WINTHROP, Washington, July 12, 2001 (ENS) – Four firefighters were killed Wednesday when a wildfire trapped them in a narrow canyon of the Chewuch River Valley on the Okanogan National Forestin Washington state.The blaze, dubbed the Thirty Mile Fire, was first discovered duringthe evening of July 9. An unattended campfire is the suspectedcause of the fire. “We are all deeply saddened by the tragedy suffered by these firefighters last evening,” said Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman.”This country owes a debt of gratitude and much respect to these brave firefighters who gave their own lives to protect their fellow citizens, communities and natural resources.” On Wednesday afternoon, high winds developed causing the Thirty Mile Fire to grow from about five acres to more than 2,500 acres within 2½ hours. Twenty-one firefighters and two civilians were trapped in the canyon, where they deployed emergency fire shelters in an area surrounded by fire on all sides. Four firefighters were killed and another four firefighters and the two civilians were injured. Most of the injured are either in satisfactory condition or have been treated and released, though one remains in serious condition. “This is a great tragedy and loss that is felt by all firefighters and agency employees everywhere,” said Sonny O’Neal, U.S. Forest Service supervisor of the Okanogan and Wenatchee National Forests. “Firefighters are a family and any time a firefighter is killed, grief is felt by all.” A national investigation team is visiting the site today to determine the cause of the tragedy and to look for lessons that can improve firefighter safety.