Authorities say a 19-year-old firefighter has died after being struck by a falling tree while responding to a small blaze in western Montana.
Missoula County sheriff's officials say Trenton Johnson of Missoula died from his injuries Wednesday afternoon in a hospital.
Johnson worked for a Merlin, Oregon-based private firefighting contractor called Grayback Forestry Inc.
Grayback officials said in a statement that Johnson was part of a 20-person attack crew responding to a fire in the Lolo National Forest.
Forest spokesman Boyd Hartwig says the lightning-caused fire was burning about a half-acre near Florence Lake, about 9 miles northeast of Seeley Lake.
Hartwig says the Grayback crew was called in Wednesday afternoon to help U.S. Forest Service firefighters.
He says the Grayback crew has been pulled off the fire.
Grayback Forestry released the following statement on the death of a 19-year-old firefighter battling a forest fire in the Lolo National Forest.
It’s with sadness that Grayback Forestry, Inc. confirms that on July 19th, Trenton Johnson, a Grayback employee, was killed while fighting forest fire on the Seely Ranger District of the Lolo National Forest in Montana.
Trenton was 19-years-old and a resident of Missoula, Montana. This was Trenton’s first year as a firefighter and second tour of duty this season.
Trenton was part of a 20-person Type 2 Initial Attack crew based in Missoula. At approximately 10:30, the crew was dispatched to a small lightning fire.
The crew was split into two groups of 10 to attack two different fires. Upon arrival they tied in with an existing crew to review strategy on engaging the fire. LCES (lookouts, communication, escape routes and safety) procedures were followed.
As the crew was getting lined out, a top broke out of a burning tree towards the crew boss and 3 others. Trenton was struck by the snag. He was taken to the nearest heliport approximately half mile from the fire. He was airlifted to Saint Patrick Hospital at that time and was later declared deceased.
Trenton was a sophomore at Montana State University in Bozeman. He attended Hellgate High School in Missoula and ran cross country.