29-Year-Old Hotshot Firefighter From SoCal Killed Battling Montana Wildfire

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A 29-year-old Southern California firefighter was killed battling a wildfire in Montana, authorities said Thursday.

U.S. Forest Service firefighters from San Bernardino County watch a firefighting helicopter they requested drop water on a spot fire near the Mount Wilson Observatory in the San Gabriel Mountains on Sept. 21, 2009. (Credit: David McNew/Getty Images)

Brent M. Witham of Mentone was identified as the firefighter who died on the 6,500-acre Lolo Peak Fire in the mountains southwest of Missoula.

His identity was confirmed Thursday afternoon by the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office, which said the death was the result of a “‘tree felling’ accident” Wednesday.

Witham was struck by a falling snag and was given CPR and then taken by helicopter to Missoula, the Missoulian newspaper reported.

Witham was assigned to the Lolo Peak Fire but was a firefighter with the San Bernardino National Forest. He was a member of the Vista Grande hotshot crew, based in Idyllwild, according to Lolo Peak fire information officer Mark Struble.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of our fallen comrade,” stated a federal InciWeb page for the Lolo Peak Fire.

Witham is the second firefighter to die in Montana within a few weeks. Trenton Johnson, 19, died last month, also killed by a falling tree.

The Lolo Peak blaze broke out July 15 and is burning timber at high elevations. About 374 personnel are responding.