Hundreds gather in Albany to honor man who died at wildfire

Hundreds gather in Albany to honor man who died at wildfire »Play Video
Family and friends remembered Jesse Trader at a memorial at West Albany High School on Saturday. (KATU photo)

ALBANY, Ore. – Hundreds gathered at West Albany High School on Saturday to remember Jesse Trader, a 19-year-old water truck driver who died in a crash while fighting a fire in southwest Oregon.

Trader died after his water truck overturned on a rural road's embankment early Tuesday morning outside the Big Windy complex of fires. 

Captain Dan Trader was fighting the fires alongside his nephew, Jesse.

“When I heard the call on the radio… we didn’t know who it was,” said Dan Trader. “Upon arriving at the scene of the accident, I saw my nephew in the truck, departed to heaven.”

“We looked forward to the day when he was coming down … and he was so excited about his future. (He) looked forward to where he was going," Dan Trader said.

Family and friends took turns speaking at Saturday's memorial service, remembering who he was and what he loved. 

“You could count on Jesse,” said family-friend Julie James. “He was always watching out for other people, and he cared. His heart was huge."

Trader graduated from West Albany High School last year. The service was held on the school's football field.

Dozens of people wore Boston Red Sox shirts and hats to the memorial as a tribute to Trader. The Red Sox were his favorite baseball team.

Family and friends said Trader loved baseball, but he loved helping people and firefighting more.

“I think for him, it was more of trying to help people,” said Trader's friend Jordan Rice. “He was always there, always helping people. And I think the greatest achievement for him and his life would be saving someone’s life, which is ironically what he ended up doing.”

Trader’s death came just months after he joined a community college firefighter training program and readied for his first fire season. He had a baseball scholarship to Western Oregon University but chose to enroll at Chemeketa Community College for its fire protection program instead.

“He gave up his biggest dream, which is baseball, to go into firefighting. I would have never thought, but he did it. But he loved it and if he had to go this would definitely be the way he’s want to go,” said Rice.

The service included a fire service Honor Guard. Police and Firefighters joined a processional to Trader’s grave site at Willamette Memorial Park in Millersburg, Ore. for a private service.

Gigi Trader, Jesse's mother, told the Albany Democrat-Herald that the brakes on her son's truck failed and he crashed when he tried to avoid hitting other trucks on the logging road.

Trader is the second crew member killed this wildfire season in Oregon, and the 29th nationally. He leaves behind two younger siblings and his parents.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.