ORLEANS, Calif. — Staff at the Six Rivers National Forest are mourning the loss of a U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter who passed away earlier this month.
Joe Hillenburg worked in the Orleans/Ukonom Ranger District of Six Rivers. He passed away on July 1 "following a brief illness," according to the agency.
"Although Joe had only been with the Six Rivers for 3 years, he started his firefighting career nearly 25 years ago with the National Park Service at Whiskeytown National Recreation Area on their prescribed fire crew," Six Rivers said in a statement.
Hillenburg joined the Forest Service in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest during 2002 — moving to the Malheur National Forest in 2007, the Klamath National Forest from 2008 until 2017, and finally joining Six Rivers.
“I got to know Joe when we both worked on the Klamath National Forest,” said Ted McArthur, forest supervisor for the Six Rivers. “He and his family spent many wonderful years in the area, growing to love the Klamath Mountains — and we grew to love him — his easy going nature, his upbeat personality, and his steadfast approach to his duties and his willingness to help others.”
Hillenburg reportedly served in the U.S. Army in Germany and during Desert Storm before becoming a firefighter in 1996. He was an avid hunter and fisherman in the Klamath River basin.
"His adoration and unwavering devotion to his children and grandchildren carried over in his interaction with all children making him a beloved figure in the community both at the annual Father’s Day parade and during education initiatives at local schools," Six Rivers said.
Hillenburg is survived by his wife Kris Hillenburg; his children Patrick, Kymmy and Josselynn (Jossie); and his grandchildren Ashland Parker and Anna Douglas.
A celebration of life event will be held at River Park in Happy Camp on July 18. Memorial contributions may be made to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation.