A firefighter who was originally from Hilo has died while fighting a massive fire near Yosemite National Park in California.
The National Park Service says Brian Hughes was killed Sunday morning. He was captain of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots.
Hughes was working in an area with a large amount of dead trees when he was struck by a tree. He was treated on scene, but passed away before he could be transported to a hospital.
“They were clearing brush and there was this tree that was on fire and he was cutting it down and it back fell on him. Instead of going the way it was supposed to, it went the wrong way,” his father, Peter Hughes, told KHON2.
Peter Hughes says his son was a selfless guy who loved being a firefighter, because he wanted to help people and save lives.
“It was just in Brian’s blood. He loved fires and loved taking risks. He was a really good surfer too,” Peter Hughes said.
He graduated from Hilo High School in 2002. His father say Brian always excelled in everything that interested him. And as a teenager, he loved sports.
“He was a happy, bubbly, joking kid. He was in 16 state championships in track, soccer and cross country. He was a really good athlete,” said Brian’s father, Peter Hughes.
He says Brian became a firefighter shortly after graduating from high school. And it suited him because he just loved helping others.
“Oh yeah he was, he’d put anyone else above himself. He was a genuine, kind human, totally. He would go out of his way for anybody. The kind of guy he was, he was probably glad it happened to him and not one of his other guys, is how he would have looked at it,” said his father.
Brian was also getting ready to settle down and get married. His fiancee is three months pregnant. The family still can’t believe that he’s gone.
“What would you miss about him the most?” KHON2 asked.
“Going surfing with him,” said Peter Hughes.
“Where did you used to go surf?” KHON2 asked.
“Honolii. We surfed the whole island. We went everywhere on the Big Island,” he said.
His father was also looking forward to seeing him and his fiancee. They were planning to fly back to Hilo to celebrate Brian’s birthday with the family.
“He was coming back on Tuesday and his birthday was on Wednesday. It would have been one of his very first birthdays that he didn’t spend on a fire,” said his father.
Brian would have turned 34 on Wednesday. His parents left Hilo Monday to go to California. He also leaves behind a sister who lives on the mainland.
Brian Hughes had been with the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots for four years.
Hughes is the second firefighter killed while battling the flames near Yosemite National Park.