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Incident Name: Freeman Reservoir Recreation Area hazard tree remopval training, Medicine Bow-Routt NF
Date: June 26, 2009, 1630 hrs
Personnel: Brett Michael Stearns
Age: 29
Agency/Organization: Bureau of Land Management - Little Snake Field Office
Position: Engine Captain, Firefighter

Summary: On June 26, 2009 while working at Freeman Reservoir Recreation Area, Medicine Bow-Routt NF on a hazard tree removal project, training with a dozen other BLM firefighters, Captain Brett Stearns was struck by a hazard tree in the head and back. Brett was treated at the scene and eventually pronounced dead by an emergency room physician through radio communications.

Captain Brett Stearns Captain Brett Stearns
Brett Stearns Brett Stearns

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Maps

Accident Location (near Craig, CO)

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • BLM firefighter hit by tree near Craig, dies

    By Annette Espinoza, The Denver Post | Article no longer online
    06/27/2009 11:46:00 AM MDT

    A firefighter with the Bureau of Land Managementdied Friday after a tree fell on him.

    Brett Stearns, 29, of Craig was working on a hazard tree abatement project with a dozen other BLM firefighters at Freeman Reservoir, about 15 miles northeast of Craig, when the accident happened around 4:30 p.m. Stearns died at the scene.

    Stearns was an engine captain and worked in the BLM's Little Snake Field Office for 10 years.

    "He dedicated his life to protecting the lives and property of the public," said Little Snake Field manager, John Husband.

    The accident is being investigated by a federal accident investigation team, Husband added.

    Stearns is survived by his wife; parents, one brother and a half sister.

  • June 30 Obituary Brett Michael Stearns, Craig, Colorado

    Brett Michael Stearns was born in Craig, Colorado, to Michael R and Julie K Stearns. Brett was a multifaceted individual, who enjoyed the outdoors and had a lifelong love of learning. Brett, an avid traveler to many parts of the world, met Joy Bowen on a trip to England, and they were married two years later. Brett was a quiet, gentle but strong person who loved to read and learn.

    A wildland firefighter and engine captain for BLM, he died in the line of duty in the Freeman Reservoir area in northwestern Colorado. Because of his kindness and love for others, he will be greatly missed by all who knew him.

    Brett is survived by his wife Joy Bowen Stearns, her parents, N. Cacey and Carol Bowen, Brett's father, Michael R Stearns, both of Craig, Colorado; his mother Mrs. Julie (Ken) Harris, Hayden, Colorado; brother Brad Stearns of Roosevelt, Utah; sister, Kylie Harris, of Hayden, Colorado; grandparents, and his great-grandmother. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to Colorado Northwestern Community College for a scholarship fund. Published in Salt Lake Tribune on June 30, 2009

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • IN MEMORIAM

    Engine Captain Brett Stearns

    Bureau of Land Management

    Died June 26, 2009, 1630 hrs, Craig CO

    BLM Firefighter Brett Stearns to Be Remembered

  • Comments from his coworkers:
    • John Husband, BLM Little Snake Field Office manager, said,

      "Brett was a brave public servant. On behalf of the Little Snake Field Office and the Northwest Colorado Interagency Fire Management Unit, I offer my condolences to the family and friends of Brett Stearns. He dedicated his life to protecting the lives and property of the public. Firefighting is a dangerous profession, and firefighter safety is the number one priority on fires and projects such as this.”

    • Lynn Barclay, a BLM fire mitigation/education specialist with the Little Snake Field Office said,

      "He was a leader. People looked up to him. He had the capability to inspire people, all those around him, to go the distance and do their best. He was a wonderful person, a really kind and caring person. He was someone that is well respected and held in high regard by his peers, and not just locally, but across the country.

      Stearns’ death has been hard on fellow firefighters and BLM officials. The fire community is a family. We’re tight-knit, close. It’s hit everyone very hard, but people are banding together and supporting the Stearns family and looking at how we can best remember Brett and honor him."

  • Flags to fly at half staff:

    OFFICE OF GOVERNOR BILL RITTER, JR

    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

    TUESDAY, JUNE 30, 2009

    CONTACTS: Evan Dreyer, 720.350.xxxx, evan.dreyer@ nospam state.co.us | Craig Bannister, 303.866.xxxx, craig.bannister@ nospam state.co.us

    GOV. RITTER ORDERS FLAGS LOWERED IN HONOR OF CAPT. BRETT STEARNS

    Gov. Bill Ritter has ordered all U.S. and Colorado flags lowered to half-staff on state and federal buildings in Colorado on Wednesday, July 1, 2009, in honor of Bureau of Land Management Fire Capt. Brett Stearns, 29.

  • Fallen firefighter Brett Stearns honored by family, community

    July 2, 2009 | Online Article

    The Craig (Colo.) Daily Press covered the Mormon funeral for firefighter Brett Stearns, a captain with the Northwest Colorado Interagen­cy Fire Management Unit.

    A crowd of 600 to 700 people gathered around a small burial site Wednesday afternoon at Craig Cemetery, while the guttural sound of bagpipes and the wailing of sirens in mourning rang out. The graveside ceremony followed a church funeral service.

    Men and women, many teary-eyed but standing straight and proud, gathered to honor their fallen comrade, who died Friday while working with 12 of his colleagues to remove a hazardous tree.

  • Fallen firefighter honored by family, community

    July 2, 2009

    [photo] Color guard officers for the Bureau of Land Management honor Brett Stearns, a captain with the Northwest Colorado Interagency Fire Management Unit, during Stearns' funeral Wednesday at Craig Cemetery. Gov. Bill Ritter ordered flags to be lowered to half-staff Wednesday in Stearns' memory.

    Craig — A crowd of 600 to 700 people gathered around a small burial site Wednesday afternoon at Craig Cemetery, while the guttural sound of bagpipes and the wailing of sirens in mourning rang out.

    Minutes later, a procession of hundreds of firefighters from across the region filed into the cemetery, all donning their units' colors.

    Men and women, many teary-eyed but standing straight and proud, gathered to honor their fallen comrade... (More at the link.)

  • John E. Husband: Thanks to community for help with loss

    July 8, 2009

  • From the family of Brett Stearns: Thanks for support

    July 14, 2009

  • Firefighter event to benefit scholarship in honor of Brett Stearns

    Memorial Fundraiser and info about the scholarship

    What: Memorial fundraiser for Bureau of Land Management firefighter Brett Stearns

    When: 7 p.m. today, September 26, 2009

    Where: Old Town Pub in Steamboat Springs, 600 Lincoln Ave.

  • 2010 Fallen Firefighters Week October, 2010

    Online Article (with photos)

    The Bureau of Land Management National Fire Honor Guard annually participates in the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend at Emmitsburg, Maryland. Each October, thousands of surviving family members – children, spouses, parents, siblings and more – gather along with Honor Guards and others to honor those firefighters who lost their lives in the line of duty during the previous year. This year’s ceremony, held at the National Fallen Firefighters Monument on the grounds of the National Emergency Training Center, was particularly meaningful for BLM Honor Guard members who honored friend and colleague Brett Stearns, engine captain for Colorado’s Little Snake Field Office. Stearns lost his life when he was struck by a falling tree during a hazard reduction project near Craig, Colorado in 2009.

  • 2nd Annual walk/run to honor fallen BLM firefighter

    May 2 2011 | Online Article

  • USFA Memorial Website: Brett Michael Stearns

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Contributors to this article: Andrew Shuman, Mellie, his family, friends and co-workers

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