By Martin Kidston
A member of the Lolo Interagency Hotshot crew based in Missoula was killed Saturday while working a fire in Nevada, the U.S. Forest Service confirmed on Sunday.
The U.S. Department of the Interior said Justin Beebe of Bellows Falls, Vermont, was working the Strawberry Fire in the Great Basin National Park in Nevada when he was was struck by a tree Saturday afternoon. The U.S. Forest Service is investigation the accident as a line-of-duty death.
Lolo National Forest Supervisor Tim Garcia called Beebe “a fine person and tremendous employee.”
“Every employee is impacted by such a tragic loss,” Garcia said on Sunday. “I spoke with his mother late last night, and we are providing all needed support to them. Justin was from Vermont and this was his first season with the Lolo Hotshot Crew. His family and friends are in our thoughts and prayers.”
The Strawberry fire started on August 8 and is being managed jointly by a Great Basin Incident Management Team, the National Park Service and the Bureau of Land Management.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Montana, also issue a statement on Sunday.
“Sharla and I send our deepest condolences to the Beebe family and prayers of safety to those who are bravely fighting wildfires across our nation,” Tester said. “Our wildland crews are the best of the best and they courageously suit up and put their lives on the line for our families and communities. As a nation, we are forever grateful for these heroes and stand with all firefighters on this tragic day.”
Hotshots bring a high level of fitness and expertise to wildfire management and help manage complex wildfires.