BOISE -- A Boise BLM smokejumper died on Friday, in a parachuting accident near the town of Prairie. The National Interagency Fire Center said it was related to some sort of failure with his parachute system, but they don't yet know exactly what the problem was.
40-year-old Mark Urban of Boise worked at the Great Basin Smokejumper Base in Boise. The accident was reported near Prairie, about 45 miles east of Boise.
Don Smurthwaite, a National Interagency Fire Center spokesperson, said the accident happened when Urban was doing a proficiency jump. If wildland firefighters are not out parachuting on fires, smokejumpers have to complete proficiency jumps every couple of weeks.
NIFC officials said Urban was a senior member of the crew, and folks at the Boise BLM base are heavyhearted over the loss.
"It's just devastating," said Smurthwaite. "They're all friends. Mr. Urban had jumped here for ten years so he was one of the leaders of the crew in terms of training people and just being somebody who could be counted on. So this is tragic and devastating."
Smurthwaite said a serious accident investigation team will be looking into the accident, and some will be here as early as Saturday.
"We can't rule out anything right now, we just have to look at all the evidence, find out what happened," he said. "We'll go through his gear. It'll be going through the whole thing with a fine-tooth comb and we'll find out what happened. Our interest is finding out what happened so that we can prevent it from happening again."
Urban is the 33rd wildland firefighter lost in the line of duty this year in the United States.
"It's just been a real tough year," Smurthwaite said. "The fire season this year wasn't really remarkable in terms of the number of acres across the United States that burned, but in other ways, terrific terrible fires that burned homes and burned into communities and of course fire line deaths."
This is the worst year for firefighting fatalities since 1994 when 34 people were lost.