Second Montana firefighter killed by falling tree near Missoula

Lolo Peak fire. (Photo by Tim Metzger)

A wildland firefighter was killed by a falling tree on Wednesday evening south of Missoula, marking the second fatality on a western Montana fire this season.

The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office said the incident occurred at the Lolo Peak fire, which has now burned for several weeks at high elevations. The firefighter’s name has not been released and an investigation is underway.

“Further details will be available once the investigation is complete and family members of the victims family have been notified,” the sheriff’s office said in a press release.

Wednesday’s accident comes two weeks after 19-year-old Trenton Johnson of Missoula was killed by a falling snag while working the Florence fire near Seeley Lake.

Johnson was part of a 20-person crew working with Grayback Forestry, a private contractor based in Oregon that works closely with the U.S. Forest Service.

Across the state, as many as 26 fires are listed as active, including 10 on the Lolo and Bitterroot national forests.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the last wildland firefighter to die in Montana occurred at Fort Shaw in 2014 due to a vehicle accident. Last year, according to NIFC, 13 wildland firefighters died across the country.

To date, 1,114 wildland firefighters have died in the line of duty dating back to 1910 when record keeping began. The deadliest year on record was 1994, when 35 wildland firefighters were killed, including 14 who died in a burnover in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.