'An amazing guy': friends remember hotshot killed in fire
An infectious smile, sense of humor and outgoing personality-- it's how friends remember Captain Brian Hughes, the hotshot firefighter with ties to Alaska who died Monday fighting a fire in the Lower 48.
"Everybody loved him," said Dirk Giles, a friend and former colleague. "We trusted each other with everything that we had."
Hughes and Giles worked together in the Midnight Sun Hotshot crew based in Fairbanks in 2006. Hughes came from the Yellow Jacket Hotshot crew out of Colorado. Giles later hired him in 2014 as a fire specialist for the Borough of Land Management Alaska Fire Service.
"He would have to rapidly build teams," Giles added. "He had the ability to come into a group of strangers, work together and get along and also have fun while you're doing it."
The two hotshots developed a strong bond working in dangerous situations in remote rural Alaska. Hughes was later detailed over to the Arrowhead Hotshots in 2015.
"When you're with a tight-knit group, you're together for so many days and so many hours, you develop bonds with people you wouldn't get in any other profession," Giles said. "Brian was just another key ingredient to making this whole thing work together."
Hughes, 33, is the second firefighter to die fighting on the front lines of the Ferguson Fire near Yosemite National Park. He was struck by a tree while removing brush and other fuel, officials said.
"I think it's important to remember him, not as Captain Hughes," Giles said. "There's this picture that's floating around, and it's the official one that was released. It doesn't remind me of Brian, because I always see him with a smile and that's what I remember."
As of Tuesday, the Ferguson Fire has consumed 57,846 acres and is at 33 percent containment, according to officials. It is expected to continue burning until mid-August.
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