As wildfires and smoke swept through western states, three firefighters were tragically killed near Twisp, Washington. Tom Zbyszewki, 20, Andrew Zajac, and Richard Wheeler, 31, were conducting an advance assessment of a wildland fire near Twisp, WA when the vehicle in which they were riding crashed, and they were over-run by flames. Four other firefighters were also injured, one critically. FireSafe Montana extends its deepest condolences to the friends and families of those killed, and best wishes for a full and complete recovery for the injured firefighters.
These tragic deaths are but one more sad and sobering reminder about the inherently dangerous nature of wildland firefighting. We invite all of our fire fighting colleagues, partners, and friends to be safe and to exercise the greatest caution while engaging a wildfire. Even when extreme caution is used, events such as the Twisp tragedy can occur quickly and without warning. As FireSafe Montana has noted in the ‘Enough is Enough’ campaign, there is no house that has ever been built that is worth a single firefighter’s life.
As most people know, Montana is now in the middle of one of the most challenging wildfire seasons in recent history. We ask for the public’s help in being hyper-vigilant and in reporting any strong smell of smoke or open flames to 911 immediately. We also invite the public to avoid situations that can result in a wildfire being ‘sparked’ by inadvertence or inattention, such as parking or driving in dry grass, mowing or using equipment that can strike rocks and ignite a fire. The state-wide campaign “One Less Spark—One Less Wildfire” says it all. To the public we say: “Thanks for your help”. This is what ‘Working Together For A FireSafe Montana’ is all about.