SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS (CBS SF) — A U.S. Forest Service firefighter was killed Sunday when a tree fell on him while he was engaged in the battle to slow the advance of the Ferguson Fire, officials said.
National Park officials identified the dead firefighter as 33-year-old Brian Hughes, a captain of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots. He was originally from Hilo, Hawaii and had been with the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots for four years.
The fire had grown to 53,646 acres by mid-day Sunday, was just 30 percent contained and was in its 17th day having started July 13 on the Sierra National Forest.
Officials said at the time, the firefighter and his crew were engaged in a tactical firing operation on the east side of the Ferguson Fire.
“They were operating in an area with a large amount of tree mortality,” a Forest Service statement said. “The firefighter was struck by a tree. He was treated on scene, but passed away before he could be transported to a hospital.”
There have also been seven people injured by the fire.
“The team at Sequoia and Kings National Parks is devastated by this terrible news,” parks superintendent Woody Smeck said in the statement. “Our deepest condolences go out to the firefighter’s family and loved ones. We grieve this loss with you.”
Heavy smoke and the fire’s advance has forced the closure of Yosemite Valley — the main tourist area on the Yosemite National Forest. Park officials announced Sunday the park will remain closed at least until Friday.
Firefighting efforts have also closed the Wawona Road and the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias.
Currently, there are 3,861 personnel engaged in fighting the fire, including 272 engines, 45 water tenders, 16 helicopters, 93 crews, 5 masticators and 78 dozers.