Authorities probing firefighter death in Arizona

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities are investigating the death of a veteran firefighter who was reported missing from a blaze on the Fort Apache reservation in eastern Arizona.

Search crews found the body of Deon Classay, of Whiteriver, early Sunday morning after a nighttime search and efforts to reach him through a handheld radio he was carrying a day earlier failed.

Classay was part of the Fort Apache Hotshots who did initial attacks on the lightning-caused Diamond Fire that broke out north of the Black River around noon Saturday. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ Fort Apache Agency said today that Classay was born in 1968, but she was not sure of the month.

The hotshot crew hiked back to camp after building a line around the 35-acre fire that was burning in steep, rocky terrain with dense fuel. The incident commander realized Classay was missing and initiated a search, according to a preliminary report.

Authorities have called for stress counselors and an accident investigation team to determine what happened, said Fort Apache Agency spokeswoman Candy Lupe. She had no further information on the circumstances surrounding Classay’s death.