Fallen Central Oregon firefighter to be memorialized

By Dylan J. Darling The Bulletin

A Central Oregon firefighter who died while fighting a wildfire near Sisters last year is among five additions to the Oregon Fallen Firefighter Memorial.

John Earl Hammack, who died at age 58, and four others are set to be added Sept. 18 to the memorial at the Oregon Public Safety Academy in Salem. Hammack, who lived on a ranch near Culver, was one of three firefighters who died while battling wildfires last year around the state. The other two additions are past firefighter deaths that recently came to the attention of the officials who oversee the memorial.

The Oregon Board on Public Safety Standards and Training voted unanimously to approve the additions Thursday. The five will join the names of 163 firefighters already on the memorial, which honors structure, airport and wildland firefighters.

“That’s quite an honor,” Kelli Jo Hammack, John Hammack’s 36-year-old daughter, who lives in Redmond, said after hearing word of her father’s addition to the memorial. He is also survived by his wife, Maura Hammack, and son, John Tyler Hammack.

The names of the firefighters will be etched onto a black granite wall at the memorial, said Eriks Gabliks, director of the Public Safety Standards and Training Department. Established nine years ago, the memorial has names of firefighters who have died while on duty in Oregon going back to the 1800s.

“The goal of that memorial is to honor all fallen (Oregon) firefighters,” he said.

Hammack died Aug. 1, 2013, when the top of a snag fell and hit him. A longtime logger , Hammack was working as a contract sawyer with the U.S. Forest Service and was cutting down trees that could pose a risk to firefighters at a small lightning-sparked blaze.

The memorial isn’t the first honor this year for Hammack.

Raised in Sisters, Hammack rode as a cowboy in the Sisters Rodeo. After his riding days were done, he served as the bucking chute boss.

This June, the rodeo awarded buckles with Hammack’s name inscribed on them to winners in the bareback riding competition.

Other additions to the memorial will be:

• Jesse Trader, 19, of Albany, who died Aug. 6, 2013, when a water tender he was driving rolled during the Big Windy Complex Fire in Josephine County. He was a volunteer firefighter with County Fire and Security, a private firefighting company in Merlin.

• Oscar Montano-Garcia, 54, of Central Point, died Aug. 25, 2013, of a heart attack while on a lunch break from fighting the Nabob Fire in Northern California on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest near the Oregon-California border. He was a contract wildland firefighter with Pacific Coast Contractors, based in Medford.

• Tony Chapin, 19, of Willamina, died Sept. 25, 1998, from injuries suffered the day before in a car wreck while en route to a required paramedic class in Portland. He was a member of the Willamina Fire Department, now known as the West Valley Fire District.

• Melvin Claude Richardson, 18, died Sept. 6, 1935, when a burning snag fell on him during the McKenzie Bridge Fire on the Willamette National Forest. Richardson was among 40 National Guard members who were recruited to fight the blaze.

— Reporter: 541-617-7812, ddarling@bendbulletin.com

The Bulletin file photo Hammack in 1981