Body of Vermont firefighter killed battling Nevada wildfire flown home

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NORTH LAS VEGAS, NEV. >> Dozens of federal, state and local firefighters escorted the body of a U.S. Forest Service firefighter to a Las Vegas-area airport on Wednesday to be flown home to Vermont.

Justin Beebe, 26, was killed battling a wildfire in Great Basin National Park in eastern Nevada.

He was saluted by colleagues as his casket was borne by an honor guard aboard a twin-engine National Park Service "smokejumper" aircraft at North Las Vegas Airport.

The procession closed intersections and streets as it moved more than 6 miles from a funeral home to the airport, but U.S. Forest Service and airport officials said Beebe's family requested the ceremony remain private. Officials declined to comment.

Beebe was a member of the Lolo Hotshots based in Missoula, Montana — one of a number of elite Forest Service crews called for the most dangerous wildfires in the West. Crews use chain saws and pickaxes to fell trees and clear fire lines to eliminate fuel to stop spreading flames.

Officials said Beebe died Saturday when he was struck by a tree while fighting a 7-square-mile blaze ignited by lightning Aug. 8 near Wheeler Peak, about 200 miles northeast of Las Vegas. Hundreds of firefighters have worked to contain the fire. Officials said Wednesday it was 90 percent contained.

Beebe's parents, Sheldon and Betsy Beebe of Bellows Falls, Vermont, said their son grew up working on the family maple syrup farm and became a logger in New England. They characterized him as an avid hunter, fisherman and snowboarder who planned to marry his girlfriend and wanted to become a paramedic.

They said he loved being, as he called it, "out of doors."

Forest Service investigators are heading the probe of Beebe's death.

He was the third federal firefighter to die this summer in Nevada.

Bureau of Land Management firefighters Jacob O'Malley, 27, and Will Hawkins, 22, died and a colleague was injured in a firetruck rollover crash during wildfire patrol last month about 40 miles north of Winnemucca.

Tire failure was blamed for the crash, but authorities haven't released a final accident report.


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