Members of the tight-knit brotherhood of wildland firefighters gathered in Cody on Sunday to bid farewell to one of their number who died in the line of duty.
Fellow firefighters from numerous agencies, joined by state officials, took part in a ceremony honoring the memory of Tim Hart, who died June 2 after being injured while battling a fire in New Mexico.
According to C.J. Norvell, a public information officer for the US Forest Service, the wildland fire community is truly a brotherhood. When one of them is injured or killed, it impacts them all.
“What we’re doing today is both the best and the worst that we do,” she said. “The worst of course is that we’ve lost our brother… the good thing is that we’re able to support him and his family on their worst day.”
Hart was a member of the West Yellowstone Smokejumpers, and had been fighting a wildland fire in New Mexico when he took a hard fall on May 24. He died from his injuries on June 2.
Gov. Mark Gordon has ordered both the U.S. and Wyoming State Flags be flown at half-staff statewide from sunrise to sunset on Friday, June 11, in honor and memory of Hart and his sacrifice.
“Jennie and I send our deepest condolences to Tim’s family,” Gordon said in a statement. “We acknowledge the commitment of the men and women who fight fires wherever they are needed around the country, and we pray tragedies such as this one never occur. The loss of a firefighter impacts the entire community of firefighters and first responders, as well as the community in which they live. Wyoming grieves the loss of this fine individual and we are grateful for his service to the state and our country.”
But it wasn’t just smokejumpers who honored Hart this weekend. Multiple agencies participated in the very emotional ceremony.
“You know, Tim worked on the Custer-Gallatin National Forest in Montana, he lived in Cody, Wyoming, here around the Shoshone National Forest,” Norvell said. “He’s worked for the (U.S. Bureau of Land Management), we’re next door to the National Park Service in Yellowstone. And honor guard has come together from each of those agencies, to just honor him.”
Norvell added that although his death was tragic, Hart died doing what he loved.
“Tim was in New Mexico, he was doing one of the things that he loved, and that was smokejumping,” she said. “Outside his wife, his dog Dash, and his family, he was doing what he loved most.”
And the sendoff on Sunday was befitting that of a beloved member of an elite group of people who put their lives on the line to keep others safe.
“In the wildland fire community, we’re all brothers,” Norvell said. “It doesn’t matter about agency – state, federal, any of that, we’re all here to say goodbye.”