A Mentone resident and member of an elite firefighting crew from the San Bernardino National Forest died in western Montana when a tree being cut down fell and hit him.
Brent M. Witham, 29, died Wednesday while he was working on the Lolo Peak fire, Missoula County Sheriff TJ McDermott said Thursday, Aug. 3. The lightning-caused fire is burning in the Lolo National Forest southwest of Missoula.
Witham was the second firefighter to die in western Montana in less than two weeks. Trenton Johnson of Missoula died on July 19 when a dead tree fell and hit him near Seeley Lake. He was 19.
Witham had been a member of the Vista Grande Hotshots, based in Idyllwild, since 2015. There are 113 20-member hotshot crews in the United States. They hike or are dropped to remote areas to fight fires, usually with just the equipment they can carry. Hotshot crews, which undergo exhausting physical training, create fire breaks by hand to stop the spread of flames.
U.S. Forest Service Chief Thomas Tidwell wrote in a Facebook post, “My heart and thoughts go out to his family, crew and friends today, and I ask you to keep his family and friends in your thoughts as well.”
Witham began his firefighting career in 2011 as a member of the Tahquitz hand crew, based in Riverside, said a release from the San Bernardino National Forest. Witham was assigned to Station 56 near Mountain Center in the San Jacinto Mountains in 2013.
“Our hearts go out to Brent’s family, friends, fellow Vista Grande Hotshots, the Forest Service, and the entire wildland fire community,” Jody Noiron, San Bernardino National Forest Supervisor, said in the release. “Brent was a hardworking professional, who was…
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