Oregon Firefighter Dies on Break During Wildfire Fight

By JEFF BARNARD | August 1, 2014

An Oregon firefighter died in a fall while on a break from battling a wildfire in the southern Cascade Range, officials said.

Matthew David Goodnature, 21, of Phoenix, Oregon, was dead when another firefighter found him Tuesday evening near Four Mile Lake in Fremont-Winema National Forest, Klamath County Sheriff Frank Skrah said.

Goodnature had walked away from fire camp while on the break and apparently lost his balance climbing over a rock before falling backward over a downed log and breaking his back, Skrah said.

The death was the first of a wildland firefighter in Oregon this season and the seventh nationwide, National Interagency Fire Center spokesman Mike Ferris said.

One of the others was killed in a plane crash, and five died in medical emergencies such as heart attacks.

The center website lists three firefighters who died in Oregon last year, one from a falling tree, another in a truck wreck, and another from a medical emergency.

Goodnature was working the Launch Fire burning in lodgepole pines on the edge of Sky Lakes Wilderness. The blaze has blackened about 100 acres and is considered to be human-caused, fire spokesman Kevin Abel said.

A total of 12 large fires were burning in Oregon across 755 square miles of timber and range mostly east of the Cascades.

The coordination center in Portland said eight were at least 50 percent contained. But hot dry weather and more lighting were forecast through the end of the week, particularly east of the Cascade Range, which could spark more fires in coming days.

The prospect prompted Oregon fire officials to revise their estimate of containment on the Reeves Creek fire, 15 miles southwest of Grants Pass, from 90 percent to 50 percent. Crews have fire line and hoses stretched around the 232-acre perimeter but were worried that weather could cause a flare up, spokesman Brian Ballou said.

That fire threatened seven homes, but none have been lost.

Firefighters have fully contained the Shaniko Butte fire after it burned 66 square miles of grass and brush 15 miles north of Warm Springs. The Center fire was also contained after burning four square miles of timber and grass about 25 miles southeast of Prineville.

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