Firefighters Honored for Bravery
Four Lewistown BLM firefighters received the Department of the Interior’s Valor Award for their role in rescuing a pilot who had crashed in the path of a quickly advancing wildfire.
Scott Meneely, Andrea Robinson, Steven Spellberg, and Andrew Rishavy accepted their awards during a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on May 13.
Meneely, Robinson, Spellberg, and Rishavy were members of a BLM engine crew. They were working with two other crews to create a buffer between the Barrel Springs Fire and homes in Winnemucca, Nev., on July 17, 2007, when they saw a single engine air tanker that was attempting to make a retardant drop get caught in a sudden crosswind and crash. They raced to the crash site and radioed for medical assistance, but recognized that the pilot was in immediate danger from the fire. While some of the firefighters scrambled to slow the fire’s advance, others pulled the pilot to safety. The fire soon reached the plane and consumed it. Soaked in jet fuel, the pilot would not have survived without the quick action and bravery of the firefighters.
Meneely was the chief of the engine crew when the rescue occurred. He began working for the BLM in 2006 but also worked for the Helena National Forest for several years previously. He lives in Lewistown.
Rishavy is from Alexandria, Minn., and coaches high school cross-country skiing during the winter. He plans to return to the Zortman fire crew this year.
Spellberg’s home is in New England. He will to return to Montana this summer for his second fire season with the BLM.
Robinson grew up in Zortman, Mont., and spent four seasons working for the Central Montana Fire Zone there. Currently employed by Air Methods, she flies the ambulance airplane for the Billings Clinic.
Valor Award recipients were recognized at a ceremony in Washington, D.C., on May 13. From left: Scott Meneely, Lewistown BLM; Michael McMaster, Nevada BLM; Scott Brandt, Nevada BLM; Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne; Andrew Rishavy, Lewistown BLM; Andrea Robinson, Lewistown BLM; Andrew Snyder, Nevada BLM; and Steven Spellberg, Lewistown BLM. BLM photo