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West Linn grad dies in wildfire

A 2007 West Linn High School graduate is reported as among the 19 firefighters killed by an Arizona wildfire, called the deadliest wildfire involving firefighters in the U.S. in the last 30 years.

John J. Percin Jr., 24, died Sunday along with 18 other members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots near Prescott, Ariz.

According to reports, the wildfire was moving fast and was fueled by dry and hot conditions. On Sunday, winds blew the fire out of control in a forest that is northwest of Phoenix.

In a news conference, Prescott Fire Chief Dan Fraijo said the department is grieving the loss of so many of its members.

The fire was caused by a lightning strike on Friday and covered nearly 2,000 acres on Sunday. Several homes were also lost in the fire.

Fraijo said that the 19 firefighters were a part of the city’s fire department and were an elite crew. The firefighters had reportedly worked other wildfires in recent weeks in New Mexico and Arizona.

According to reports, the firefighters had to deploy emergency shelters, which are tent-like structures that are supposed to shield them.

“One of the last fail safe methods that a firefighter can do under those conditions is literally to dig as much as they can down and cover themselves with a protective — kinda looks like a foil type- fire-resistant material — with the desire, the hope at least, is that the fire will burn over the top of them and they can survive it,” Fraijo said. “Under certain conditions there’s usually only sometimes a 50 percent chance that they survive. It’s an extreme measure that’s taken under the absolute worst conditions.”