Helicopter pilot killed in Kansas crash

We just received this message from Nate, one of our readers:

Great site, its my source for breaking news every morning.

I wanted to report to you that Roger Hershner, a long-time fire helicopter pilot was killed in Kansas yesterday, March 8. He was ferrying a helicopter from Hillcrest Aircraft Co. in Lewiston, ID to Virginia to start a USFS contract in Virginia. Not much info as to cause is available yet.  He refueled in Ogalala, Nebraska and was enroute to Topeka, Kansas when he crashed.

Roger most recently has flown the joint Santa Fe/Musselshell Exclusive use contract in R3/R1. He also flew the Grangeville Exclusive use contract, and several other contracts in the southern region. He was employed by Hillcrest for about 5 years. He has been flying contract helicopters for the USFS for about 30 years, maybe more.

KSALLink.com and the AP have stories.

Our condolences to Mr. Hershner’s family and co-workers.

Oklahoma firefighter dies while fighting fire

firefighter John Adams
Firefighter John Adams; photo: KJRH

John Adams, a firefighter with the Silver City Volunteer Fire Department in Oklahoma collapsed and stopped breathing around 10:00 or 10:30 p.m. Friday while working on a vegetation fire near Mannford. Mr. Adams, who had been with the Silver City FD for five years, had been fighting the fire for several hours.

He leaves behind a wife and three children.

The 1,000 acre fire is believed to have been started by an arsonist. Three fires were set within a mile of each other, minutes apart.

Our condolences go out to the family and the Silver City Volunteer Fire Department.

Australian firefighter killed by falling tree

A firefighter in Australia was killed when a tree fell onto a fire apparatus on February 17. The firefighter from the Australian Capital Territories Fire Brigade died on the scene while a second firefighter in the truck was unhurt, according to commissioner Greg Manson of the ACT Emergency Service Agency.

The accident occurred at Cambarville, just east of Marysville in Yarra Ranges National Park. This is the first emergency worker to die in this rash of bushfires that began on what is now known as “Black Saturday”, February 7.

Marysville suffered great losses in the fires, with 39 confirmed dead and most of the structures being wiped out. Nationwide, the death toll has risen to 200; that figure is expected to rise as more bodies are found.

Follow-up on Oklahoma fatality

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On Sunday we covered the January 3 fatality in Oklahoma involving the father and son firefighters who collided head-on in dense smoke, killing the father, John C. Myers of the Wesley Fire Department. Our hearts go out for the families and the Wesley Fire Department as they try to process this tragedy.

With the benefit of 20-20 hindsight one could say that every accident is preventable, but this incident has provoked a great deal of behind the scenes discussion. If there is a formal investigation other than that conducted by the Oklahoma Highway Patrol, they will attempt to determine what factors may have contributed, such as speed, road surface, visibility, condition of drivers, values at risk, pressure to quickly suppress the fire, skill, training, and experience of the drivers, the vehicles, communications, fire behavior, human factors, or the fact that none of the victims used seat belts.

The McAlester News-Capital has more information about Mr. Myers and the accident:

Fallen firefighter was always there to help his neighbors
By James Beaty
Senior Editor

He’s being remembered as a hero.

John C. “J.C.” Myers, 61, of rural Pittsburg, died Saturday in a head-on collision while driving a fire truck on a smoke-covered road during a wildfire in the rural Wesley community in Atoka County.

Myers served as a volunteer firefighter with the rural Union Chapel Fire Department, which is just across the Pittsburg County line from Wesley. The pickup he drove and a pickup driven by his son, Juston Myers, 31, collided, according to the Oklahoma Highway Patrol.

The fire covered 226 acres before it was contained and resulted from an undetermined cause, according to fire officials.

Some of those who knew Myers remember him as a remarkable man.

“J.C. was the type of guy who that loved people,” said Kiowa Fire Chief M.A. Danley. “He was real dedicated.”

Donna Danley, who is married to M.A. Danley, also knew Myers.

“J.C. was a good man, a good person,” she said. “He was always helping the community.”

Pittsburg Assistant Fire Chief Ronnie Rice had been among the first to arrive at the scene. His son, Clayton Rice, was a passenger in Juston Myers’ pickup and had been injured in the crash. The two were on their way to help fight the fire when the collision occurred, Ronnie Rice said.

Following the accident, Clayton Rice was transported to the McAlester Regional Health Center, where he was reported in good condition, the Oklahoma Highway Patrol said.

Ronnie Rice said his son is recovering, but will likely have surgery and may be transferred to a Tulsa hospital.

Rice said he had grown up with J.C. Myers.

“He was as likable a fellow as you ever come across and he’d help anybody,” Rice said.

“He was really dedicated and highly respected.”

In addition to the personal loss to Myers’ family and friends, his firefighting abilities will also be missed.

“It will be not only a great loss to his fire department, but to ours,” Rice said. Because fire departments in the area answer each other’s calls for assistance, firefighters from different departments often battle blazes side-by-side.

To help keep firefighters safer, the McAlester Army Ammunition Plant plans to hold a seminar in March in conjunction with Oklahoma State University, said Don Kapps, who is the fire chief at McAAP, as well as the fire chief of the Savanna Volunteer Fire Department. It will cover safety skills and techniques when battling fires, including wildfires.

Sometimes more than skill is needed.

Many times, volunteer firefighters don’t have the same quality of protective clothing and other gear used by full-time professional firefighters, even though they must face the same dangers, Capps said on Monday.

Other dangerous situations can result from volunteer firefighters using converted military vehicles to haul water in to fight grassfires or other wildfires, Capps said.

Such vehicles often don’t have the proper baffles in a tank, Capps said, referring to chambers in a tank which can keep a heavy load of water from shifting too rapidly. Many times the water tanks used now by volunteer firefighters are bought commercially from a store and are similar those made for farm or ranch use.

Capps said he and the other volunteer firefighters do the best they can with the equipment they have.

Minn.: Firefighter dies on the way to a grass fire


PINE CITY, Minn. — Pine City firefighter Jeremy Jylka, 34, died Tuesday afternoon en route to a grass fire.

According to the Pine City Sheriff’s Office, Jylka collapsed while riding in the fire truck on the way to a fire between Hinckley and Pine City. Jylka stopped breathing and another firefighter started to perform CPR.

Jylka, 34, was pronounced dead at Kanabec Hospital. He joined the fire department in 2007 and is survived by his wife, Kelly and their 4-year-old daughter, Anica.


From MyFox Twin Cities



CO: firefighter fatalities, info from CSFCA

This information was just distributed over FireNet. It was released by the Colorado State Fire Chief’s Association today:

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing to you to inform you of the line-of-duty death of three firefighting personnel while serving and protecting the citizens of Colorado.

Fire Chief Terry DeVore and firefighter John Schwartz, Jr. of the Olney Springs Volunteer Fire Department were killed late yesterday afternoon while fighting the Ordway wildland fire. Chief DeVore and firefighter Schwartz were killed in their fire apparatus while trying to cross a bridge over a drainage ditch about a mile west of Ordway. Due to heavy smoke conditions they were apparently unaware that the fire had already damaged or collapsed the bridge.

Gert Marais, 42, of Fort Benton, Montana, a U.S. Forest Service contract pilot was killed when his Single Engine Air Tanker (SEAT) crashed while fighting the wildland fire at Fort Carson. Pilot Marais crashed about 6:20 yesterday evening along Colorado 115 at mile marker 34 near Fort Carson. Marais worked for Aero Applicators, a Sterling company that contracts aerial firefighting services to the U.S. Forest Service.

Both Chief DeVore, 30, and firefighter Schwartz, 38, were volunteers with Olney Springs and worked full-time as correctional officers for the Colorado Department of Corrections at the Arkansas Valley Correctional Facility.

Chief DeVore is survived by his wife Jennifer and four children, ages 10 to 4. Chief DeVore’s father, Bruce, is also a volunteer firefighter with Olney Springs and was also involved in fighting the Ordway fire. Firefighter Schwartz is the father of four boys, ages 4 to 16.

The Local Assistance State Team (LAST) has been dispatched to Ordway to assist the local fire department. A separate team has been made available to Aero Applicators and the U.S. Forest Service.

On behalf of Chief Douglas Forsman, President of the Colorado State Fire Chiefs’ Association, we wish to offer our deepest condolences to the families of Fire Chief Terry DeVore and firefighter John Schwartz, Jr., the members of the Olney Springs Volunteer Fire Department, and the Colorado Department of Corrections. Our deepest condolences are also extended to the family of pilot Gert Marais and the employees of Aero Applicators.

Colorado State Fire Chiefs’ Association
Paul L. Cooke, Executive Director



The spot weather forecast for the TA25 fire, on which the SEAT crashed, predicts rain later this afternoon and 2-4 inches of heavy wet snow tonight.

This site has photographs of the two firefighters killed in the engine accident.

UPDATE, December 30, 2008
The NTSB has released their report about the air tanker crash. More information is HERE.