A young wildland firefighter from Eugene has died after doing what he loved, fighting fires.
His family said, though, it wasn’t on the fire lines. 20-year-old Eric Aarseth died after contracting a deadly infection.
Chris Aarseth, Eric’s father, told FOX 12 they’re still in shock.
It was his son’s first season as a firefighter. The 20-year-old worked for Miller Timber Services, where he was part of digging fire containment lines and helping with mop-up duties.
Eric Aarseth was sent to the Garner Complex Fire in southern Oregon and, most recently, the Horns Mountain Fire in northern Washington.
His family said he returned home on Monday, last week, but the very next day the 20-year-old was found unconscious in his apartment.
Very quickly, his family found out he had developed pneumonia that led to sepsis.
Eric Aarseth had irreversible brain damage and would have no quality of life if he lived.
His family said he was taken off life support and on Monday, died.
Chris Aarseth said his son is an organ donor and he’s taking every step to fulfill his son’s dream of helping others.
“He was such a hero. He was my hero,” Chris Aarseth said. “He was always giving all the time. Give, give, give. He would give the shirt off his back just to be able to help somebody. And you know, he fought these fires and he was having the time of his life doing it.”
Eric Aarseth’s family is hoping to make that difference through a memorial fund in his name.
They told FOX 12, with the money, they want to make sure all firefighters are checked by a doctor after leaving the fire lines.
“We want to make it different for somebody else. We don’t want anybody to ever go through this,” Eric Aarseth’s stepmother, Cheryl Aarseth said. “And for somebody so young to be taken like that.”
The president of Miller Timber Services, Lee Miller, said in a statement, “We’re heartbroken for the family and friends of our firefighter, Eric Aarseth. It’s devastating to lose any member of our team and Eric seemed to have found his passion and purpose on the fire line. We make the health and safety of our firefighters our top priority.”
A spokesperson for the company, Kelli Matthews, told us the company will collaborate with the family in any way they can.
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