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In the wake of Token Adams’ death, the mountain communities of the Jemez are coming together to remember him, as well as take care of his family.
According to officials involved in the search, Adams, a firefighter with the Jemez Ranger District, died in an all-terrain vehicle accident while investigating a wildfire on Schoolhouse Mesa a couple of weeks ago. Though officials have so far declined to release specific details in the incident, his ATV and his body were found atop Table Mesa last Friday morning.
Adams disappeared precisely a week earlier when he lost radio contact with the other firefighters who were also mapping out the 25-acre blaze. The fire was quickly extinguished by crews that weekend.
Adams leaves behind his wife, Heidi, and a three-year-old son, Tristan. According to his Facebook page, his wife is expecting a girl.
“I realized today that I really need to bring my son the horse races and let him bet... only because he’s been saying that he’s going to have a little sister the whole time. And would you believe that he was RIGHT! Patiently awaiting your arrival Miss Isla Skye Adams!” he said in a Facebook post dated May 8.
Karen Takei, a public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service that was assigned to the search for Adams, said his family, especially his wife is holding up well given the circumstances. She said that currently they are planning his Thursday memorial service.
“Right now they are involved in a lot of the logistical planning issues with the memorial,” she said. “All of us have been through this… what you do is you keep on moving until afterwards, then you kind of crash. As I understand it though, they are all doing well.”
On its website, Daniels Funeral home is listing the day Adams died as Sept. 6, the day he was found by searchers. A memorial service for Adams is scheduled for 10 a.m. Thursday at Calvary Chapel, located in Albuquerque at 4001 Osuna Road NE. The inurnment will happen afterwards at Vista Verde Memorial Park, 4310 Sara Road SE, Rio Rancho. To learn more, visit danielsfuneral.com
Adams was a well-known firefighter who had a career that took him all over the U.S. fighting wildfires. He was with the Jemez Ranger District for 18 months when his death occurred. Before that, he was a member of the King’s River Hot Shots in California.
Gov. Susana Martinez issued an executive order Wednesday afternoon that flags be flown at half-staff from sunrise Wednesday to sundown Thursday in honor and mourning of Adams.
On his Facebook page as well as another one called “Bring Token Home” people all over the country expressed their condolences and asked his wife, Heidi, how they can help in her time of need. Many of those comments came from firefighters Adams had worked with, as well as residents from the many communities in the Jemez Mountains that Adams served, most recently during the Thompson Ridge Fire. Adams lived in Jemez Springs.
The overwhelming support for Adams’ family in the wake of his death didn’t surprise Justin Grider, a deputy chief with the Los Alamos Fire Department.
He said Adams belonged to not one, but two closely knit communities, the firefighting community and the Jemez Mountain community.
“The Jemez Mountains communities, from Cerro Los Pinos all the way down to Ponderosa, Jemez Pueblo and San Ysidro, it’s a very tightly knit community,” he said. “Those people up there they take care of their own, they look out for one another. It’s always been like that forever. He was very well-known in that community, just because how the community interacts with each other.”
He said LAFD volunteered four crewmembers to help in the search, which they did on their own time.
“They all volunteered to come in and go up there on their days off,” he said. “Whether you’re wildland or you’re structural you’re part of the firefighting community and you are considered family. These folks really wanted to be involved.”
On the evening they found his body, emergency personnel from agencies all over the region, paid their respects through a “Last Alarm” ceremony.
“At 10:30 p.m. last night, following a half-day of investigation, Token was escorted in a procession of Engines and Law Enforcement into Jemez Springs,” according to Saturday a press release issued through the main agencies involved in the search, including the USFS. “He was given one final tour through the Jemez Ranger District compound as district employees, family and friends lined the driveway to welcome Token back to the fire shop one final time.”
Fellow King’s River Hot Shot Firefighter Jesse Sievers remembered Adams well.
He first met Adams in 2011 and recounted his career in a letter to the Los Alamos Monitor when the search for Adams was still active and there was hope he would be found alive.
“Token Adams is a true hero of the Los Alamos community. Token is a veteran firefighter who has fought fires in nearly every corner of the country. Token’s broad experience landed him a detail on the helitack crew in Los Alamos in 2011. His first major response on the Santa Fe National Forest was fighting the Las Conchas Fire that forced the second mandatory evacuation of Los Alamos,” Sievers said.
“After contributing to the successful suppression of the Las Conchas fire, he fell in love with New Mexico and moved to the Jemez with his family the following spring,” Sievers recalled in his letter.
“He has been protecting Los Alamos and our beloved Jemez mountains from wildfires for the last two years as a captain for the U.S. Forest Service. Thoughts and prayers for our community hero and his family.”
Takei said the USFS is currently compiling an official list of organizations where donations and funds can be sent to Adams’ family. The only fund available right now can be found at “Bring Token Home,” a Facebook page started by a friend of the family.