite image showing in red the location of wildfires and smoke produced by the blazes in Portugal at 12:55 UTC August 9, 2016. The image shows most of Portugal and the west coast of Spain.

Meanwhile, after raging for six days, a Spanish wildfire which started when a German lit his spoiled toilet paper was finally brought under control as 500 residents were evacuated and a forest worker was killed.

In Spain, authorities said firefighters had managed to bring a six-day-old forest fire on the Atlantic island of La Palma under control and were allowing evacuated residents to return to their homes.

The regional government for the Canary Islands archipelago said the measure affected 500 residents evacuated a day earlier from the town of Villa de Mazo.

The fire claimed the life of one forest worker and has destroyed more than 4,000 hectares (9,900 acres) of forest on the volcanic island off the northwest coast of Africa.”

Firefighter killed in dozer accident on Soberanes fire

(Updated 5:46 a.m. MDT, July 28, 2016)

The operator of a bulldozer was killed while working on the Soberanes fire, one of two major wildfires burning in California and one that has already destroyed 20 homes.

The operator was killed when the bulldozer rolled over, and another operator was injured in a similar incident, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday. Other reports say the dozer operator died of injuries on Tuesday night.

The bulldozer operator was working on a call-when-needed basis overnight when the fatal accident occurred, according to information posted on CAL FIRE’s website. The dozer was one of 60 assigned to the fire in Monterey County.

Officials have not yet released the name of the operator who was killed. California’s other major blaze, the Sand fire, killed a man this week outside of Los Angeles.

Check back with for more on this story.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Chris and Daniel.

New Hampshire firefighter dies while fighting wildfire

Charles Waterbury
Charles Waterbury. Orford Fire Department photo.

A firefighter with the Orford New Hampshire Fire Department died in the line of duty on Sunday July 25 while fighting a wildfire.

Charles Waterbury, a 10-year veteran of the Department, suffered a medical emergency at a lightning-caused fire. He was taken to a hospital where he was pronounced dead.

Governor Maggie Hassan has ordered all flags to fly at half-staff until Wednesday.

“Charles Waterbury courageously rushed to fight a brush fire in Lyme to protect his fellow citizens, and in doing so, was tragically taken from us far too soon,” Governor Hassan said. “Through his service in the Orford Fire Department and the New Hampshire National Guard, Charles dedicated his life to keeping others safe, and his heroic commitment to public service has strengthened our state and our nation. Tom and I join all Granite Staters in mourning his tragic loss, and it is our responsibility as Granite Staters to come together in support of Charles’ family, loved ones, fellow firefighters and the entire Orford community.”

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Waterbury’s friends, family, and fellow firefighters.