MISSOULA, Mont - the US Forest Service has identified the firefighter killed while combating a wildfire in Idaho Sunday afternoon as Anne Veseth (VEE-sith), 20, a seasonal firefighter for the Nez Perce-Clearwater National Forests.
“The Forest Service family is in mourning following the tragic death of one of our firefighters in Idaho over the weekend,” said US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell. “Our hearts go out to the family and friends of this brave young woman.”
Regional Forester Faye Krueger echoed Tidwell’s sentiments in her own remarks: “We are devastated by the loss of this young woman. This is a stark reminder of the inherent dangers our men and women face every day on the fire lines of wildfires all over the country.”
Veseth was a native of Moscow, Idaho and second year student at Idaho’s Lewis and Clark State College in Lewiston. She was in her second season as a wildland firefighter with the Clearwater-Nez Perce National Forests. She had been involved in fighting fires in both Arizona and Colorado already this year. Veseth was a qualified level 2 Firefighter involved in initial attack and general wildfire duties for suppression, mop-up and other duties related to fighting wildfires.
She was part of a Forest Service crew on the Steep Canyon fire about 80 miles southeast of Coeur d’Alene, which was under the command of the Clearwater-Potlach Timber Protective Association (C-PTPA). The actual cause of death will be determined by the local county coroner but was initially reported as being caused by a falling tree or debris during suppression activities.
The Forest Service is assembling a team of investigators that will arrive in northern Idaho later today and Tuesday. The primary purpose of the investigation is to understand how and why an accident occurred to prevent future incidents. It is critical to begin the investigation as soon as possible to ensure that important information is not lost, misplaced, or contaminated. These types of investigations can last from several weeks to a few months to thoroughly and accurately identify all factors in the case.
The cause of the fire as well as details about the fire conditions are available through the C-PTPA and the Idaho Department of Lands.
Of the 58 U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter fatalities between 2002 and 2011, 8 (14%) were Large Airtanker accidents; 22 (38%) were helicopter accidents; 10 (17%) were burnovers; 11 (19%) were driving accidents; 2 (3.5%) were heart attacks; 2 (3.5%) were hazard tree incidents; and 3 (5%) were from other causes such as fall from vehicle, fall from structure, or struck by vehicle.