Oregon firefighter killed battling wildfire

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by Teresa Blackman / kgw.com Staff

khou.com

Posted on August 2, 2013 at 9:12 AM

SISTERS, Ore. -- One firefighter was killed and a second was injured by part of a falling tree while battling a wildfire near a town in Oregon on Thursday morning, according to officials with Deschutes National Forest.

John Hammack, 60, of Madras, died and 45-year-old Norman Crawford, 45, of Sisters was injured while taking out trees at a fire line in the Mt. Washington Wilderness, near Dugout Lake, in the Sisters Ranger District.

"The injuries occurred as the tree fallers worked to suppress a fire caused by a lightning storm, which began early yesterday [Wednesday] afternoon and continued through the evening," said Jean Nelson-Dean, a spokesperson for the Deschutes National Forest.

The pair worked for R&K Water Services out of Bonney Lake, WA. 

Crawford was taken to the St. Charles Medical Center for treatment, then released Thursday afternoon.

Hammack became the 28th wilderness firefighter killed this year in the nation.

Most of the wilderness firefighters who have died in the line of duty in the U.S. this year perished in an Arizona fire that killed 19.

The death of Hammack was the first in Oregon and the second blamed on snags or tree falls. A firefighter in California died from the same cause in June.

The 10-year national average is 16 deaths per year.

More than 4,000 people have been fighting fires in Oregon burning on about 40,000 acres. Lightning touched off the largest fires last weekend in southwestern Oregon forests. An early-morning barrage of lightning east of the Cascade Range on Thursday morning also touched off dozens of smaller wildfires.

Oregon governor John Kitzhaber released a statement Thursday after hearing news Hammack died.

“My thoughts and deepest condolences go out to the family of John Hammack, who died on Thursday while bravely responding to a wildfire outside of Sisters. All across Oregon, thousands of men and women are doing difficult and dangerous work to protect their fellow citizens. This is a tough loss for Oregon, and with our state experiencing the most severe wildfire conditions in years, all first responders deserve our gratitude, our appreciation, and our support,” the statement says.

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