U.S. Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman issued the following statement regarding the loss of four Forest Service firefighters and the injuries suffered by others last evening while fighting a forest fire on the Okanogan National Forest in Washington state. Forest Service Chief Dale Bosworth will travel today to the Okanogan to offer condolences to the families.
"We are all deeply saddened by the tragedy suffered by these firefighters last evening. Our heartfelt sympathies and prayers are with their families, friends, and co-workers during this very difficult time.
"This country owes a debt of gratitude and much respect to these brave firefighters who gave their own lives to protect their fellow citizens, communities and natural resources.
"In their honor, USDA will fly its flags at half mast, reflecting the extreme sacrifice of these firefighters. We all feel the terrible loss of this tragedy."