SISTERS, Ore. – With the mournful dignity of a funeral procession, dozens of wildland fire trucks and city crews gathered to escort the family and the body of a firefighter who died Thursday near Sisters, Ore.
John Hammack died when a burning tree fell on him as he worked to cut it down. He was part of a team trying to stop a small fire from taking off.
There will be a full investigation and interviews of others who were near him at the time. But for the moment, there is only the memorial procession, which included his family and his cutting partner, Jay Crawford, 45, who was injured in the incident.
A forest spokeswoman said the impact is spreading wide.
“Everybody here is going to feel this. They’re going to feel it for quite some time. You know it really hits home when it’s someone that you know, that you work with,” said Lisa Clark with Deschutes National Forest.
On the streets of Sisters, people stopped what they were doing as soon as they understood what was happening. Many feel the loss of a wildland firefighter.
“It’s a tragedy but I think everybody, especially in the intermountain west, appreciates the job that the firefighters do,” said Alan Lloyd who was in Sisters from Idaho.
Over the last 48 hours, monitors have recorded 1,800 lightening strikes. Other crews have responded to 70 reports of smoke in the forest outside of town, but no big fires have broken out yet.
For a moment they came in from the woods to honor a fallen comrade.
“It helps a little but I’m sure it’s still difficult for the family. My heart goes out to the family,” said Sakena Lesmeister who was in town from Durham, Ore.
Hammack was a big fan of rodeo, he was honored at the rodeo held at the Deschutes County Fair in Redmond.
KGW reporter Pat Dooris contributed to this report.