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Ron Neely ( North Cascades 1974 )

posted: Jan 1, 2002

Ron Neely,Okanogan Assistant Fire Management Officer for the Conconully Ranger District, Okanogan National Forest,had battled and defeated many forest fires during his career with the Forest Service. But the tables turned July 27 (1977) when heat and smoke from the Gibson Creek forest fire overcame the 28-year old Okanogan man as he tried to escape the racing flames. Ron was cut off from the others when the fire,fanned by high,erratic winds,exploded in an area of dry fuel and steep terrain. He died from asphysiation within minutes after his last transmission about 3 p.m. that fateful Wednesday. Ron led the initial attack force on the fire,and had left his crew to scout the blaze. The fire exploded so quickly, cutting off his escape route,that even with warning from the lookout,he did not have time to escape...Ron left behind a wife, Patti, and two sons, Brian age four and Adam age two days. ..Footnote: Cpl. Adam Neely was killed April 8, 2000, when the Osprey MV-22 he was flying in crashed; he was 22, leaving behind a wife of seven months and an unborn son (Adam Neely II was born 09/26/00).Eighteen other Marines died in that crash. The MV-22 was conducting a training mission in support of Operational Evaluation (OPEVAL) when it went down near Marana, Ariz. During the mission, the crew and Marines conducted non-combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO) exercises as part of the Weapons and Tactics Instructor Course,with Marines embarking and disembarking the aircraft. The mission was conducted at night utilizing night vision goggles and forward-looking infrared radar to enhance night operational capability...Addt'l Footnote: Summer 2002.In cooperation between the Forest Service and.the Washington State Department of Fish and.Wildlife, a Kiosk memorial is being installed.at Fish Lake. Additionally the Kiosk will be a.part of a self guided educational tour on Fire.Ecology in dry site forests...Dale Swedberg, Manager.Sinlahekin Wildlife Area.P.O. Box C.1680 Sinlahekin Road.Loomis, WA 98827.509.223.3358