Jacob Merrill O’Malley was born on September 1, 1988, in Carson City, Nevada, to Leonard and Cynthia O’Malley and big brother, Kyle. He grew up in Zephyr Cove, Nevada, and graduated from Whittell High School in 2007, where he played soccer, ran track, raced for the ski team, and performed with the Black and White Choir. He received the Lord at age four, was baptized in the blue waters of Lake Tahoe at age nine, and was active in youth group at Tahoe Community Church.
Jake loved to ski: he was always excited to see the first snow fall, and it was not uncommon to see him knee-deep in fresh powder at Heavenly Valley Ski Resort.
Jake began working for the Bureau of Land Management in Winnemucca, Nevada, in 2009. He spent five summers as a seasonal wildland firefighter and was promoted to full-time, career seasonal wildland firefighter in 2014. Before his passing, Jake had also been promoted to engine captain and had headed up rookie school the year before.
When people speak of Jake O’Malley many common words arise: kind, generous, friendly, patient, and happy. Jake was a gentle soul, always offering encouragement, support, and a smile. Jake took pride in his work and the camaraderie of being a wildland firefighter and strove to always produce work he was proud of. Determined to leave each experience with a lesson learned, Jake was quick to volunteer for new experiences to further himself and learn more. He was observant, insightful, and his character and work ethic were shaping him into a fine leader.
A great lover of music and art in many forms, his colleagues and friends know that Jake had artistic talent of his own which he pursued through wood-burning and fly-tying. He also loved the outdoors; two of his favorite activities were skiing in the winter and fishing in the warmer months.
Jake was a rare gem that was truly cut from a different cloth. Those people whose lives he touched are truly better for it. He had so much love to give, and his loss is not only felt deeply in the hearts of his immediate relatives, it radiates out into a fire community whose network covers many states. Though he is no longer with us, he leaves a strong legacy of hard work, compassion, and honestly with a full heart.