Fallen smokejumper honored by fellow wildland firefighters
CODY, Wyo. (AP) — Fellow wildland firefighters, U.S. Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen and Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon paid tribute during a weekend memorial for Tim Hart, a 36-year-old smokejumper from Cody, Wyoming, who died following a hard fall while fighting a New Mexico wildfire on May 24.
Hart’s flag-draped casket was carried by a Forest Service honor guard to the service on Saturday at Cody High School’s football field. Pipes and drums played “Amazing Grace” after tributes from Christiansen, Gordon and Hart’s supervisor, Mike Blinn, who described Hart as “fit, fast, gritty and funny.”
Hart was working for the West Yellowstone Smokejumpers, based in the Custer Gallatin National Forest in Montana, at the time of his death. He suffered a hard fall while responding to a fire in Hidalgo County, New Mexico. He succumbed to his injuries at a hospital in El Paso, Texas.
He had been a wildland firefighter since 2006, working in North Carolina, Arizona, Oregon, Wyoming and Nevada. He joined the smokejumper program in 2016 and worked his rookie season in Idaho, according to the Forest Service. He was based in Montana beginning in 2019.
Saturday’s memorial was streamed by Custer Gallatin National Forest.
Christiansen described Hart as a disciplined, soft-spoken and devoted wildland firefighter who knew what had to be done. “We are deeply shaken by the loss of one of our own. The fire community is a family,” she said.
Addressing Hart’s casket, she said: “You lived life with love, with adventure and with great service to others.”
Gordon described Hart’s passion for smokejumping and his devotion to his family. “Wyoming will stand with you and by you,” he said, addressing the family.
Hart’s mother, Pam Hart, said her son found his life’s mission in wildland firefighting and smokejumping. “This was the role he loved best,” she told the crowd. “My son died, but not in vain and not for nothing.”
In addition to his mother, Hart is survived by his wife, Michelle, and a sister.
The Forest Service says about 320 smokejumpers work from seven bases located in California, Idaho, Montana, Washington state and Oregon. The Bureau of Land Management has smokejumpers based in Idaho and Alaska.