Seeley Lake highway memoralizes fallen firefighter

Posted at 10:53 PM, Jul 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-20 00:58:00-04

SEELEY LAKE – Trenton Johnson lost his life in June 2017 while protecting his home state from a Seeley Lake wildfire that would eventually become part of the massive Rice Ridge Fire.

Friday morning, next to Seeley Lake, officials dedicated a stretch of highway and designated a Trenton Johnson Day — something his sister said he would have loved.

“He spent a lot of time in this valley. We rolled down that grass hill right there as kids with my grandpa, so he would be exceptionally happy that everyone is here, gathered together to celebrate and be happy,” Johnson’s sister, DJ, told MTN.

Because Gov. Steve Bullock signed Senate Bill 260, a sign marks the beginning of an eight-mile stretch along Montana Highway 83 honoring Johnson, who was a Missoula native.

“We will associate it with the regeneration of the forest,” Lolo National Forest Training specialist Chris Johnson said. “We couldn’t do that without Governor Bullock, without our county commissioners [or] our state senators who ran this bill through. So I can’t express collectively and [on] behalf of all of our fellow firefighters what a big deal this is and how it uplifts our spirits when we see it.”

Johnson still has friends protecting Montana from forest fires, and one of his former crew bosses told MTN he couldn’t think of a better way to honor Johnson.

“These young men and women are heroes,” Johnson’s former crew boss at Grayback Forestry, Adam Babbitt,  said. “I think this honors Trenton very fittingly. His unselfish nature would demand that his friends and family carry the torch bravely on as he would have himself.”

The stretch of highway dedicated to Johnson runs along Seeley Lake, ending at mile marker 23 on Montana Highway 83.

-Reported by Connor McCauley/MTN News