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Smoke Jumper Dies Fighting Lightning-sparked Fire

MODOC COUNTY–

During a wildfire, you can see the flames, you see the chopper, but what you don’t see are the smoke jumpers — the guys who parachute in to try and stop a fire in it’s tracks.

One of those smoke jumpers, Luke Sheehy of the Redding based “California Smokejumpers” was killed Monday when a tree limb fell from 60 feet up, fatally hitting him in the head. Sheehy and the other smoke jumpers were responding to a lightning strike fire in Modoc County, one of hundreds that started across California following an intense series of thunderstorms.

Sheehy’s close friend and Cal Fire Battalion Chief Aaron Burrough says Sheehy loved what he did and was excited about Monday’s fire fight.

“I got the text messages on my phone as he was taxiing down the runway of how excited he was to go and an hour later, I’m hearing rescue aircraft going in after him,” Borrugh said.

Burrough said he knew the call for backup wasn’t going to end well, “And I said, Luke was on that load, I instantly knew. It’s a sick feeling.”

Despite the danger of jump after jump in dense, smoky, flaming forest, the U.S. Forest Service smoke jumpers are rarely killed or injured in fire fights.

“The hardest part to deal with is something so simple was able to end it for him. It’s simple and random and that’s why it’s hard to take,” Burrough said.