Arrowhead Hotshot Captain Brian Hughes lost his life in an accident on the fireline on July 29, 2018. He was 33.
At the time when the fatal accident occurred, Hughes and his crew were engaged in firefighting operations on the east side of the Ferguson Fire. They were operating in an area with a large amount of tree mortality. Hughes was struck by a tree. He was treated on scene, but passed away before he could be transported to a hospital.
His first professional job was with the Larimer County Yellow Jackets, an emergency fire and rescue unit in Fort Collins, CO. After two years, in 2006 he was hired as a seasonal hotshot in Alaska on the Midnight Suns crew. 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. His dream was to build that crew to hotshot status. During his years on the Los Padres crew, he in detailed multiple positions to get captain experience and completed every task book he could get his hands on. After four years with the hand crew, he joined the BLM in Alaska as a specialist. During that year, he enthusiastically took on the tasks and details needed to achieve captain’s qualifications.
Brian moved to Squaw Valley, California in March 2015, and assumed the title of captain of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots. As captain, Brian was a trusted leader and mentor to the crew. He led by example, inspiring others to train hard, develop their skills, and understand not just how, but why things are done the way that they are. He intuitively grasped big-picture strategies and was able to effectively break down these strategies into actionable steps. His crew looked up to him and loved him as a brother.
Brian always put others first, always stopping to help people. He was positive, funny, and selfless. A man of strong morals, Brian had a clear sense of the right thing to do at the right time. He loved the camaraderie of the team, and drove himself to contribute as much as he could to the group. He was sharp, savvy, and loved to learn new things.
Around his friends and family, Brian was relaxed, carefree and silly. He had a dry sense of humor and would crack himself up when he let his guard down. He was a friend to everyone he met, and everyone who interacted with him walked away with a smile.
Arrowhead Hotshot crewmember Daniel Holmes lost his life in an accident on the fire line on October 2, 2004. He was 26.
At the time of the accident, Dan was killed in the line of duty while working on the Grant West Prescribed Fire in Kings Canyon National Park. Dan was struck by a burning treetop as it fell to the ground. His fellow crew members were there by his side when it happened. Most of his crewmembers witnessed the accident, and rushed to help him.
Born in 1978 in Springfield, Massachusetts, Dan was the son of Raymond Holmes, Jr. and Delina “Dee” Burke. Dan, his mother, and his brother Matt moved to Rochester, New Hampshire, in 1984. Dan grew up in Rochester, graduating from Spaulding High School in 1996. An athlete all of his life, Dan played Babe Ruth baseball and later excelled as a varsity hockey and football player at Spaulding High School.
In addition to his love of athletics, Dan grew up enamored with everything related to the outdoors. He appreciated every aspect of wilderness, whether as an athlete snowboarding, mountaineering, and climbing or in his academic pursuits in which he went on to graduate from Johnson State College with a BA in environmental science.
Dan accomplished many a boy’s dream by combining his outdoor adventures with his passion to protect the environment by becoming a ranger with the National Park Service. He sought the wild natural areas of the West to begin this latest chapter in his life, beginning his career at Mt. Rainier NP. He spent several years there, first volunteering as a backcountry ranger, then being hired to work on trail crews and serve as a wildland firefighter.
Dan became skilled at firefighting as his experience grew in the massive fires in the West. In the winter of 2003, he was selected to become a member of the National Park Service Arrowhead Hotshots, a crew which only selects the best of the best for fighting fires. Dan was with the crew when a large tree unexpectedly broke off during a firing operation and ended his too brief life. He will be sadly missed by his many friends and colleagues.
During the short time most of us knew Dan, he infected us with his passion for life. He lived his life to the fullest extent, and considered everyone a friend.