The Yuma firefighter who died near Sells, Ariz., Friday morning has been identified as 31-year-old Anthony Polk.
Polk was a fire operations and fuels technician for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs at the Fort Yuma Agency. He was a wildland fire engine boss during his final assignment.
He died when his wildland fire engine rolled over in rough terrain at 8 a.m. Friday as he and his crew were traveling along Federal Route 19 to battle the Montezuma Fire, located 20 miles southeast of Sells, Ariz. The Montezuma Fire is on the Baboquivari Mountain Range in the Tohono O’odham Nation west of Tucson.
Two other firefighters, including 29-year-old Andy Rosales of Yuma, sustained minor injuries during the incident.
In honor of Polk, Gov. Jan Brewer ordered all state flags flown at half-staff until sunset June 16. Polk’s body was returned to Yuma on Saturday.
Other firefighters in the area responded and provided medical assistance, as did the Tohono O’odham Police Department. The injured firefighters were taken by ambulance to the Sells Hospital.
Both Rosales and the second injured man, 25-year-old John Villicana, were treated and released.
An ongoing investigation is being conducted by the Tohono O’odham Police Department.
“On behalf of the firefighters and support personnel at the Montezuma Fire, we all extend our deepest condolences to Anthony’s family, friends and his home unit, Fort Yuma Agency,” said Jonetta Trued, the public information officer assigned to the Montezuma Fire.
Polk once called on the public to remember a fellow firefighter who died during a midair collision near Flagstaff in June 2008.
“The thoughts and prayers of my loved ones and I go out to the family, friends, and crewmembers of Michael MacDonald,” Polk said at the time. “Stand strong and keep his memory alive. He will always be with you in spirit.”
“We mourn the loss of the first wildland firefighter killed in Arizona this season,” Brewer said Saturday.
“In Arizona, spring and summer mean wildfire. We count on the brave men and women who come to our state from all over the country in order to fight these fires. These are men and women who endure the long hours, difficult conditions and — of course — the danger. Best of all, they do it in order to protect the lives and property of people they have never met and likely never will.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.