US Forest Service firefighter dies in off-duty accident in Mississippi

The Associated Press is reporting that a wildland firefighter died Wednesday night in Mississippi.

Evan Batson, 34, worked for the U.S. Forest Service in Colorado on the San Juan National Forest’s Columbine Wildland Fire Module. The crew was on an assignment in Mississippi assisting with prescribed fires.

Mr. Batson and his co-workers had gone to dinner in Natchez. They were walking to a casino when he jumped a fence to take a shortcut from the top of a bluff to a grassy area, but he jumped too far. Natchez Police Department Cmdr. Scott Frye said the drop was about 100 feet down.

His co-workers, some of whom are EMTs, administered first aid along with the Natchez Fire Department.

“There was no motor vehicle access where he was,” Police Chief Joseph Daughtry said.

Later Mr. Batson was pronounced dead.

“His death occurred outside of work hours and is still under investigation,” said Lawrence Lujan, a spokesman for the US Forest Service. “Evan worked on the Payette, Medicine Bow-Routt, Manti La Sal, and San Juan National Forests as a career wildland firefighter during his tenure. We share this profound loss with Evan’s family, friends, and crew members and hold them in our thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

From the USFS website:

“The Columbine Wildland Fire Module (WFM) is a ten-person crew based out of the Columbine Ranger District of the San Juan National Forest. Columbine WFM is a resource that responds to fires locally, regionally, and nationally, and provides self-sufficient, highly skilled fire professionals to assist with wildland and prescribed fire operations, fire behavior and fire effects monitoring, hazard fuels reduction, and a range of other fire and resource related missions. Columbine has existed as an “initial attack” module since the early 2000s. With support from Forest Leadership working to expand the San Juan National Forest’s managed and prescribed fire programs, Columbine was reborn as a Wildland Fire Module in 2013.”

Columbine Wildland Fire Module
File photo of the Columbine Wildland Fire Module. USFS photo.

Our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Batson’s family, friends, and co-workers.

Thanks and a tip of the hat go out to Mike and Scott.

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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.

8 thoughts on “US Forest Service firefighter dies in off-duty accident in Mississippi”

  1. Evan was one of the most tough, genuine and intelligent Firefighters and humans I will ever have the privilege to work with. Thanks for giving us all inspiration to be better.

    -Rest in Paradise, Evan

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  2. Evan was a shining light in the world of wildland fire, and everyone who k ew him was better off for it. He had a great sense of humor and attitude, and was all around a great guy. I can’t believe you’re gone, we will all miss you. I love you my brother.

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  3. Evan was an incredible human being and a superb fire fighter. This is an immense loss for the Fire community, his friends, and family. There are many out there who gained a lot from Evan’s steady presence, intelligence, and dedication to his job and his people. He deeply cared for his fellow fire fighters and they in turn, him. We are all better off for having known him. Rest easy.

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  4. I’m sad for this person and his family. What a terrible accident. With that said, it’s pretty gross that the first quote from the U.S Forest Service public affairs officer is that ‘this death occured outside work hours’. Not sure if the Associated Press/contributing news org pulled that from a larger quote and honed in on it, or if the quote was the message. Unacceptable.

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      1. Hi MariahFire. The fact that this was not a LODD does not diminish the loss. “Management” had no control over this tragic off-duty error in judgement but they might still perceive it as a problem…. the unthinkable happening to an off-duty FF on assignment far from home. With that said, I trust that Evan was enjoying his evening in the camaraderie of his fellow crew members and friends.

        Lone Ranger

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