A memorial service was made for U.S. Forest Service firefighter Brent Michael, aged 29, last Thursday, Aug. 10. He was described by many as a focused man who was a companion to everyone even strangers. He was remembered to have continued his family’s legacy in servicing the public.
Witham’s sister described him as once a “skinny kid with messed-up teeth.” She also told stories about how he used to make her his sidekick while dressing up as an Army soldier.
“He transformed into this hardworking, take-charge, get-it-done type of guy” who was a strong and confident man, Jannelle Giordano reportedly said. “I admired everything about him, and I still do.”
Witham hailed from Mentone, Australia and was a graduate of Redlands Valley High last 2006. He succumbed to injuries last August 2 after a tree fell on him as his crew tried to battle the Lolo Peak fire in Montana.
The fallen hero’s body was delivered to San Bernardino County last Monday with a procession. His family said Witham asked his mother to not worry about him even though everyone knew the job he took was dangerous.
The 20-member forest service firefighter crew Witham belonged to are highly trained to tackle forest fires and other environmental hazards in their area.
“I cannot thank you enough for having the courage to pursue something worth doing,” said Forest Service Chief Thomas L. Tidwell.
The memorial was organized to seat at least 1500 attendees from within and around Mentone. It was done at the National Orange Show Events Center in San Bernardino. Most seats were filled by mostly firefighters from different crews and areas.
Other notable individuals who attended the service were Glenn Barley and John Hawkins, chiefs of the Cal Fire San Bernardino and Riverside counties units, respectively; Cal Fire Chief Ken Pimlott; San Bernardino County Sheriff John McMahon; San Bernardino County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig; and San Bernardino County Supervisor James Ramos.
The memorial was ended with the Forest Service tradition of ringing a bell to signify Witham’s return to his beloved home.
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