Thursday, July 23, 2009

LODD: CAL FIRE units will fly flags at half staff

Firefighter Thomas Marovich, 20

CAL FIRE units will fly flags at half staff in honor of USFS Firefighter Thomas (TJ) Marovich Jr, killed in the Line of Duty while training on the Backbone Fire.
Thomas Marovich, 20, was a 2nd year apprentice at the Modoc NF.

Firefighter Thomas Marovich, 20, had been taking part in required weekly rappelling training, in which people slide down a rope from a hovering helicopter when he fell about 200 feet to the ground, said Forest Service spokeswoman Robin Cole. FF. Marovich was a second year apprentice firefighter on the Modoc National Forest, she said. He was working with the Chester Helitack Crew from the Lassen National Forest that had been assigned to the Backbone Fire in the Trinity Alps Wilderness.

The training was a routine part of the ongoing battle to contain the Backbone Fire, a Forest Service spokesman said. The training is conducted at least every 14 days, he said. The death is being investigated by a Forest Service accident investigation team and the National Transportation Safety Board. Sparked by lightning on July 1, the Backbone Fire has charred 6,324 acres and was 80 percent contained as of today, Cole said. More than 500 firefighters are still working the fire, which is expected to be fully contained Friday.

Backbone fire personnel are deeply saddened by the accident and are having a small memorial as a tribute to Marovich’s life at 9:30 am today at the Backbone Fire Incident Command Post. Firefighters and local residents have been invited and are expected to attend.

Critical Incident Stress Debrief teams will be on hand to counsel those closest to the victim and the accident to make sure they have an opportunity to work through their grief.

The Forest Service mobilized a serious accident investigation team who is working with the National Transportation Safety Board. The investigation team will be in-briefed at 6pm this afternoon.

Our sincere condolences to all involved.

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