Hundreds Bid Farewell to Fallen Wildland Firefighter

Dozens of fire personnel trucks filled the lot outside a large Moscow church on Saturday, and cars dotted the parking along the street in back of it. A fire truck was parked at the front of the lot with its ladder extended and a large American flag flying at the end of it.

As family and friends quietly filed into the church, crews in uniform lined up at the main entrance for a bagpipe processional.

All were gathered to celebrate the life of Anne Veseth, a 20-year-old Clearwater National Forest firefighter who was killed Aug. 12 when she was hit by a falling tree while battling a 50-acre blaze at Steep Creek drainage near Orofino.

Officiants from St. Mary's Catholic Community in Moscow spoke of Veseth as a "role model" for how to live one's life. Nearly every seat in the Church of the Nazarene was filled. Hymns, readings and religious ceremonies made up the first portion of the service.

Veseth was a Level 2 Wildland Firefighter in her second year with the Clearwater National Forest, but she was also seeking a bachelor's degree in automotives at Lewis-Clark State College. She was set to receive two scholarships this year and graduated from Moscow High School with a 3.9 GPA. She was also the second runner-up at Moscow Junior Miss in 2009, where she showed off her newly learned break-dancing skills, which she became known for among family and friends.

Veseth was the youngest of four, with two sisters and one brother, and was preceded in death by her father, Roger, in 2003. Her oldest sister, Rachel Tiegs, spoke toward the end of the service. She said Anne "blazed her own trail."

"Her footprints she left were always in the middle of nowhere, and they were very deep," Rachel said.

Her brother, Brian, also spoke of Veseth's willingness to be different. He said he remembers playing Army with her when they were children, and will always have an image of her sitting in an armchair with basketball shorts on and sporting the aviator sunglasses she loved.

"She was the little brother I never had," Brian Veseth said to laughter from the crowd.

He also told the uniformed members present who worked with Veseth in the field not to feel anything but joy about her time as a firefighter.

"She loved what she did, she loved every minute of it," he said.

The U.S. Forest Service Honor Guard gave its own tribute as well with a flag ceremony and the ringing of a fire bell. They presented the flag to the Veseth family.

"Words cannot express our heartfelt gratitude to all of those who have made this tragedy more bearable," said the Veseth family in a statement. "We want to thank the hundreds of people who sent food, flowers, cards, offers of help and gave us so many hugs and prayers."

An investigation into the accident that caused Veseth's death is pending.

Copyright 2012 - Moscow-Pullman Daily News, Moscow, Idaho

McClatchy-Tribune News Service