David Elijah Steele

David Elijah Steele

David Elijah Steele
Grayback Forestry‚ Inc.‚ USDA Forest Service contractor – Oregon
Career Firefighter
Date of Death: August 5‚ 2008
Age: 19

David Elijah Steele of Ashland‚ Oregon‚ was born November 29‚ 1988‚ at Ashland Community Hospital‚ the first child to proud parents Paul David and Susanne Elizabeth Steele. David was a kind and fun-loving brother to his sisters‚ Christianne and Laurana‚ and his younger brother‚ Nathan. Baptized at Our Lady of the Mountain Catholic Church‚ David loved to participate in youth activities and church outings and felt a strong bond and belief in the Lord. He attended Sacred Heart Catholic School and Ashland Middle School.

David graduated from Ashland High School in 2007‚ a standout member of the AHS football and rugby teams‚ and an avid snowboarder and wake boarder. Building strong and lasting friendships‚ David was known for his goofy humor‚ genuine warmth and easygoing nature. Friends would be heard to say‚ David always made your day a little bit better. They remembered David as a strong guy‚ a funny guy‚ and a soft-spoken giant.

This strength of character led David to follow his lifelong dream of becoming a firefighter. He joined Grayback Forestry as a wildland firefighter and enrolled in Central Oregon Community College in Bend‚ Oregon‚ to study structural fire science and pursue his emergency medical technician certification.

David was called to the Lord on August 5‚ 2008‚ in a tragic helicopter accident following a Grayback deployment to the Shasta-Trinity National Forest‚ where his crew successfully and heroically defended a critical fire line in steep and rugged terrain. David was loved and respected by his family‚ friends and community and will be missed dearly by all.

David is survived by his parents‚ Paul and Susanne Steele; two sisters‚ Christianne Steele and Laurana Steele; and one brother‚ Nathan Steele‚ who reside together in Ashland‚ Oregon; and his grandparents‚ Carol and John Endsley‚ Sally Steele‚ and Lloyd Steele.

David’s motto was‚ Live for nothing‚ or die for something – it’s your choice.

Steven ‘Caleb’ Renno

Steven 'Caleb' Renno

Caleb was born on August 18‚ 1986‚ a homebirth in the beautiful rolling hills of Summertown‚ Tennessee. We moved to Davis‚ California‚ when he was a year old. Then‚ when he was ten‚ we moved to Cave Junction in southwest Oregon. Caleb loved to roam his new backyard‚ one of the most pristine wilderness areas in the country. Always a courageous adventurer at heart‚ he explored the forest wilderness‚ engrossed completely in his own dreams and wonderful imagination.

Caleb found his true passion in sports during his freshman year in high school when he joined the track team. Caleb was inspiring to watch on the track. During his senior year‚ he broke the two-minute mark in the 800-meter race‚ a very hard-earned personal goal. He also received his most cherished award‚ ‘MVP in Track and Field for 2005.’ Caleb handled wins and losses with equal grace and mentored fellow students with encouragement and by example.

Caleb grew into a phenomenal young man with boundless enthusiasm and hope. He had a far-reaching belief and faith that God created everything and‚ therefore‚ everything is sacred. Caleb treated everyone with respect and kindness. At Southern Oregon University‚ he became very interested in anthropology. He spent most of his last year traveling through South America and was planning a trip to Nepal. He was a seeker of truth who understood the interconnectedness and sacredness of all things.

Caleb was a warrior in the highest sense of that word – fearless when needed and always a defender of women and children. He died protecting the community with a crew of men he called his brothers. On August 5‚ 2008‚ after battling a fierce wildland fire line for many days‚ his crew was being airlifted back to their firebase camp. The helicopter crashed into the Trinity County wilderness in northern California; nine good men died and four survived the crash.

There was nothing Caleb held dearer than his family. He loved it when we gathered together for the holidays‚ our annual camping trip‚ or any special family occasion. Well known for his playful sense of humor‚ children loved Caleb for his gentleness‚ kindness‚ and ability to meet them in their world of play. He was the true kid magnet at every family gathering.

Beloved son of Catherine Renno and Bruce LeMay‚ and much-loved younger brother to Jason and Colleen Renno‚ Caleb is loved by all whose lives he touched. Caleb cherished and loved his family and was the heart and silent center of our circle. We will never be the same without him‚ but death has only made our love stronger. He will be loved and missed until we meet again.

Bryan James Rich

Bryan James Rich

Bryan was born Sept 9‚ 1978‚ in Klamath Falls‚ Oregon‚ and spent his early years in Gold Beach‚ amid the beauty of the Oregon coast. He was very athletic and participated in all the sports he could. Bryan was very focused in whatever he did‚ a hard worker from a very young age. He loved animals and always had a well-trained dog as a companion.

When our family relocated to Gold Hill on the Rogue River‚ close to Medford‚ Bryan’s love for the outdoors flourished. Fishing was a calming influence from the hustle and bustle of the city and working.

Bryan’s love for the outdoors led him to become a framer. As his talent and skills progressed‚ he became a journeyman carpenter and owner of B Rich Construction. Though many have said that he was one of the best framers in the Rogue Valley‚ his bookkeeping was not on the same par. He would take care of friends‚ keeping them working at the expense of his own business survival. He was a very caring man and was loved by many people. He gave of himself and his talents to help others‚ taking no pay for many things he did. His sense of humor and smile were infectious. He was dedicated to his friends and employers.

When the building trade started to wane‚ he went to work for Grayback Forestry. His supervisor said that because of his athletic abilities‚ skills‚ and dedication‚ Bryan had progressed rapidly as a chain sawyer in the limited time he had been on the job. His foreman told us that they had planned to make him a lead. As he worked fighting fire‚ he gained a passion for the work. He planned to go to school to study structural firefighting after the season was over.

Bryan had been with his fianc_e‚ Katie O’Donnell‚ for several years‚ and they had been friends since junior high school. Katie and Bryan were soul mates.

I was working a shift at the hospital and checked e-mail to see how the fire was going where Bryan was working. I saw a stock photo of the Carson helicopter‚ with the headline‚ ‘Forest Fire Fighters Feared Dead Along With Pilot in Northern California Helicopter Crash.’ The next day‚ a call from Katie informed us of his death. We died some that day.

Bryan was the spark in our lives. He is also survived by his younger brother‚ Lee‚ and his nephews and nieces‚ Justin Lee‚ Isabel‚ and Bryan James Rich‚ who was named in his honor. He is missed by so many who will never forget him.

Shawn Patrick Blazer

Shawn Patrick Blazer

Shawn was born December 16‚ 1977‚ in Queens‚ New York‚ and lived in the city with his mother until age three. They then moved to Oregon‚ where he was raised for the remainder of his life. Growing up in Oregon was the love of his life. The mountains were his serenity. Shawn was very outgoing‚ involved with the outdoors through activities such as hiking‚ fishing‚ camping‚ hunting‚ and swimming. When he was not in the woods‚ he was playing basketball‚ football‚ and baseball‚ or spending time with family and friends.

Shawn’s interest in the fire service began at a late age‚ but it became his true calling and passion. He began working for Grayback Forestry in the summer of 2007. He completely and utterly fell in love with being in the mountains at all hours of the day and night. Working with his comrades and his crew bosses‚ who he called his fierce leaders‚ was the most joyous time of his life. It was all he could talk about. Shawn could not wait to get back out there with his brothers and fight those ferocious fires burning in the mountains. Growing up in Oregon‚ this made him feel complete‚ important‚ a part of something so radical‚ to have a brotherhood and–the best part–see the mountains as we will never see ourselves. ‘Like heaven‚’ he would say.

Although Shawn never married‚ his true love was his family and closest friends. He watched over and took care of his disabled mother for three years‚ as well as fixing cars‚ cooking‚ cleaning‚ and doing all the heavy lifting when needed. He could fix or repair anything he put his hands on. In the family he was known as ‘The Stomach‚’ because he could eat as if he was a bottomless pit. He was the man in the family‚ with only his mother and little sister to attend to. He did whatever he could to help‚ and that’s what made firefighting so important and complete for Shawn. He loved to take care of people‚ and through firefighting he could do so much more.

On August 5‚ 2008‚ Shawn Patrick Blazer was with his brothers‚ pretty jazzed about holding the line that day. They had accomplished what they came there to do. However‚ the helicopter carrying the firemen could not carry them out. It tragically crashed and burned on the mountain. As the song says‚ ‘Fire on the mountain‚ lighting in the air‚ gold in them hills‚ and it’s waiting for me there.’

He is our family hero and will be greatly missed by all he touched. His life will live on forever in our hearts.

Scott A. Charlson

Scott A. Charlson

Scott was born on January 4‚ 1983‚ in Portland Oregon. At a young age‚ Scott loved the game of ice hockey. One of his family’s favorite memories is of him playing hockey in the basement as a child. It would sound like a real game going with the banging‚ hollering and the ref’s whistle blowing. There was play-by-play action – and he scooores! But it was a one-man game and lots of imagination. At age five‚ Scott joined a hockey team‚ and it was a passion in his life until he died. You could count on his hockey bag always being in the trunk of his car.

As Scott grew‚ his love for sports grew with him. His favorite teams were the San Francisco 49ers‚ Portland Trailblazers‚ Atlanta Braves‚ Pittsburgh Penguins and the University of Oregon Ducks. Being wise to know he would not make it into pro sports‚ he decided he wanted to become a sports journalist‚ and he pursued this dream at Southern Oregon University. He had one year left to get his degree. He took to wildland firefighting with Grayback Forestry to earn money for his school expenses.

Scott’s parents were visiting him when he was called to his first fire. They took him to the shop‚ and his mom asked him to give her an early Christmas present. She asked him to call each evening when he got in to base camp so his family would know he was safe and could hear about his day. Scott faithfully gave that gift until August 5‚ 2008‚ when after being in a spike camp for three days‚ the helicopter that was carrying his crew back to base camp crashed‚ killing nine people.

Scott was a very caring and loyal friend with a great laugh. When asked how he was doing‚ he would often answer‚ ‘Just living the dream.’ He had the unique ability to have a good balance of work and responsibility along with pleasure and humor. When his crew boss was asked what he remembered about Scott‚ he said‚ ‘Scott was never grouchy. Usually about the 10th day out on a fire people begin to get a bit gnarly‚ but not Scott. I never heard a bad word out of his mouth.’

Scott loved his parents and brother‚ Jake‚ and was always there to do his part in keeping his family close. He was very comfortable with who he was in this world‚ largely because he knew the God that created him. He did not ‘play church‚’ but had firm convictions regarding his relationship with God. He knew John 3:16 included him. He will never be forgotten.

Edrik J. Gomez

Edrik J. Gomez

Edrik was born in Oxnard‚ California‚ on November 4‚ 1988. He grew up in Coquille‚ Oregon‚ on a small farm on the southern Oregon coast. Edrik was serving his first summer as a wildland firefighter for Grayback Forestry to get himself through college. Edrik loved the outdoors and had a great sense of adventure.

Edrik was a junior attending Southern Oregon University‚ where he was double majoring in political science and communications. He had a passion for social activism and was heavily involved on campus with the Latino Student Union and the Multicultural Department‚ as well as his off campus community.

Edrik was a scholar and a revolutionary in every sense of the word. He loved to learn new ideas and took every opportunity to just have a good conversation with anybody he could. He had a unique brand of humor that blended his intellectual wit with his spontaneous quirky personality; you couldn’t help but feel happy when you were around him. His passion for social work was the driving force behind his love for education. He had many plans and goals for his future that included public service.

His professor‚ Dennis Dunleavy‚ PhD‚ remembered: ‘Edrik‚ despite his youth‚ had already made an impact on this world. Everywhere he went‚ Edrik left people feeling good about themselves and the world around us.’

And Dr. Jody Waters‚ Edrik’s professor and advisor at Southern Oregon University‚ said this: ‘Edrik was truly one of the most joyous and special individuals I have ever known. He simply radiated with happiness‚ intelligence‚ and fun…He was truly filled with vision‚ passion for acquiring knowledge and using it‚ and a love for the world and the people in it…Edrik always reminded me that to live in this world is a joy‚ a privilege‚ and a responsibility. He spoke many times of the great respect he had for his parents in immigrating from Mexico and building a life for him and his brothers that meant that he had the opportunity to gain an education and to speak‚ question‚ challenge‚ and participate in the world around him…It is still difficult to believe that such a bright light could be extinguished.’

Edrik had a wide variety of hobbies and interests. He loved camping with family‚ hiking with friends‚ and working with his beehives. He was a talented writer and could often be found writing his thoughts in his journal. There isn’t a day that goes by in which his smile and warmth are not missed! In his 19 years of life he touched many‚ and we are better individuals for having had him in our lives.

Matthew Aaron Hammer

Matthew Aaron Hammer

Matthew Aaron Hammer
Grayback Forestry‚ Inc.‚ USDA Forest Service contractor – Oregon
Career Firefighter
Date of Death: August 5‚ 2008
Age: 23

Matt was born September 9‚ 1984‚ in Santa Cruz‚ California. He grew up in Ukiah‚ California‚ and moved to Grants Pass‚ Oregon‚ in 1999. He graduated from Grants Pass High School in 2003.

Friends and family describe him as having a great sense of humor‚ being humble‚ level-headed‚ relaxed‚ competitive‚ and always watching out for others. He enjoyed whitewater rafting‚ backpacking‚ shooting guns‚ playing basketball and football‚ traveling‚ playing games‚ and spending time with friends and family.

He had just graduated in May 2008 from Corban College‚ with a multidisciplinary major focused on psychology and business. He married his college sweetheart‚ Monica Crumley‚ on June 28‚ 2008. After returning from the honeymoon and spending additional time with family‚ he began his last season fighting fire. He died with eight others in a tragic helicopter crash while fighting a fire in northern California.

He leaves behind his father‚ Rick Hammer; mother‚ Debbie Hammer; three sisters‚ Crystal‚ Melody‚ and Sarah; and his wife‚ Monica.

Matt will always be remembered because he lived as a hero.

Jacob B. Martindale

Submitted by his parents

Jacob Brent Martindale‚ 20‚ was on his way to fight the Haymen Fired in Colorado on June 21‚ 2002‚ when the Ford van he was traveling in rolled‚ killing Jake and 4 other firefighters.

It would have been Jake’s first real fire and a chance to make money to study abroad in Italy in the fall of 2002. But instead‚ we lost a son‚ a brother‚ and a much-loved friend. We lost a person with many talents‚ he earned good grades and was working towards a major in International Business and then planned to join the Peace Corp. Jake shared his music with us‚ playing both the piano and guitar‚ and even writing his own songs. Jake loved to be doing things. He played many school sports‚ football‚ baseball‚ pole vaulting in track‚ and basketball. He was always busy with his friends and family‚ skiing‚ snowboarding‚ camping (especially in the winter)‚ kayaking‚ mountain biking‚ swing dancing‚ playing computer games‚ shooting his bow and arrows‚ and flying kites or fishing with his Dad. He found time to do these things and still worked a job at Men’s Warehouse through high school and college.

Jake worked to make his dreams come true‚ but he had fun along the way and shared his fun-loving spirit with us. This humorous guy knew how to make you laugh and enjoy the lighter side of life. He could brighten your worst day in a matter of seconds with a few helpful funny words or with one of his hugs. We will miss Jake the rest of our lives‚ but we are inspired by his incredible heart‚ a great sense of humor and attitude for life‚ and an unbelievable musical talent. We are grateful that you are a part of our lives – Thank you Jake.

Jake was intelligent and fun loving. When he came home‚ the excitement and noise level just went up.

Retha Mae Shirley

Retha Mae Shirley

Submitted by her mother

Retha was a student in the nursing program at OTI in Klamath Falls. She worked part time at a Veterinary Clinic to help pay her way. She was always ready to help; rather it was people or animals‚ she never wanted anyone to suffer.

Retha taught by example‚ she was changing the world one person at a time‚ and she lives on through all the lives she touched. She was a beautiful person inside and out‚ a person who had a passion to live life to its fullest. We will never forget the things we learned from her. We thank her for being a part of our lives and showing us you must live everyday to the fullest‚ never holding back‚ and always staying strong.

Retha was always active in school‚ sports‚ and 4-H horsemanship.

Retha enjoyed the outdoors‚ she was an avid hunter and fisher. She was always competing with the boys in school for the ‘Big Buck ‘ contest. She enjoyed bird hunting with her Brittney Spaniel. She also liked to float the rivers and fly fish.

Retha worked for a Wildland Fire Fighting Co. She died in a van rollover in Colorado that also took the lives of 4 others. They were traveling in a convoy with 7 other vehicles in what was to be a 30 hour nonstop drive from Oregon.

Retha is survived by her parents‚ Larry and Linda Shirley; 2 brothers Chase (12) and Jesse (26) a sister in law Cindy and a niece Brianna. And a very special friend Tyson Schoenmoser.

A Memorial Scholarship was established in Retha’s honor for a senior year nursing student through Oregon Health and Science University.

Bartholomew Blake Bailey

Bartholomew Blake Bailey

Submitted By His Mother

Bartholomew Blake Bailey‚ Bart‚ died June 24‚ 2002‚ after a van rollover crash on the way to fight the Haymen Fire in Colorado. This was Bart’s first day on the job as as wildland forest firefighter‚ with Grayback‚ in his second summer season. Bart was also studying Civil Engineering at Oregon State University in Corvallis for his third year. Born March 5‚ 1982‚ with his twin sister‚ Brandy Ann‚ to Jerry D. and Carla J. (Schafer) Bailey‚ Bart lived on this earth 20 wonderful‚ blessed years. Bart’s high school principal summed up his life by saying‚ ‘Bart was the kind of young person you hope your kids will grow up to be.’ His dad‚ Jerry‚ said ‘Bart was the man I hope to become someday.’

No one could ever adequately explain how much Bart was loved and admired by every person that knew him. He loved Jesus with all his heart and judged no one. He was full of joy of the Lord and it just flowed out of him whether he was playing basketball (which he played for three years in high school‚ being able to palm and finally dunk a basketball in his Senior year)‚ tennis (where he won state title in the singles division in his Junior year)‚ acting (where he played numerous parts including the lead in ‘The Fantastiks’)‚ special music groups (where his high tenor voice and four octave range blessed thousands of people all through middle school‚ high school‚ and in college‚ where he sang in a special men’s group). He and Ben (one of his best friends since 3rd grade) won 2nd place in the duo division out of all the high schools in the entire state of Oregon‚ and went to international competition.

When Bart was elected Prom King in his Senior year‚ he asked me sincerely‚ ‘Mom‚ why do you think they would elect ME Prom King?’ Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that Bart never said a bad word about anyone‚ had a smile for everyone‚ loved the Lord God and every person (children‚ as well as older people)‚ was witty and incredibly funny (imitating Austin Powers‚ Dr. Evil‚ Forest Gump‚ and many other characters in plays and assemblies)‚ was very intelligent (even while taking college courses in high school‚ he earned a 3.8 GPA)‚ was honest‚ industrious (no only helping out at home‚ but working as a courtesy clerk at Albertsons all through high school)‚ kind‚ loving‚ humble‚ as well as being an exceptionally handsome young man (standing 6’4′ with size 13 feet‚ dark hair‚ and incredibly beautiful blue eyes‚ and a contagious smile).

Bart was always a joy to be around and loved his family‚ friends and acquaintances with all his heart. He wanted to help others and was overjoyed to be fighting fires and saving lives and property. He and Brandy were always best friends. I praise God that I was chosen to be Bart’s mother even for this short time. What in incredible honor‚ priviledge‚ and blessing! I am so thankful that because Jesus died on a cross and was raised from the dead‚ we will be with Bart in Heaven someday for all eternity. Glory to God in the highest for the peace and truth that reigns in our hearts‚ where Bart‚ my beloved son‚ is cherished forever.