World News

Wildland firefighter, 19, killed by falling tree near Seeley Lake

Wildland firefighter, 19, killed by falling tree near Seeley Lake

A Missoula family is mourning the loss of their 19-year-old son, Trenton Johnson, after he was killed on the job fighting a fire near Seeley Lake Wednesday.

"We just ask that you keep the family in your prayers, and the fellow workers, and all the firefighters that are out there right now on the line", he said, choking up.

Johnson graduated from Hellgate High School in Missoula, where he was a member of the National Honor Society and a captain of the lacrosse team that won the state championship all four years he played.

Authorities said the firefighter was part of a 20-person attack crew fighting a forest fire in the Seeley Lake Ranger District.

Wheelock says all Grayback crews have been removed from firefighting duties for the time being, and there is no word on when they will return.

"They have a hard hat", he said. He spent his first tour in Utah. "From what I understand it was burning", he said. He was taken to the nearest heli-spot and medivacked out to St. Patrick Hospital in Missoula.

Wheelock said the last work-related deaths in Grayback's history was a small airplane crash in northern California in 2008 where seven employees were killed.

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Firefighters are required to wear safety gear while in the field. Those include establishing look outs, going over communication, identifying escape routes and going over safety procedures.

"We just had a meeting with all 80 of our supervisors, and I specifically talked about snags".

"You prepare them the best you can and, just like someone in the military, you train them and you train them, and they get out there, and hopefully the training will kick in. It's smoky, and you don't even know they're there".

Wheelock's company, Grayback Forestry, has dealt with workplace fatalities before.

Wheelock said an investigative team from the U.S. Forest Service was already in Missoula to investigate the fatal accident, as well as representatives from the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA). And we go to fires all over the United States. "He's coming from Southern Oregon, he'll be here this afternoon", Wheelock said.

The Sheriff's Office is investigating the details of the incident.

Wheelock says Johnson later died from his injuries.


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