Hundreds honor fallen firefighter during ceremony
More than 150 firefighters and other first responders from the Rogue Valley and beyond joined residents during a public memorial service Monday for fallen wildland firefighter Logan Taylor.
Taylor, 25, of Talent died after being struck by a tree Aug. 18 while battling the Rum Creek Fire burning northwest of Grants Pass. The fire, sparked by lightning Aug. 17, had topped 10,700 acres as of Monday.
A convoy of more than 50 fire engines, police cars, ambulances and other emergency vehicles drove with their lights flashing to the Harry & David Field baseball stadium in Medford. They escorted Taylor’s family members under a giant American flag held high in the air by ladders extended from Medford Fire-Rescue and Jackson County Fire District 3 fire engines.
The crowd of first responders and officials from Oregon and California stood on the baseball field to show their respect for Taylor and his family.
A 2015 graduate of Phoenix High School, Taylor started his own company, Sasquatch Reforestation, and also worked as a contract firefighter for the Oregon Department of Forestry.
Speaking during the memorial service, Oregon State Forester Cal Mukumoto said planting trees is exhausting but gratifying work. Those trees clean the air, store carbon, provide habitat for wildlife and help support local families and communities.
“Not only did Logan help lay the foundation for our future forests, but he also stepped up to help protect the current ones. Wildland firefighting is inherently dangerous, despite everyone's best efforts to mitigate the risk as much as possible,” Mukumoto said. “You can never eliminate them. But some bold, brave, selfless people are willing to accept those risks to protect Oregonians and our natural resources — and Logan was one of them. I thank the community for supporting and coming together to honor Logan.”
Chaplain Fred Saada, who has worked for years with first responders, offered prayers and read a message from Taylor’s family.
The family thanked the community for its outpouring of support shown through phone calls, emails, texts, cards, flowers, visits, meals, thoughts and prayers. From the time he was a boy, Taylor had an infectious smile and loved nature, the outdoors, science and helping people.
He delighted in bringing people together through good food and conversation that inevitably resulted in much joy and laughter. He had a charisma and glow that attracted people to him, the family said in the message.
“Logan had an uncanny ability to make people feel warm, welcome and included. If a guest was a stranger at the beginning of the evening, they left as a friend,” Saada said while reading the family’s message.
Climbing trees, thinning tees, helping landowners and fighting fires was in his blood. He came from a family of foresters. Taylor was an innovative entrepreneur and owner of Sasquatch Reforestation, employing his father and two lifelong friends, according to his family.
An honor guard carried flags and firefighter tools during the memorial ceremony. With precise movements, they folded an American flag into a triangle for presentation to the family. They also gave the family a small statue of a wildland firefighter.
Near the close of the ceremony, a bell rang nines times to symbolize that Taylor had ended his shift as a firefighter for the final time.
A Mercy Flights medical rescue helicopter and an Oregon Department of Forestry firefighting helicopter flew over the stadium.
Next to the baseball field, Taylor’s Sasquatch Forestry truck, with its bed draped in black cloth, stood next to a display of photos of Taylor from childhood into adulthood. His boots, firefighter protective clothing, helmet and tools were on display.
Outside the stadium, firefighters and others who deal with emergencies shared their thoughts about Taylor and the danger of their jobs.
“The dangers associated with firefighting are numerous. Falling trees are only one of the hazards,” said Austin Prince, division chief for Rural Metro Fire, which covers rural areas outside Grants Pass. “You can have a fall, a traumatic injury like a broken leg, heat exhaustion, a heart attack. The wind could shift and firefighters could get caught in a burn-over fire. There are bees, snakes and rolling rocks.”
Prince said firefighters are trained to deal with all of those risks, but one could strike at any moment.
“In emergency services — whether it’s law enforcement, structural or wildland firefighters, dispatchers or EMS — there’s a bond, even if we don’t personally know each other. That bond is called the brotherhood and the sisterhood. You feel connected. Whenever there’s an injury or a death, it affects you. You want to support the person’s family and the crew they worked with,” Prince said.
ODF Southern Oregon Director Dave Larson said firefighters can get hurt or killed in myriad ways, from when they’re driving out to a fire to when they’re battling a blaze at the scene.
“You could be killed by a downed power line. A power line could be on a fence a quarter-mile away and the whole fence line is charged,” he said.
While people can’t stop lightning strikes, they can do their part to stop human-caused fires. Late-summer fuels are exceptionally dry, requiring even more caution.
“The easiest and cheapest fire to fight is the one you never have,” Larson said. “Across Oregon, we’ve had quite a few 100-degree days and no rainfall. Until it rains, we’ll probably see an increase in fire activity.”
ODF Southwest District Public Information Officer Natalie Weber said firefighters haven’t had to fight too many human-caused fires during the past few weeks while they’ve been battling a recent rash of lightning-sparked fires across Jackson and Josephine counties.
Weber said firefighters appreciate that, as well as the show of community support for Taylor and firefighters in general.
“We’re really thankful that we could come together today to really mourn the loss of Logan, but also to honor his service and ultimate sacrifice,” she said.
Cards for Taylor’s family can be sent to ODF’s Central Point office at Oregon Department of Forestry, Southwest Oregon District, Re: Logan Taylor, 5286 Table Rock Road, Central Point, OR 97502.
Reach Mail Tribune reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-776-4486 or email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @VickieAldous.