Missing firefighter found alive on remote road

2014-07-28T16:02:00Z 2014-07-29T07:40:06Z Missing firefighter found alive on remote roadMissoulian The Billings Gazette
July 28, 2014 4:02 pm  • 

DARBY – A Bitterroot National Forest firefighter missing since Sunday afternoon was found alive Monday afternoon by search crews.

Justin Wall, 30, was found walking along Skalkaho Rye Road, a remote U.S. Forest Service road that connects Rye Creek Road to the Skalkaho Highway in the Sapphire Mountains. The road is several miles from the fire Wall was hiking to Sunday.

According to Bitterroot Forest public affairs officer Tod McKay, Wall was transported to Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital and is listed in stable condition. The investigation into how he went missing is ongoing.

“From what I understand, he told searchers he was really hungry,” McKay said.

Wall was part of an eight-person Bitterroot Forest hand crew based out of Darby. This is fourth summer he has been a firefighter for the Bitterroot Forest, McKay said.

On Saturday, Wall helped mark a trail to the one-acre lightning-sparked Weasel fire on the border of Ravalli County and Beaverhead County near Signal Rock. The crew contained the fire that day and on Sunday returned to perform mop-up duty.

“(Wall) was going in with the rest of the crew and got separated,” McKay said. “Apparently, he was lagging behind. The incident commander went back and (Wall) told him ‘I’m having problems with my boot, I’ll catch up.’ So the incident commander went and caught up with the rest of the crew. They thought he would arrive and he never did. They worked for a few minutes, realized he wasn’t as close behind as they thought and went back to look for him. They had a little bit of radio contact with him, but never could locate him. They looked for more than an hour and let dispatch know.”

The effort to locate Wall was led by Ravalli County Search and Rescue and involved multiple aircraft and more than 50 searchers. They were assisted by the Bitterroot National Forest, the Ravalli County Sheriff’s Office, the Beaverhead-Deerlodge National Forest and the Granite County Search and Rescue team.

The area where Wall went missing is in very rugged and steep terrain, McKay said.

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