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Thread: Montana Firefighter Dies During Training

  1. #1
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002

    Montana Firefighter Dies During Training

    Montana Firefighter Dies During Training


    A Montana firefighter collapsed and died Monday while preparing for the yearly pack test which requires wildland firefighters to carry a 45 pound pack a distance of three miles within 45 minutes.

    Firefighter Joan Spear was a Senior Engine Supervisor with the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation in Dillon, Montana.

    She was going into her 12th season of wildland firefighting, and would have turned 46 on Friday.

    Spear had never failed the pack test.

    On Monday she went out for a practice walk with a pack of about 25 pounds, and got a good distance away from the office before she collapsed said John Pilsworth, a geographical information specialist at the DNRC.

    "A passerby had seen her kind of struggle and fall down so they stopped and called 911," he said.

    Spear left for her walk at about 12:20 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 3:00 that afternoon. Pilsworth said the official cause of death is undetermined, but was likely the result of a brain aneurysm.

    "She was a tough lady and she had been a senior engine boss for a long time. She was well respected," he said.

    Spear grew up on a ranch in Madison County, Montana and continued to run cattle on her own ranch, said Rick Strohmyer, a supervisor at the Dillon DNRC unit.

    "She had a real love of wildland firefighting and of nature," he said.

    Spear was a full time firefighter from March through November, and played an integral role in initial attack incident command. During the winter she worked part time for the DNRC providing basic firefighter training for volunteers from around the state, and working on forest improvement projects.

    "She was very pleasant, had a mischievous sense of humor, and was a very capable fire person. She was a female in a male-dominated profession and and she was exemplary in every area," Strohmyer said.

    Spear is survived by her husband Harry Worman and other family.

    She had arranged to be a full-body organ donor, so after her death there were jets lined up the local airport to send her organs around the country to those in need, Strohmyer said.

    "It was truly inspirational," he said. "She was the first full organ donor out of this county."

    A memorial service is planned for 12 p.m. on Wednesday, March 27 at the Beaver Head Search and Rescue Building in Dillon, MT and will be followed by a wake at the Elks Lodge. Spear's ashes will be carried aboard her engine, number 42.

    The family has requested that memorials be directed to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, Box 3633 in Boise, Idaho 83703.

  2. #2
    Registered User SeaBreeze's Avatar
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    Jan 2002
    Spear, Joan

    Age: 46
    Rank: Senior Engine Supervisor
    Status: Career
    Incident Date: 03/18/2002
    Incident Time: 11:45
    Death Date: 03/18/2002

    Cause of Death: Stress/Exertion
    Nature of Death:
    Emergency Duty: No
    Duty Type: Training
    Activity Type: Fitness Activity
    Fixed Prop. Use: Outdoor Property

    Fire Dept. Info:
    MT DNRC Fire & Aviation Management, Dillon Unit
    MT DNRC Dillon Unit
    730 North Montana Street
    Dillon, Montana 59725
    Chief: Tim Murphy

    Initial Summary: Supervisor Spear was participating in fitness training when she collapsed and died from a cause still to be determined.

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