Updated: Firefighter dies in tree felling accident in Lolo National Forest in Montana

(Updated at 9:47 a.m. MDT August 4, 2017)

Missoula County Sheriff T.J. McDermott announced that a wildland firefighter was killed Wednesday August 2 on the Lolo Peak Fire in the Lolo National Forest in Western Montana. The Sheriff said Brent M. Witham, 29, of Mentone, California, died in a “tree felling” accident. Dispatchers said the man was given CPR after being struck by a falling tree, but rescuers were unable to save his life.

Brent Witham
Brent Witham, screenshot from the 2016 Vista Grande IHC Crew Video.

He was a member of the Vista Grande Hotshots, based in Idyllwild, California according to Lolo Peak fire information officer Mark Struble.

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

Map of the perimeter Lolo Peak Fire
Map of the perimeter of the Lolo Peak Fire, at 2 a.m. MDT August 3, 2017.

Two weeks ago another firefighter was killed by a falling tree on the Lolo National Forest. Trenton Johnson 19, died June 19 while helping to suppress the Florence Fire, a small fire near Florence Lake northeast of Seeley Lake.

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.

Started July 15 by lightning, the Lolo Peak Fire has burned 6,542 acres 8 miles southwest of Lolo, Montana south of US Highway 12.

This article was updated August 4 to include the name and photo of the firefighter after it was released by the Sheriff.

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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.

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