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Rookie Firefighter from Olympic National Park Killed by Falling Tree in California


Andrew Palmer, an 18-year-old firefighter with Olympic National Park, was killed Friday while fighting a fire in California. NPS photo.

An 18-year-old hired at Olympic National Park in June to fight fires has been killed on the fire-lines in northern California. Andrew "Andy" Palmer died Friday shortly after a tree fell on him during his team's first day on the fire.

Palmer's four-person engine team had been dispatched last Tuesday to help fight the Eagle fire, which is burning as part of the Iron Complex in northern California's Shasta-Trinity National Forest. The 18-year-old, from Port Townsend, Washington, had just graduated from high school in June.

“We mourn Andy’s death and offer our support and deepest condolences to his family,” said Olympic National Park Superintendent Karen Gustin.

An accident investigation team was being assembled Saturday and was to be co-led by National Park Service and U.S. Forest Service personnel. The rest of Palmer’s crew returned to Olympic National Park earlier Saturday.

National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar has ordered all flags throughout the National Park System be lowered to half staff.

"The collective hearts of the National Park Service go out to Andrew's family," said Director Bomar. "While the loss of any member of the NPS team is a sad event, Andrew's life was only beginning. He was filled with the energy and passion of youth, and he sought to give back to our nation by protecting the land from the ravages of fire."


A tragic loss - and a reminder that the men and women who serve on fire crews day after day all across the country have a dangerous and difficult job. They all deserve our thanks and support.

I went to Port Townsend High School with Andy, he was a really good kid. I pray for his family and for everyone close to him.

I think your headline would be more powerful if it had one less word. Andrew Palmer was a firefighter, not a "rookie." Identifying him as a rookie highlights his inexperience and makes his loss seem understandable or even expected. Fire crews do have a dangerous job; they deserve our respect in addition to our thanks and support.

I know he did not pass in Vain. I was one of the fire men who was there trying to get him off the hill. Our crew was the first to get to him and we did what we could to get that young man off that hill.

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