A Winema Interagency Hotshot Injured on the Freezeout Ridge Fire

Contact(s): Erica Hupp (541) 883-6715; Lisa Swinney (541) 947-6261

BAKER CITY, OREGON –Sunday evening, Sept. 21 veteran firefighter Richard (Wally) Ochoa Jr, 51, was struck by a snag while brushing fire line on the Freezeout Ridge Fire in the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area (HCNRA).

Ochoa, a member of the Winema Interagency Hotshot Crew (IHC) suffered a fractured skull, two broken arms, a broken jaw, and a broken thumb, as well as numerous lacerations. No significant spine injury occurred.

Winema IHC crewmembers and other adjacent fire personnel began immediate first aid treatment while others worked to clear an area for helicopter transport to a hospital in Boise. Ochoa is currently in ICU and listed in stable condition. Family and several crew members are with him.

John Kidd, Incident Commander for the Freezeout Ridge Fire, credited those on scene for their swift actions and reliance on emergency response training and medical evacuation protocols. “I, along with the members of my staff, am grateful for those who assisted Mr. Ochoa by providing timely and appropriate care. The coordination and professional actions of our firefighters, both on the ground and flying overhead, very likely reduced the potential magnitude of his injuries,” said Kidd.

“Firefighter safety and well-being is priority number one,” said Wallowa-Whitman Deputy Forest Supervisor Tom Montoya. A team of specialists has arrived on the incident to assist the Winema IHC as they deal with the impacts of the injury to their friend and coworker. 

The Winema Hotshots are based on the Fremont-Winema National Forest in Oregon. Forest Supervisor Connie Cummins said, “Our thoughts and prayers are with Wally Ochoa and his family throughout his recovery.  We will continue to provide support to Wally’s family, as well as to all employees affected.” 

The accident occurred on the northeast portion of the Freezout Ridge Fire which began Sept. 6, 2014. The fire began on the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest due east of Granite Mountain and spread east to the Nez Perce National Forest. Though the accident occurred on the Nez Perce National Forest south of Dog Creek, the incident is being managed by the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest who oversees management of the Hells Canyon National Recreation Area. The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Currently the Freezeout Ridge Fire is approximately 3,500 acres. For more information on the fire please visit InciWeb at: