Thursday, July 3, 2008

Chief Mountain Hot Shots remember MacDonald

There is an excellent article in the Great Falls Tribune about Michael MacDonald, the member of the Chief Mountain Hot Shots who died June 29 in the mid-air collision between two medical helicopters at Flagstaff, AZ. Here is a brief excerpt, but go to the site and read the whole article.
“We’ve had a good string of luck for 17 years, and finally our tragedy has struck,” said St. Goddard, who said firefighting is the seventh-most dangerous job in America, according to statistics he’s seen.

Maurice St. Goddard, a friend of MacDonald’s since sixth grade, remembers working beside him the day before his death, while fighting a huge fire on the edge of the Grand Canyon.

“We were working hard to get a (clear fire) line to the top of the ridge and tie it into another line,” Maurice St. Goddard said. “He really pulled me up — he told me never to quit.”

Maurice St. Goddard said MacDonald drew pictures of horses on his leather gloves and made up a story about how the Blackfeet Tribe had stolen the horses from the Spanish and driven them across the Grand Canyon. The tall tale made his weary crew laugh.

“We were tired, but after we had achieved our objective, (MacDonald) was just skiing down the mountain (on broken rock), having fun, and the firefighters in front of him were trying to get out of his way,” Maurice St. Goddard said.

On the day of MacDonald’s death, the Hot Shots dug more line through the morning, and then managed to take a break for a hot lunch that was flown in.

“I was sitting all alone, and Mike came and joined me,” said Kayla LaPier, the only female on the squad, a basketball cheerleader whom MacDonald recruited to join the Hot Shots crew. “There were flames all over and he said, ‘Sit back and enjoy the show.’”

MacDonald was like a big brother to her, LaPier said.

“He took care of me, and he taught me things I didn’t know,” she said. “He was always there to listen to me and to keep my spirits up.”

“We had dug line all day and cleared brush, then we had lunch and Mike left,” said Jess Racine, with tears running down his face. “After lunch, we jumped a hot spot and knocked it out. Then we got a call, and they told us Mike had been in a helicopter crash.”
The funeral services will be at the Browning High School, 112 1st Ave. SW, Browning, MT July 5 at 2:00 pm.

The lineup for participating fire apparatus will be at noon. Fire agencies wishing to send a vehicle should contact Dustin at 406-450-4273 or Mike at 406-868-8626

Click HERE for a map of the area.

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