Wildland Firefighter Killed Battling Blaze in Idaho

Authorities Monday identified 20-year-old Moscow High School graduate Anne Veseth as the forest service firefighter killed Sunday by a falling tree while battling a blaze at Steep Creek drainage near Orofino.

Veseth was in her second season fighting wildfires for the Nez Perce/Clearwater National Forest and was majoring in auto mechanics at Lewis Clark State College, said Laura Smith, USFS spokeswoman.

Veseth was killed when a tree fell on her, Smith said.

A 2010 MHS graduate, Veseth was an active Bear Buddy in school, assisting struggling elementary students and also served on her student council, Principal Bob Celebrezze said. She graduated magna cum laude with a 3.9 GPA.

She was awarded the Robert R. Lee Promise Scholarship in 2011 through the Idaho Professional-Technical Association while entered in LCSC's Auto Mechanics Technology Program, from which she received an associate's degree in 2012.

In order to receive the scholarship, Veseth had to speak before a luncheon filled with legislators, the governor and state business leaders about her career aspirations.

"She was a good speaker," said Mike Hill, coordinator for LCSC's auto program. "She just had a gift."

In a program consisting mostly of men, Hill said Veseth held her own, and was treasurer for the automotive club on campus.

"We usually average around two (women) a year," he said. "... There was a time when Anne was the only female. ... She, scholastically, was extremely talented, but she was very talented out in the shop as well."

Veseth also spoke fondly of her time fighting wildfires.

"It was something that she liked to do," Hill said. "That was something that she really enjoyed. ... The last thing I told her was have a great summer but be really careful because we all knew how dangerous it was, but she knew."

Veseth was set to receive two scholarships this year to continue her education at LCSC, seeking a bachelor's degree in automotives. Hill said when he learned of her death, he called program instructors and students who knew her.

Veseth has two sisters and a brother and was the youngest child of Claire and Roger Veseth. Her father was the conservation tillage specialist for both Washington State University and the University of Idaho until his death in 2003.

The Clearwater Potlatch Timber Protective Association in Orofino handled suppression of the fire, which Monday was estimated to have burned 43 acres of forest. The USFS was assisting. There were still 1,900 acres of forest in the Powell Ranger District affected and more than 200 acres in the Red River Ranger District as of Monday night.

U.S. Sen. Mike Crapo of Idaho issued a statement Tuesday thanking firefighters for their service and addressing Veseth's death.

"Our firefighters give an all-out effort into the path of danger and sometimes not all of them return," Crapo said. "The tragic death of Moscow resident Anne Veseth reminds us again of the dangerous service and sacrifice these brave men and women make and I join others across Idaho by sending my prayers and condolences to Anne's family, and to all firefighters for their personal safety in stopping these wildfires."

An investigation into Veseth's death is pending.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service