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Crash of water truck on Bear Camp Road killed 19-year-old driver

 Posted: 4:50 PM August 06, 2013

A 19-year-old water truck driver was killed early this morning on the Big Windy Complex fire after his vehicle went off Bear Camp Road, a mountainous route linking the Rogue Valley with the coast.

Josephine County Sheriff Gil Gilbertson said driver Jesse A. Trader died when the truck rolled over an embankment at milepost 10.

The driver had spent all night on the fire and was en route to hand off the truck keys to a replacement driver when the accident occurred, Gilbertson said.

Firefighters in vehicles immediately behind Trader stopped to help the injured driver, the sheriff said.

An advanced life support ambulance arrived within minutes and life flight was quickly launched but efforts to save the driver were unsuccessful, Gilbertson said.

Cause of the accident, which happened around 7:20 a.m. near Soldier Camp, is under investigation.

Owned by Ace Earthmoving, the truck was being utilized by County Fire, a private fire suppression company in the Merlin area. The firm had been contracted to help fight the fire.

Trader is the second fire crew member killed in Oregon this wildfire season. On Thursday, John Hammack, 58, was killed when a tree he was cutting down fell on him in a fire in the Deschutes National Forest.

The Bear Camp Road road is 50 miles of twisting, narrow highway linking Galice and Agness. As the shortest route from the Rogue Valley to the coast, the route is heavily used by recreationists and as a shuttle route by those floating the whitewater on the Wild and Scenic stretch of the Rogue River during the summer.

The road has been closed to the public for the past week as firefighters use it to battle the 10,000-acre plus Big Windy fire. The road is being used as a fire line to stop the fire from spreading south.

About 37 miles of the road lies within national forest boundaries. Another 12 miles is on the U.S. Bureau of Land Management's Medford District.

The mountainous route is closed during the winter because of snow. The road is not maintained between Nov. 5 and Memorial Day weekend.

— Paul Fattig

Correction: The headline has been corrected to show the correct name of the road.

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