A former Hellgate High School athlete turned wildland firefighter was killed by a falling tree while working the Florence fire north of Seeley Lake, the Lolo National Forest confirmed on Thursday.
Trenton Johnson, the former leader of the Hellgate lacrosse team and a popular student, was killed at around 5 p.m. on Wednesday.
The 19-year-old firefighter was a member of Grayback Forestry and part of an initial attack crew, according to the Forest Service.
“This loss is rippling across the Lolo National Forest this morning and is most keenly felt on the Seeley Lake Ranger District, where Trenton’s sister works as a Forest Service employee,” said Tim Garcia, Lolo forest supervisor. “Our thoughts and prayers this morning are with Trenton’s family and friends, crew members and the wildland firefighting community.”
The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office said Johnson was flown for treatment to Missoula, where he was pronounced dead later Wednesday evening.
Former classmates remembered Johnson as a hardworking young man who excelled on the lacrosse field and made fast friends.
“He played lacrosse and was the captain and everyone liked him,” said friend and former classmate Flora Lloyd. “He was hardworking and really nice in general. He would always smile and say hi, even to those who didn’t know him.”
Grayback is a private contractor with headquarters in Oregon. The Lolo National Forest said company officials were en route to Missoula to investigate the accident.
“Firefighters dedicate their lives each day to ensure the safety of our communities,” Gov. Steve Bullock said in a statement on Thursday morning. “Lisa and I send our deepest condolences to the family, friends and colleagues of firefighter Trenton Johnson. He will forever be remembered as a brave man who exemplifies the courage and selflessness of all our first responders.”
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester also released a statement regarding Johnson’s passing.
“This is a tragic day for Missoula and all of Montana as we mourn the loss of firefighter Trenton Johnson. His bravery and sacrifice will not be forgotten. This is a sobering reminder that every day firefighters put their lives on the line to protect ours. Sharla and I send our thoughts to Mr. Johnson’s family and friends, and we pray for comfort and healing during this difficult time.”