South­land fire­fighter is killed

Brent Witham of Men­tone dies bat­tling Mon­tana blaze af­ter dead tree falls on him.

Los Angeles Times - - CITY & STATE - By Hai­ley Branson-Potts hai­ley.branson @la­times.com Twit­ter: @hai­ley­bran­son

A 29-year-old San Bernardino Na­tional For­est fire­fighter who was a mem­ber of an elite hot­shot crew was killed last week while bat­tling a wild­fire in Mon­tana, au­thor­i­ties said.

Brent Witham of Men­tone died Wed­nes­day in a “tree-felling” ac­ci­dent while bat­tling the light­ning­caused Lolo Peak fire in western Mon­tana, the Mis­soula County Sher­iff ’s Of­fice said in a state­ment.

Witham was struck by a fall­ing snag, or dead tree, the Mis­sou­lian news­pa­per re­ported.

Witham had been a mem­ber of the San Bernardino Na­tional For­est’s Vista Grande hot­shot crew, based in Idyll­wild, since 2015, the For­est Ser­vice said in a state­ment.

He be­gan his fire­fight­ing ca­reer with the For­est Ser­vice in 2011, work­ing with a wild­fire hand crew, of­fi­cials said.

“Brent was a hard­work­ing pro­fes­sional, who was ea­ger to learn and be the best that he could be,” San Bernardino Na­tional For­est Su­per­vi­sor Jody No­iron said in a state­ment. “He will be missed by all he touched.”

The high-el­e­va­tion Lolo Peak fire started July 15 and has burned 6,875 acres in re­mote back­coun­try, au­thor­i­ties said. About 353 fire­fight­ers were bat­tling the blaze as of Fri­day.

Witham is the sec­ond fire­fighter within the last two weeks to be killed in Mon­tana by a fall­ing snag, ac­cord­ing to the Mis­sou­lian.

On July 19, Tren­ton John­son, 19, who worked for a pri­vate fire­fight­ing com­pany in Ore­gon, was killed by a burn­ing snag that fell while he worked a fire near See­ley Lake, about 50 miles north­east of Mis­soula, the Mis­sou­lian re­ported.

John­son was a stand­out high school lacrosse player in Mis­soula and was at­tend­ing Mon­tana State Univer­sity.

He was work­ing on his sec­ond fire with the com­pany Gray­back Forestry, which was un­der con­tract with the U.S. For­est Ser­vice, ac­cord­ing to the Mis­sou­lian.

The last time a wild­land fire­fighter died in Mon­tana was 2001, the news­pa­per re­ported.

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BRENT WITHAM was a San Bernardino Na­tional For­est fire­fighter.

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