Park County welcomed Tim Hart home on Sunday, with American flags posted at major intersections and people lining the streets of Cody. Hart, a firefighter with the West Yellowstone Smokejumpers and …
Park County welcomed Tim Hart home on Sunday, with American flags posted at major intersections and people lining the streets of Cody. Hart, a firefighter with the West Yellowstone Smokejumpers and Cody resident, died from injuries sustained while fighting a wildland fire in New Mexico last month.
His flag-draped coffin was received on the tarmac at Yellowstone Regional Airport, his wife Michelle escorting him in the ceremony.
“It was a very somber event,” said Shoshone National Forest spokesperson Kristie Salzmann.
Afterwards, in a show of respect for the fallen firefighter, hundreds of forest personnel and first responders from across the Big Horn Basin and bordering states escorted the hearse carrying Hart’s body. Fire trucks, patrol cars and other vehicles formed a long line from the airport to Ballard Funeral Home.
Hart was parachuting into the Eicks Fire on May 24 when he suffered a hard landing, according to Wyoming Hotshot fireman Steve Nicholson, Hart’s long-time hunting buddy.
“No one really knows for sure what happened,” Nicholson said.
Hart’s teammates immediately knew the seasoned firefighter was in trouble as he landed in a rocky area; emergency rescue teams were called in to transport him to a hospital in El Paso, Texas in critical condition.
He died Wednesday at the age of 36.
“Our hearts go out to Tim’s family, loved ones, friends, fellow Forest Service employees, and the entire wildland fire community,” Forest Service Chief Vicki Christiansen said Thursday in mourning Hart’s death, “and I ask that you keep them in your thoughts and prayers during this time of sorrow while respecting the family’s privacy.”
Hart began his career In 2006 in the Coconino National Forest and then the Fremont-Winema National Forest as an engine crew member, according to a press release from the Forest Service. In 2009 he joined the Shoshone National Forest as a lead forestry technician. A year later he was detailed to the Asheville Interagency Hotshot Crew as a lead firefighter.
Hart then worked for the Bureau of Land Management on the Ruby Mountain Hotshot Crew before joining the smokejumper program in 2016 and relocating to Grangeville, Idaho as a rookie. In 2019 he was a smokejumper squad leader with the West Yellowstone group and in 2020 he was promoted to spotter.
Nicholson described Hart “as tough as they come.”
Gov. Mark Gordon has ordered both the U.S. and Wyoming state flags to be flown at half-staff statewide from sunrise to sunset on Friday in honor and memory of the wildland firefighter.
“Jennie and I send our deepest condolences to Tim’s family,” Gordon said Monday. “We acknowledge the commitment of the men and women who fight fires wherever they are needed around the country, and we pray tragedies such as this one never occur.”
He said the loss of a firefighter impacts the entire community of firefighters and first responders, along with the community in which they live.
“Wyoming grieves the loss of this fine individual and we are grateful for his service to the state and our country,” Gordon said.
Nick Spencer and his wife Mary waved the Stars and Stripes on 17th Street as the procession of dozens of official vehicles from around the area passed.
“I’m out here to honor his sacrifice,” the Marine Corp veteran said, adding, “I’m absolutely heartbroken for his family and thankful for what he has done for us.”
The West Yellowstone Smokejumpers Welfare Fund created a GoFundMe page on Hart’s behalf. As of Monday, the effort had raised more than $114,000 toward a goal of $150,000. To donate visit: www.gofundme.com/f/support-smokejumper-tim-hart-his-family.
In a statement, Hart’s family thanked the Cody community for the respect and support shown during Sunday’s homecoming procession. Memorial services will be held at the Cody High School football field at 11 a.m. Saturday.