Heather Jane DePaolo, 29, a firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service, was killed July 28 along with co-workers Steven Oustad (the crew's captain) and John Self, when their engine drove off a narrow mountain road in darkness and smoke, and plunged 800 feet down a slope. Two other firefighters in the vehicle were injured. The crew, from the Almanor Ranger District on the Lassen National Forest, had been sent to work at the Stanza fire on the Klamath National Forest.
DePaolo, a native of Buffalo, New York, discovered firefighting a few years after graduating from college. "She fell in love with fire and the West," her brother Jeremy told a reporter from the Record Searchlight, a Redding newspaper. He described his sister as "a remarkable human" with both "brains and an amazing work ethic," who had been at the top of her fire academy class.
DePaolo met her future husband, USFS firefighter Sean Johnny, on a fire; the two were married last year. Both served on the elite Redding Hotshot crew last summer. DePaolo had hoped to teach at the fire academy next year.
The exact cause of the crash is under investigation. A memorial service for the three firefighters was held in Redding on July 30.
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