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Firefighter killed by tree was from Talent

Firefighters were holding the line on most fires burning in Jackson and Josephine counties as of Friday morning. [Oregon Department of Forestry photo]
Logan Taylor, 25, died from his injuries at Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center

Logan Taylor, 25, of Talent was identified Friday as the firefighter who died Thursday after being hit by a tree while battling the Rum Creek Fire north of Galice.

Oregon Department of Forestry and federal Bureau of Land Management officials said they are deeply saddened by his death.

“We are extremely saddened by the passing of Logan Taylor. This loss is deeply felt by our ODF family and throughout the wildland fire community as a whole,” ODF Southwest Oregon District Forester Tyler McCarty said in a statement. “Safety remains our top priority. ODF and our partners are committed to learning from this accident and to doing everything we can to reduce the risk of similar incidents occurring in the future.”

ODF Southwest Oregon District spokeswoman Natalie Weber, when reached by phone, said Taylor’s death was heavy on the minds of everyone at the agency. Processing the events herself, she struggled to put the loss into words.

“We’re all extremely saddened by this loss,” Weber said. “It’s an indescribable situation.”

According to details provided by ODF and BLM, shortly after 4 p.m. Thursday, dispatchers received information about a wildland firefighter who was critically injured after being struck by a tree.

Jackson County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue immediately deployed a helicopter and personnel to the Rum Creek Fire and airlifted Taylor out of mountainous terrain to a waiting Mercy Flight helicopter, which flew him to Asante Rogue Regional Medical Center in Medford.

Despite lifesaving efforts by firefighters and emergency medical personnel assigned to the fire, as well as responding medical staff, Taylor succumbed to his injuries. He was the operator of Sasquatch Reforestation, an ODF-contracted firefighting company, ODF and BLM said.

“A loss of a firefighter’s life impacts the whole firefighting community, and we send our condolences to the family, friends and co-workers,” BLM Medford District Manager Elizabeth Burghard said in a statement. “Safety is the number one priority for the BLM and our wildland firefighting partners. We want every firefighter to come home safely each day.”

The incident is under investigation, and more details will be released as they are confirmed, the agencies said.

On a separate fire in Jackson County Thursday, a firefighter was removed from the line after suffering a heat-related illness. The firefighter was treated by Applegate Valley Fire District personnel at the fire’s staging area, ODF said.

In a Friday update on local fires, ODF said firefighters working the Westside Complex in Jackson County and the Lightning Gulch Complex in Josephine County were able to hold the majority of containment lines and continued to build on forward progress and mop up operations.

After reviewing the rash of lightning-sparked fires over the past 24 hours, ODF determined Friday there were 48 fires.

Eight of the fires are in Jackson County, while 40 are in Josephine County. Of the 48 fires, 17 are completely extinguished and the rest are in various stages of being lined and mopped up, ODF said Friday.

Fires are burning on private and federal BLM land, ODF said.

On the Westside Complex in Jackson County, 60% of the fires on Tallowback Mountain south of Applegate have been lined, and firefighters remained engaged Friday, ODF said.

On the Lightning Gulch Complex in Josephine County, priorities remain the Hog Creek Fire north of Merlin and the Rum Creek Fire. Both were estimated at 30 acres Friday morning, ODF said.

On Friday, 17 hand crews of various sizes, 20 engines, seven water tenders and nine tree fallers were assigned to both complexes and will be engaged on fires across the district. Various aircraft were being used, ODF said.

As of Friday, no homes were threatened and no evacuation orders were in place. For updates, see swofire.com or the ODF Southwest District Facebook page at facebook.com/ODFSouthwest.

The death of the firefighter from Talent was the second report of a firefighter killed this month in Southern Oregon.

Collin Hagan, 27, of Michigan was killed Aug. 10 while fighting the Big Swamp Fire, which is part of a cluster of fires burning north of Crater Lake. Hagan also was struck by a tree, officials said.

The McKinney Fire burning west of Yreka in Northern California killed at least four residents in late July after strong winds caused it to surge to 18,000 acres. One of those killed was off-duty fire lookout veteran Kathy Shoopman, who was at her home near the small community of Klamath River. The other victims have not been identified.

Firefighters have halted most of the growth on the McKinney Fire, which was at 60,392 acres with 95% containment as of Friday, according to the national Incident Information System.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or valdous@rosebudmedia.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.