Local News

N.C. firefighter dies battling blaze

Posted August 21, 2008 10:15 p.m. EDT
Updated August 22, 2008 5:53 a.m. EDT

— The N.C. Division of Forest Resources said one of its firefighters was killed Thursday fighting a blaze in Polk County.

Curtis Jessen, the division’s assistant district forester in Asheville, suffered critical injuries after falling from the Big Bradley Falls near Saluda, the agency said. He was later pronounced dead.

“This is a very sad day for the entire Division of Forest Resources and  all of our firefighting partners,” said Wib Owen, the division director. “Our thoughts and prayers are with Curtis and his family.”

The accident happened at about 11 a.m. at a quarter-acre wildfire that  began Wednesday afternoon.

Jessen, 32, was working on the fire when he fell from a cliff.

He began working with the N.C. Division of Forest Resources in February 2002. Since then, he had worked as a forest inventory analysis forester and a service forester before being promoted to assistant district forester.

North Carolina has had nine wildfire-related deaths since 1960, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.