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SmokeJumper Comes Home

Wildland fire in Brewer
Wildland fire in Brewer(WABI)
Updated: Jun. 7, 2021 at 9:02 PM CDT
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CHEYENNE, Wyo. (Wyoming News Now) - Tragedy has struck close to home for a close-knit band of firefighters in Wyoming.

Fighting fire is a dangerous business, which wildland firefighters and their families accept when they don the uniform. But that doesn’t make it any less tragic when one of them loses their life in the line of duty.

Tim Hart was a member of the West Yellowstone Smokejumpers, and had been fighting a wildland fire in New Mexico when he took a hard fall on May 24th. He succumbed to his injuries on June 2.

According to CJ Norvell, a public information officer for the US Forest Service, the wildland fire community is truly a brotherhood. When one of them is injured or killed, it impacts them all.

“What we’re doing today is both the best and the worst that we do,” she explains. “The worst of course is that we’ve lost our brother… the good thing is that we’re able to support him and his family on their worst day.”

Governor Mark Gordon has ordered both the U.S. and Wyoming State Flags be flown at half-staff statewide from sunrise to sunset on Friday, June 11, in honor and memory of Hart and his sacrifice.

“Jennie and I send our deepest condolences to Tim’s family,” the Governor said in a statement. “We acknowledge the commitment of the men and women who fight fires wherever they are needed around the country, and we pray tragedies such as this one never occur. The loss of a firefighter impacts the entire community of firefighters and first responders, as well as the community in which they live. Wyoming grieves the loss of this fine individual and we are grateful for his service to the state and our country.”

The ceremony in Cody on Sunday was centered around the plane that brought Hart home from El Paso, Texas. A large crowd from around the region met him and his wife at the Cody Airport to say goodbye.

But it wasn’t just Smokejumpers who honored Tim Hart this weekend. Multiple agencies participated in the very emotional ceremony.

“You know, Tim worked on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest in Montana, he lived in Cody, Wyoming, here around the Shoshone National Forest,” Norvell points out. “He’s worked for the BLM, we’re next door to the National Park Service in Yellowstone. And honor guard has come together from each of those agencies, to just honor him.”

Norvell added that although deeply tragic, Hart died doing what he loved.

“Tim was in New Mexico, he was doing one of the things that he loved, and that was smokejumping. Outside his wife, his dog Dash, and his family, he was doing what he loved most.”

And the sendoff on Sunday was befitting that of a beloved member of an elite group of people who put their lives on the line to keep others safe.

“In the wildland fire community, we’re all brothers,” Norvell notes. “It doesn’t matter about agency - state, federal, any of that, we’re all here to say goodbye.”

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