Remembering Smokejumper and Cody Resident Tim Hart (1984-2021)
Written by Andrew-Rossi on June 12, 2021
It was a solemn memorial for wildland firefighter Tim Hart, as Saturday’s service in Cody celebrated the spirit that made him “a consummate smokejumper.”
Hundreds of people gathered at the Spike Vannoy Football Field at Cody High School for the memorial of Tim David Hart. A Cody resident, Hart died of injuries sustained while fighting the Eicks Fire in southern New Mexico on June 2.
Amongst the assembled crowd were Hart’s family and friends, fellow rookies from the smokejumper program, and dozens of personnel from the United States Forest Service and other agencies.
The memorial was an emotional celebration of Hart’s life of service and sacrifice and his commitment to wildland firefighting and smokejumping.
At 11 a.m., an antique fire truck carrying Hart’s casket – draped in an American flag – arrived at the field. Forest rangers in dress uniform carried Hart to the stage for the memorial.
Mike Blinn, Grangeville Smokejumper Base Manager, opened the ceremony. He described Hart as an “experienced rookie” from the very beginning- a gamble that paid off well.
“Tim was gold,” Blinn said with pride.
The Presentation of Colors was led by the USDA Forest Service Honor Guard, symbolically carrying pickaxes. Following behind them were the flags of the United States, Wyoming, the National Park Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and others – all agencies for which Hart served.
Next, the memorial speakers took the stage to praise Tim Hart and his life of service.
First to speak was Vicki Christiansen, the 19th Chief of the U.S. Forest Service. Christiansen described Hart’s death as a family loss in the tightly-knit wildland firefighter community.
Hart was one of only three people selected to enter training as a smokejumper in 2016, out of an application pool of 300. Christiansen highlighted Hart’s natural yet understated leadership, and the fact he always wore a belt buckle given to him by his father (Hart’s father, a volunteer firefighter, passed away when Hart was only 18.)
Christiansen ended by saying Hart always worked for something greater and was committed to his family above all else.
Governor Mark Gordon was next to speak. He flew into Cody specifically for the memorial.
“Wyoming hates these days,” the governor said, before going on to praise Hart and the singular bravery needed to be a smokejumper.
Governor Gordon noted that three state flags would be presented to Hart’s family, a testament to his service. His speech concluded with a stanza from the Cowboy’s Prayer.
“I thank You, Lord, that I am placed so well,
That You have made my freedom so complete;
That I’m no slave of whistle, clock or bell,
Nor weak-eyed prisoner of wall and street.
Just let me live my life as I’ve begun
And give me work that’s open to the sky;
Make me a pardner of the wind and sun,
And I won’t ask a life that’s soft or high.”
Mayor Matt Hall, who knew Hart personally, said he was “stunned and saddened” by his sudden passing. He went on to praise Hart’s fearlessness.
When honoring Hart, Mayor Hall emphasized the importance of sharing feelings of love and appreciation with those closest to us. We can honor Hart and our love for others by “putting the finishing touch on your life today,” the mayor said, quoting the Roman senator Seneca.
Friends and family rose to speak of their memories of Hart. Those memories were filled with anecdotes of his humor, compassion, and love of firefighting, his wife, and his home along the South Fork.
Perhaps the most poignant speakers were Pam Hart, his mother, and Michelle Hart, his wife.
Hart’s mother spoke with immense pride of her late son. She praised the fact her son “found his identity” in smokejumping while retaining his “kind, loving heart.” She called her son “the consummate smokejumper.”
“My son died, not in vain and not for nothing. I am so proud of the man doing a job he loved. Tim Hart, you are a true hero,” she said.
Michelle Hart, amidst her tears, says she was so proud to have been his wife. She ended her speech by saying “we are and should be grateful we got to know him,” and to honor him “by holding memories in our minds and hearts.”
Once personal remarks concluded, the ceremony resumed with the Folding of the National Flag by the Forest Service Honor Guard. Along with the U.S. Flag, the state flags were presented to Hart’s wife and his mother. Governor Gordon himself presented the Wyoming flag to Michelle with an embrace.
A silver bell stood onstage during the entire ceremony, symbolically signaling the end of a fire call and announcing the passing of a comrade. Before the bell was rung nine times, it was solemnly announced that “Tim Hart is going home.”
Tim Hart’s memorial ended with the Last Call. A radio dispatch went out, asking Hart to check-in. Finally, the dispatch ended, putting Hart out of service and thanking him for his sacrifice.
“God speed and farewell,” the dispatch ended. With that final call, Hart’s casket was escorted off the field by the U.S. Forest Service Honor Guard.
Tim Hart is going home.