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U.S. Memorializes Four Firefighters

July 12, 2002

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WINTHROP, Wash. (AP) _ One year after a wildfire claimed the lives of four firefighters, the U.S. Forest Service on Thursday dedicated a memorial to them in the river canyon where they died.

The etched stone portraits of Tom Craven, Devin Weaver, Jessica Johnson and Karen FitzPatrick are framed by a rock wall. Small bronze markers on a steep rock slope mark the spots where each body was found.

``Let me assure you, the Forest Service and the entire wildland firefighting community have been working hard to learn what lessons we can from what happened at Thirty Mile,″ Joel Holtrop, a Forest Service deputy chief, told nearly 200 people at the dedication ceremony Thursday.

``May this memorial be a place of remembrance, a place of healing.″

The 10,000-acre Thirty Mile fire was started by an abandoned campfire in the Okanogan National Forest.

On July 10, 2001, the fire exploded, trapping 14 Forest Service firefighters and two campers in the narrow canyon. Craven, Weaver, Johnson and FitzPatrick died in their emergency fire shelters.

Virginia Craven said she hopes the memorial will remind people that her son paid for someone’s carelessness with his life.

``I’m hoping there is enough information that when people go out camping in the woods, they will be a little more careful and put out their campfires,″ she said. ``I hope something good comes of this, so he didn’t die in vain.″

A Forest Service investigation showed the deaths had been preventable, and that fire bosses broke every basic rule of firefighting safety and ignored most of the warning signs of danger.