FIREFIGHTERS KILLED

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This is courtsey of Komo 4 News website.
VALE, ORE. - Eight Oregon-based firefighters were killed Sunday when their returning van collided head-on with a semitrailer truck in eastern Oregon, Malheur County Sheriff Andy Bentz said.

He said all were under the age of 23 and worked for First Strike Environmental, a Roseburg-based contract firefighting company.

Undersheriff Brian Wolfe said the van crossed a double-yellow line around a curve and was trying to pass another semitrailer truck when it struck the other truck head-on in the eastbound lane.

Both vehicles were immediately engulfed in flames. Bentz said the two people in the Swift Co. truck were able to free themselves. They were taken to Holy Rosary Medical Center in Ontario, and their injuries were not believed to be life-threatening. It took 20 minutes for a volunteer firefighting crew to arrive from Vale.

Names of the victims were not immediately available. Leslie Habetler, a spokeswoman for First Strike, said all the victims were men. She said six were from Douglas County, which includes Roseburg, and two were from the Portland area.

The accident happened about 11 a.m. MDT on U.S. 20 about 16 miles west of Vale.

The firefighters were traveling with another van that was ahead of them, and which learned something was wrong when it was unable to make radio contact with them.

Fire coordinators said the firefighters were returning from the South Fork fire, burning since Aug. 10 on the Boise National Forest about 25 miles northeast of the town of Cascade, Idaho.

Highway crews were still cleaning up the wreck late Sunday. The van, unrecognizable as such, was torn in two. There were no survivors in the vehicle.

In June 2002, five firefighters in an Oregon-based contract crew were killed when their van overturned in Colorado near Parachute on the way to a fire near Denver. Nine Oregon firefighters were among the 14 killed in 1994 when fast-moving flames overtook them on Storm King Mountain in western Colorado.

Tracy Powers, information officer at National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, said that before Sunday's accident, 19 wildfire workers had died this year while on duty. Three died of fire, six of unrelated illnesses on duty, four of vehicle accidents, five from aviation accidents and one was killed when a tree fell on his tent.

First Strike's Web page says it has been in business for more than 15 years, deals with a wide variety of emergency environmental situations in the West and keeps about 200 firefighters on call during forest fire season.

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I also heard on the news that in years past other firefighters have died from Oregon. I think there has been somewhere around 20 in the past three years, but I could be mistaken, I heard it last night and right after I went to sleep. And I didn't read the article from Komo 4 I just posted it.
In deed it is a sad day for everyone in the community.
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ELKCHSR

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Thank you very much for the info Erin...
We heard about it after comming back from the line about a week and a half ago and never was filled in on any of the details....
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