President Barack Obama on Sunday paid tribute to 84 firefighters who died in the line of duty last year.
Among those honored at the 34th National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service was Geoffrey “Craig” Hunt, a veteran Cal Fire pilot from San Jose. The 62-year-old died in Oct. 2014 while battling the so-called Dog Rock Fire in Yosemite National Park.
Investigators believe Hunt’s air tanker crashed after it hit a tree and tore a wing during a fire retardant drop. After the accident occurred, witnesses told NBC Bay Area that the plane nearly disintegrated on impact.
The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation said in a statement: "The loss of Craig will forever leave a hole in the hearts of everyone he touched. He was a loving husband, father, brother, mentor, educator, and to all, he was a friend."
A Cal Fire representative attended Sunday’s event – on Hunt’s behalf – at the National Fire Academy in Maryland. Three firefighters who passed away in previous years were also recognized.
A bronze plaque bearing the names of the fallen was unveiled and 87 American flags flown over the U.S. Capitol were presented to the victims' families.
"Firefighters possess an extraordinary blend of courage and compassion which allows them to willingly face tremendous risks to help those in need," said Chief Dennis Compton, the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s board chairman.
He contined: "Each fall, we gather to reflect on the sacrifices of those who died in the line of duty and to let their families, friends and co-workers know they will never be forgotten."