August 4, 1995 in Idaho

Hundreds Pay Tribute To Slain Firefighters Two Kuna Volunteers Died While Trying To Put Out Range Fire

Quane Kenyon Associated Press

Fellow firefighters, state and local officials gathered on a football field in Kuna to pay tribute to two volunteer firefighters killed six days earlier as a wind-whipped range fire overran them.

Gov. Phil Batt said William Buttram and Josh Oliver willingly put their lives on the line to protect the community.

“I for one believe Josh and Bill will have a special place in a better life,” the governor said.

Buttram, 31, and Oliver, 18, died last Friday night when strong winds whipped a range fire around them. They couldn’t get out because their fire truck stalled.

On Thursday, about 75 fire trucks, emergency medical units and other vehicles joined a motorcade to honor the dead firefighters. Some of the firefighters marched along the motorcade route.

All the vehicles entered the football field area through an archway formed by two aerial ladders put up by the Caldwell Fire Department.

Firefighters attended from as far away as Seattle and Cheney in Washington and Vale and Ontario in Oregon. Federal, state, county and local fire units from all over Idaho sent delegations.

Batt comforted family members before the program. “I wish we could do more,” he said.

About 800 people attended, along with about 100 firefighters, emergency medical technicians and other officials. They sat around two chairs, left empty but heaped with the fire gear belonging to the dead firemen.

“To us, these two young men were our extended family,” said Kuna fireman Ron Phillips.

Kuna Mayor Greg Nelson said the incident proves Idaho people still have a volunteer spirit.

“Idaho still has those who will step into harm’s way to protect others,” he said. “Kuna will never forget the sacrifice you made for her.”

“I suppose you never realize the risks you take until something like this,” said Boise Fireman Andy Jackson.

Officials said a plaque honoring Buttram and Oliver will hang “forever” in the Kuna Fire Station.

At the end of the ritual, firefighters rang a fire bell in an old-time signal meaning “coming home.”

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