Missing firefighter found dead on Stable Mesa

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By Tris DeRoma

Missing firefighter Token Adams has been found deceased in the Santa Fe National Forest, officials said Friday in Jemez Pueblo.


Officials said Adams apparently died in an ATV crash. Officials believe he was traveling from Schoolhouse Mesa to Stable Mesa and his body was found on the top of Stable Mesa.

Officials said he was found in full safety gear a quarter mile from a dirt road. They located Adams’ body when a search party performed a line search in the area.

Officials at the conference declined to say much about his cause of death, because it is still under investigation. When asked if it was possible he had the accident but later died of exposure, officials declined to answer..

“Right now, it’s still too early to speculate,” Emmanuel Gutierrez, public information officer for the New Mexico State Police said. “We want to get all of our facts straight before we give out more information.” Gutierrez also said an autopsy will be performed.

The search for the U.S. Forest Service firefighter missing in the Jemez Mountains lasted eight days.

Volunteers, firefighters and search and rescue teams combed mesa tops and steep canyons east of Jemez Springs in search of Adams.

Adams, an accomplished and experienced firefighter currently working for the Jemez Ranger District, was on an all-terrain vehicle last Friday afternoon observing and assessing a 25-acre wildfire on Schoolhouse Mesa when he went out of radio contact with the other firefighters early in the afternoon.

After looking for him for about an hour on the Mesa, they called in New Mexico Search and Rescue. Earlier this week, NMSR combined forces with the Southwest Area Incident Team. That agency is currently leading the efforts.

Hundreds of people have participated in the search.

Officials said crews focused on 25 square miles of rugged forest. About a quarter of the area has been covered by ground crews, while air support has searched much of the rest.

A special helicopter with infrared and low-light sensors arrived Thursday.

Among those helping in the search were members of the Los Alamos Fire Department, according to Deputy Chief Justin Grider.

According to Southwest Incident Commander Joe Reinarz, the firefighting community in New Mexico is taking the news very hard. He asked that the media give the family as well as Adams’ firefighting family some space.

“This has hit us pretty hard, it has hit our firefighters really hard,” he said during the press conference.
“Right now, the Ranger District is going through a lot of emotions, and those emotions need to be taken care of,” he said.

U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) issued the following statement about Adams.

“I am thankful for Token Adams’ courage as he fought fires to protect all of us, and I am thankful to the crews who worked through difficult conditions to find him. His death is a very sad loss for our community and a reminder of the risks our firefighters and first responders face every day to keep our communities safe. My deepest sympathies are with Token’s family, his friends and his crewmates during this difficult time.”

Gov. Susana Martinez also sent her condolences to the firefighter’s family.

“Token is an American hero, and he died in the way he lived: serving and protecting us,” she said, adding that she also wanted to thank “every single man and woman who refused to quit looking until they found Token.”

At 10:30 p.m. Friday following a half-day of investigation, Adams' body was escorted in a procession of Engines and Law Enforcement into Jemez Springs.  He was given one final tour through the Jemez Ranger District compound as district employees, family and friends lined the driveway to welcome Adams back to the fire shop one final time.

Adams was 41 years old and had been an Engine Captain on the Jemez Ranger District for 17 years.  He was a wildland firefighter for 10 years including previous experience as a hotshot.

Before coming to the Forest Service Adams served in the U.S. Navy.  Adams grew up in the community of Coarsegold, Calif. and was a 1990 graduate of Yosemite High School in Oakhurst, Calif.

Adams is survived by his wife, Heidi, a 3 year old son, Tristan, his mother, a brother and sister. Adams’ wife Heidi is expecting their second child.