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MINERAL WELLS, Texas — A firefighting Hotshot crew based out of Salt Lake City is on its way home from Texas after one of its members collapsed in the 105-degree heat while working on the fire line and died on the way to the hospital.
Caleb Hamm, of Boise, Idaho, was a member of the Bureau of Land Management’s Bonneville Interagency Hotshot crew. And while it was his first year as a wildland firefighter, the 24-year-old did have six years of firefighting experience under his belt.
Hamm had been in the field with the Bonneville Hotshots fighting wildland fires for nearly two weeks before he died. The crew started in Georgia but has been fighting the 337 Fire near Mineral Wells, Texas, for the past week.
According to the BLM, Hamm was on the front lines of that fire Thursday when he collapsed in the 105-degree heat. He died while being flown to a local hospital.
“They’re all still pretty much in shock,” Mitch Snow, director of external affairs for the BLM in Utah said. “They can’t believe it.”
Snow has been working with the Hotshot crew in Texas since Thursday when his office was notified of Hamm's death. He said the members of the Bonneville Hotshot crew are having a tough time processing what happened to their fellow firefighter. He said this group of firefighters is very close.
“Hotshot teams, because they work together as a team throughout the season, are very, very close- knit,” he said. “They are used to working together, and to lose a member of your team is a very serious thing.”
The standard operating procedure is to bring the crew home when something like this happens. The crew is expected to arrive in Utah sometime Friday afternoon.
A memorial service for Hamm was held Friday at Mineral Wells High School. Those in attendance included firefighters working the fire, local volunteers, law enforcement, as well as members of the community.
The memorial service was a tribute to Hamm's service and ultimate sacrifice. It included words from a local chaplain, poems, and the song "Amazing Grace" played on the bagpipes. The final call for Hamm was then made by a member of the local county sheriff's office.