Virginia deputy chief dies of heart attack after wildfire response

Chief Lauck
Chief Chester Lauck

A Virginia firefighter, Deputy Chief Chester T. Lauck with Frederick County Fire and Rescue, suffered a heart attack hours after responding to a wildfire and died the following morning.

The notice from the Frederick County Government Facebook page on Sunday announced “On behalf of Fire and Rescue Chief Steven A. Majchrzak, it is with profound sadness that we announce the Line-Of-Duty Death of Deputy Chief Chester T. Lauck, who passed away this morning at 8:09 a.m. at Winchester Medical Center surrounded by family and friends.”

Lauck LODD

In his most recent position, Lauck was responsible for the Emergency Management Division. Prior to that he had worked for the Winchester (Virginia) Fire and Rescue Department and had retired He retired from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) Fire and Rescue Department as a Battalion Chief of the Special Operations Division. He’d also worked as an Aircraft Rescue and Fire Fighter (ARFF) for the Air National Guard and began service in 1984 as a patrolman for the Virginia Department of Forestry, where he worked on wildland incidents and events.

West Virginia firefighter killed by falling tree

A West Virginia Department of Forestry employee, Cody J. Mullens, 28, was killed by a falling tree while fighting a wildfire on April 13 near Montgomery, West Virginia.

The firefighter’s death was announced by West Virginia governor Jim Justice, who said he and his wife were “heartbroken by the tragic news of losing one of our own. Our state foresters are some of the most dedicated workers in our state, putting their lives on the line to protect our communities from wildfires, and we owe them all, especially Cody, an enormous debt of gratitude.”

Mullens was from Mt. Hope, Fayette County. West Virginia Public Broadcasting reported that he was part of a response unit working a brush fire along Route 61 in Armstrong Creek, around 30 miles southeast of Charleston.

West Virginia has statewide burn restrictions in effect and is midway through their typical wildfire season.

Firefighter killed while fighting fire in southwest Virginia

Rocky S. Wood died while fighting a wildfire in Buchanan County in southwest Virginia on March 9, 2023.

Wood, an employee with the Virginia Department of Forestry (VDOF), died at approximately 8:30 p.m. while working on a 15-acre wildfire near the Roseann community along Lester’s Fork Road. Prior to becoming a full-time forestry technician with VDOF in 2016, he had worked as a part-time wildland firefighter with the agency and for the Virginia Department of Corrections. An investigation is underway, according to a statement from VDOF.

“Today our hearts are broken as we send our sincere condolences to Rocky’s family, friends and fellow colleagues during this difficult time,” said State Forester Rob Farrell.

A Facebook post from the Town of Haysi, Virginia, where Wood was vice mayor and chief of the Haysi Volunteer Fire Department, also shared condolences. “We will strive to honor his memory and service,” the post reads, “though it’s hard to find the right words at this time. Please keep his family in your prayers as they navigate their grief.”

Firefighter dies on Moose Fire

Near Challis, Idaho

On Thursday September 22 the Forest Supervisor of the Salmon-Challis National Forest released a statement about the September 20 death of Gerardo Rincon who passed away while assigned to the Moose Fire in Idaho:

It is with immense sorrow that we share the news of the passing of Gerardo Rincon of North Reforestation Inc. Gerardo suffered a medical emergency during the early morning hours of September 20th. He was a crew boss of a Type 2 crew that was assigned to the Moose Fire.

Gerardo served as a wildland firefighter since 1994. During his 28-year career he was a Type 2 firefighter, engine captain, and crew boss. He was highly recognized for his performance by his employers and crew members enjoyed working for him during many fire assignments.

Tragedies of this nature serve as a reminder of the honorable work and sacrifices made by women and men like Gerardo. They commit themselves daily to supporting and protecting communities around the country.

Our condolences go out to the entire Rincon family, their co-workers at North Reforestation Inc., and the firefighting community, their friends, and all those who knew and loved them. We are beyond grateful for their years of dedication and service to the wildfire community.

The Forest is working closely with the incident management team and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation to return Gerardo to his home in Oregon early Saturday morning, September 24th. There will be a procession from the Jones and Casey Funeral Home though downtown Salmon and to the Lemhi County Airport beginning at 9:00 am.

A viewing is scheduled for Wednesday, September 28th at the Farnstrom’s Mortuary in Independence, Oregon from 5-8 pm. A funeral mass will occur on September 29th at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church followed by a burial at Hilltop Cemetery.

/s/ Charles A. Mark
Forest Supervisor

(end of statement)

North Reforestation wrote on their Facebook page that Mr. Rincon’s remains will arrive on Flight 802 at 11:30 a.m. Saturday at Corvallis Municipal Airport, 5695 SW Airport Ave, Corvallis, OR. They wrote, “If anyone wants to be part of the procession on this Saturday as Gerardo arrives in Oregon, it will start at the airport and end at Farnstroms.”

North Reforestation is based in Monmouth, Oregon, just west of Independence.

The Moose Fire which started July 17, received rain Wednesday and Thursday. It has burned more than 130,000 acres northwest of Challis, Idaho.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and coworkers of Mr. Rincon.


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

Firefighter killed by falling tree in Oregon

On the Rum Creek Fire north of Galice, OR

5:17 p.m. PDT August 19, 2022

Map fires near Galice, Oregon, August 19, 2022
The red and yellow dots represent heat on wildfires detected by satellites as late as 2:06 p.m. PDT August 19, 2022 near Galice, Oregon.

(From the Oregon Department of Forestry)

The Oregon Department of Forestry (ODF) and Bureau of Land Management (BLM) officials are saddened to announce the death of 25-year-old wildland firefighter Logan Taylor of Talent, Oregon.

On Thursday, August 18, 2022, shortly after 4:00 p.m., dispatchers received information regarding a wildland firefighter that was critically injured after being struck by a tree on the Rum Creek Fire north of Galice. Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue (SAR) immediately deployed a helicopter and personnel to the fire and airlifted Mr. Taylor out of the mountainous terrain to a waiting Mercy Flights helicopter, which transported him to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford.

Despite lifesaving efforts by firefighters and EMS personnel assigned to the fire and responding medical staff, Mr. Taylor succumbed to his injuries. He was the operator of Sasquatch Reforestation, an ODF-contracted firefighting company.

“We are extremely saddened by the passing of Logan Taylor. This loss is deeply felt by our ODF family and throughout the wildland fire community as a whole,” said Tyler McCarty, ODF Southwest Oregon District Forester. “Safety remains our top priority. ODF and our partners are committed to learning from this accident and to doing everything we can to reduce the risk of similar incidents occurring in the future.”

“A loss of a firefighter’s life impacts the whole firefighting community, and we send our condolences to the family friends and coworkers,” said Elizabeth Burghard, BLM Medford District Manager. “Safety is the number one priority for the BLM and our wildland firefighting partners. We want every firefighter to come home safely each day.”

The incident is under investigation and more details will be released as they are confirmed.

(end of message from the ODF)

Galice, Oregon is 17 air miles northwest of Grants Pass, Oregon. Tuesday morning Oregon had 23 new fires for a total of 68 acres (many of them started by lightning), plus four large fires that have burned more than 6,500 acres.

We send out our sincere condolences to the family, friends, and co-workers of Mr. Taylor. He was a member of the Craig Interagency Hotshots.

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

Firefighter killed at a wildfire in Oregon

Updated 9:12 a.m. PDT August 12, 2022

The 24-hour Preliminary Report was released today for the August 10 fatality on the Big Swamp Fire in Oregon.

Below is the narrative from the document:

Narrative: A crewmember from a Bureau of Land Management Interagency Hotshot Crew was killed as a result of critical injuries sustained during firefighting operations on the Big Swamp Fire. He was struck by a falling tree and transported via helicopter to a local hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

Notifications to the family have been made and preliminary steps taken to convene an Interagency Serious Accident Review team ordered to facilitate organizational learning.

/s/ Duane Bishop – Acting Forest Supervisor, Willamette National Forest

Updated 12:23 p.m. PDT August 11, 2022

Firefighter Collin Hagan's body
REACH Air Medical helicopter arrives at the Roseburg Regional Airport with Firefighter Collin Hagan’s body. Douglas County Sheriff’s Office photo.

The Douglas County Sheriff’s office reported that the firefighter who was killed on the Big Swamp Fire in Southwest Oregon on August 10 was 27-year-old Collin Hagan of Toivola, Michigan.

Shortly after 12:30 p.m., 9-1-1 dispatchers received information that a wildland firefighter was critically injured after being struck by a tree. An ambulance and REACH Air Medical Services were dispatched to the scene. Despite lifesaving efforts by EMS personnel assigned to the fire, Mr. Hagan succumbed to his injuries.

Mr. Hagan’s body was flown from the Toketee Airstrip to the Roseburg Regional Airport by REACH Air Medical Services helicopter. Firefighters from the Bureau of Land Management, US Forest Service, Roseburg Fire Department, and Douglas County Fire District #2 stood together to honor Mr. Hagan as his body arrived and was transferred to the care of a funeral service provider. The firefighters then provided an honor escort to the funeral home.

“We are devastated by the tragic loss of a cherished firefighter working on our forest to save our communities and beloved recreational areas,” said Duane Bishop, Acting Forest Supervisor on the Willamette National Forest. “Their family has been notified and we are working with our partners to ensure the crew is well taken care of. Our hearts and prayers go out to the families and fellow crew members of this brave firefighter.”

Updated 8:43 a.m. PDT August 11, 2022

Map, location of Big Swamp Fire
Map, location of Big Swamp Fire, August 11, 2022.

The National Interagency Fire Center reported early Thursday morning that on August 10, a member of the Craig Interagency Hotshot Crew was fatally injured while assigned to the Big Swamp Fire on the Willamette National Forest in southwest Oregon.

A Serious Accident Investigation Team has been mobilized.  As of 8 a.m. Thursday morning the name of the deceased had not been released.

The Craig Interagency Hotshot Crew, founded by the Bureau of Land Management in 2001, is based in Craig, Colorado.

The Big Swamp Fire has burned 117 acres. It is 5 miles northwest of the 1,009-acre Windigo Fire and 62 miles southeast of Eugene. The August 10 update from the Incident Management Team said crews were securing line, mopping up, and looking for opportunities to put in direct fire line. It is one of four blazes being managed by Northwest Incident Management Team 6. The others are Windigo, Potter, and Shelter Fires.

Our sincere condolences go out to the family, friends, and co-workers.

Big Swamp Fire 9:29 p.m. August 10, 2022
The red shaded area represents the Big Swamp Fire in southwest Oregon, mapped at 9:29 p.m. PDT August 10, 2022. Looking northwest.