LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES
Firefighters Killed Returning from Idaho Blaze
Aired August 25, 2003 - 19:23 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, ANCHOR: Amazing images. Fire crews in Oregon are struggling to keep two wildfires from hundreds of homes and resort communities in the Cascades.
The Booth Fire west of Sisters is 20 percent contained after growing to nearly 31,000 acres. The Bear Butte fire to the north has charred more than 5,000 acres. And together the two blazes are known as the B&B Complex.
And firefighters trying to contain the Oregon blazes are mourning the deaths of eight co-workers after a highway tragedy.
Rusty Dornin tells of the horror yesterday at a bend in an east Oregon road.
RUSTY DORNIN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): They were going home, eight Oregon firefighters on the road in a cargo van after nearly two weeks of battling a 7,000-acre blaze in Idaho.
The weather was clear and bright. But there was a blind curve and a tractor-trailer coming from the other direction.
UNDERSHERIFF BRIAN WOLFE, MALHEUR COUNTY: It appears as if the van was passing another vehicle and the two vehicles then collided.
DORNIN: They were killed instantly, all eight, ranging in age from 19 to 38. They work hear at First Strike Environmental, a private company that hires people to fight wildland fires.
BOB KREUGER, PRESIDENT, FIRST STRIKE ENVIRONMENTAL: I knew them all. I knew them all. Attend almost all the classes and Judy attends most of the classes. She's our safety and health and our workman's comp. We all know each other here.
KEN SMITH, FIREFIGHTER: Absolute shock.
DORNIN: For ken Smith, a life-long friendship ended when his buddy Jeff Hingle (ph) was killed. Hingle was a chef but had worked two summers as a firefighter.
At 6'10", he was known as the gentle giant.
SMITH: He was the greatest. He was always there.
DORNIN: Fire officials fear fatigue might have contributed to recent fatal highway accidents killing firefighters.
Last year five Oregon firefighters were killed in a crash while traveling to a fire in Colorado, which led to stricter regulations for firefighters driving to and from wildfires.
But company officials say these firefighters quit the fire lines at 9 p.m. Saturday night, didn't leave until Sunday morning and when they came to the curve in Vail, Oregon, they'd been on the road for less than three hours.
Rusty Dornin, CNN, San Francisco.
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