Brian Hughes lost his life on the fireline on July 29, 2018. A captain of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots based in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park, the crew was fighting the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park when Brian was struck by a 105-foot-tall smoldering ponderosa pine. He was treated at the scene but passed away before he could be transported to the hospital.
Born August 1, 1984, in Hilo, Hawaii, he grew up near Akaka Falls and, as a child, loved running around, playing sports, swimming, and surfing. He started a yard business at age 13, with the hopes of saving up to buy a car. The business was a booming success, leading Brian to set higher and higher goals for himself and to work hard at everything he set his mind to. He loved outdoor adventure and learned to be self-reliant in the wilderness. In high school, he was a star athlete in varsity soccer, track, and cross-country.
Aside from a brief, youthful aspiration to become a stuntman, his career goal was always to become a firefighter. His first professional job was with the Larimer County Yellow Jackets, an emergency fire and rescue unit in Fort Collins, Colorado. After two years, in 2006, he was hired as a seasonal hotshot in Alaska on the Midnight Suns crew. After that taste of hotshot life, he was hooked. The next year he joined the Roosevelt Hotshots, where he worked from 2007-2009.
In 2010, Brian joined the Monterey hand crew on the Los Padres National Forest, with a goal of building that crew to hotshot status. He enthusiastically completed every task book and worked in multiple positions to get captain experience. After four years, he joined the BLM in Alaska as a specialist. Brian moved to Squaw Valley, California, in March 2015 and assumed the title of captain of the Arrowhead Hotshots. As a trusted leader and mentor to his crew, he led by example, inspiring others to train hard, develop their skills, and understand how and why things are done the way they are. He intuitively grasped big-picture strategies and was able to break these down into actionable steps. His crew looked up to him and loved him like a brother.
Brian had strong morals and always put others first. He was positive, funny, and selfless, with a dry sense of humor. He is survived by his parents, Peter and Suen Hughes; his sister, Meriel; and his fiancée, Paige Miller, who had their daughter, Sawyer, on February 12, 2019. He will be missed by these loved ones and countless others whose lives he touched.