SOUTH CAROLINA – The Savannah River Forest Service remembers fallen wildland firefighter, Robert Browning, one of 14 lives lost in the tragic 1994 South Canyon Fire in Colorado. This year marks the 25th anniversary of the South Canyon Fire. Savannah River hosted two celebrations to honor the life of Mr. Browning and the 30th anniversary of the first fire crew in the Southern Region started in 1989. Savannah River also has the only wildland firefighting crew on a nuclear site. Browning joined the fire crew later in 1993. Current Forest Service staff and retirees wanted to commemorate their time with Browning and the legacy of excellence that started on the Savannah River Forest Station. Previous employees, members of the initial fire crew, were invited to the recognition program and were presented with a customized coin. This program was reminiscent of a family reunion—fire crews are often tight nit.
The Department of Energy’s on-site fire staff presented a huge American flag to greet everyone from the road the caravan neared the memorial site. While department of Energy’s Site Fire chaplain, Howard Burgess, opened the program with a prayer and Department of Energy Assistant Manager Jimmy McMillan saluted the guests at the beginning of the ceremony. The former fire manager, current fire manager, and other fire crew members shared stories laced with words of wisdom and encouragement. Browning’s mother, Mrs. Ruth Radford, step-father, Mr. Don Radford, cousin Mrs. Rebecca Suttle and husband Mr. Mark Suttle were all in attendance. Donations provided food for the celebrating guests, and a generous donation went to the Wildland Firefighters Foundation. The U.S. Forest Service Honor Guard presented a hand-made wreath and saluted the memorial of Browning in a poignant silent wreath-laying ceremony.
Many of the retired fire crew shared the same sentiment,” We didn’t know how unique our training and friendships were on the Savannah River until we traveled to other forests. We had a strong foundation.” Said, Mike Dueitt. Browning’s rededication ceremony continued the Forest Service tradition of honoring it’s fallen firefighters by keeping their memories alive, telling their stories, and remembering their families. We will never forget.