Today’s announcement by the US Fire Administration about the line of duty death of retired US Forest Service firefighter Allen Johnson provides information that previously had not been widely known.
Allen Johnson was a retired 40-year Forest Service veteran serving as a Liaison Officer on the French Fire in California when he contracted COVID. He was working as an Administratively Determined (AD) employee on the Incident Management Team. On September 8, 2021 the Forest Service confirmed his death but with few other details.
The USFA announcement states that Allen was exposed to COVID-19 on the French Fire, tested positive August 24, placed in isolation at the incident, and transported to the hospital on Aug. 31, 2021 where he passed away that day.
That was not a typo. After testing positive he was in isolation at the incident for eight days, then transported to a hospital where apparently he died within a matter of hours.
Below is the text from the USFA announcement:
The U.S. Fire Administration has received notice of the following firefighter fatality:
United States Forest Service, Stanislaus National Forest, Sonora, CA
While assigned to the French Fire near Kernville, CA, Liaison Officer Allen Johnson became ill and tested positive for COVID-19 on Aug. 24, 2021. There were other confirmed cases of the virus on the French Fire. Liaison Officer Johnson was placed in isolation at the incident and transported to the hospital on Aug. 31, 2021 where he passed away.
Status: Wildland Part-Time
Years of Service: 49
Date of Incident: August 24, 2021
Date of Death: August 31, 2021
Allen began working for the Forest Service as a seasonal employee in 1972 on the Angeles National Forest. In 1975 he received his first permanent appointment on the Cleveland National Forest as a firefighter before becoming superintendent on the El Cariso Interagency Hotshot Crew. He finished his career as district fire management officer on the Stanislaus National Forest, from which he retired in March 2010. Throughout his career he was a well-known incident commander and liaison officer assigned to two different California Incident Management Teams.
The Union Democrat, based in Sonora, CA, has a very good article about Allen.
We are thankful that the US Fire Administration has released facts on wildland firefighter line of duty deaths that have not been disclosed by the federal land management agencies.
May he rest in peace.