Wildland Firefighter Dies Fighting Moose Fire in Idaho

by Shelby Scott
(Photo by PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images)

Tragic news this wildfire season as an Idaho wildland firefighter died last week fighting the Moose Fire. The Moose Fire, one of the largest in the country, has been burning since midsummer.

According to East Idaho News, the firefighter, Gerardo Rincon (48), suffered a medical emergency while battling the enduring blaze. He passed away Tuesday morning.

Per a statement from Salmon-Challis National Forest Supervisor Charles A. Mark, Rincon began serving as a wildland firefighter in 1994. From there, he rose through the ranks and became a well-liked and dependable crew member among his colleagues. Following his death amid the ongoing Moose Fire, Mark said, “During his 28-year career he was a Type 2 firefighter, engine captain, and crew boss. He was highly recognized for his performance by his employers and crew members enjoyed working for him during many fire assignments.”

Rincon’s death is tragic, however, it isn’t the only one lost to Idaho’s Moose Fire. Several months ago, crews battling the blaze also mourned the loss of helicopter pilots Thomas Hayes and Jared Bird. The pair of pilots died when their craft crashed into the Salmon River. Hayes and Bird had been helping land-based firefighters work to contain the Moose Fire before their deaths in July. Another report from the outlet states Hayes and Bird, employed by ROTAK Helicopter Services, were experienced pilots and decorated veterans.

Speaking about Rincon’s death, Mark continued, “Tragedies of this nature serve as a reminder of the honorable work and sacrifices made by women and men like Gerardo. They commit themselves daily to supporting and protecting communities around the country.”

Moose Fire Remains One of the Largest Active Blazes in the U.S.

The Moose Fire has proven a determined opponent for the 588 firefighters who are currently battling the wildfire. Having broken out on July 17th and believed to be human-caused, the Moose Fire is a true beast. So far, it’s scorched more than 130,000 acres across ID and is still only 51% contained after months of work.

Nevertheless, 51% containment certainly marks an improvement. First responders have managed to, more or less, keep the blaze from growing any bigger for about a week now. Damp conditions at the end of last week aided firefighters in better containing the Moose Fire. However, dry conditions over the weekend didn’t further progress much.

What makes the 51% containment mark even more impressive is that just two weeks ago, crews battling the Moose Fire held the blaze at a decreased 37% containment. Seeing that number jump over the course of two weeks, we’re hoping first responders can fully extinguish the blaze soon.

In the meantime, crews are also working to prevent the fire from affecting any commercial homes or utilities. Last week, firefighters were working along the power line along Service Road 300 and Ridge Road, felling potentially hazardous trees.

Additionally, a recent news release states that as work to contain the Moose Fire continues, “Firefighters and heavy equipment operators will be working closely with resource advisors to…return damaged areas to a stable condition that reflects pre-fire conditions.”