“He was 19 and too young to die,” the uncle of Jesse Trader says.
Trader was returning from a night of running a water truck helping fight the Big Windy Complex of fires in Josephine County when his truck hit an embankment and rolled.
“They took him by air ambulance,” says his uncle, Ed Pentecost. “They tried to revive him, they tried to save him.”
Pentecost stopped talking and cried for a moment.
“But they couldn’t,” he finished.
The family got the message around 10:30 Tuesday morning that Jesse had died, Pentecost said. Trader’s parents immediately started out for Grants Pass to claim their son.
Pentecost said that his nephew was working for another uncle’s rural fire department and had gone down to Josephine County last week.
“He really wanted to be a firefighter,” he said. “He thought this would be great training. He thought this would be a way toward being a big city firefighter. Working for the fire department was a chance for him to learn a new skill.
“He was opening a new page in life’s book.”
Trader had just been accepted to Chemeketa Community College where he was going to study to be an EMT, his uncle said. Previously he had been at Western Oregon University.
“He was good at whatever he wanted to be and he wanted to be a firefighter,” he said. “He was an outdoors person. He loved to be outside. He loved fishing and hunting and skiing and waterskiing.”
On Saturday, Trader had posted on his Facebook page: “Dreaming about the lake while working on a wild fire is awful.”
Pentecost said he was referring to Foster Lake near Sweet Home.
“It’s where we all go,” he said. “The whole family. It’s the place where everyone would go to relax and have fun.”
Pentecost thought for a second.
“He was the kind of kid who would do anything for his family,” he finally said. “You could ask him anything and he would say yes. He was an awesome young man, giving, caring. He had a girl that he loved very much and who loved him.”
His uncle said Jesse had been with his girlfriend, a student at Oregon State, for four years.
“They were school sweethearts,” he said. “She is just so distraught.”
Pentecost said the family – which also includes Jesse’s younger brother and sister, are still trying to process the news.
“I don’t know how you move forward,” he said. “But I guess you do. We have each other and we will somehow find a way.
Pentecost said the family has always been close.
“We’ve always been this way, here for each other,” he said. “When Jesse was a kid, a baby, there would be times when he wouldn’t sleep. And me and my wife would come over and put him in the car and drive him around until he nodded off. He would be so peaceful.”
Pentecost said his favorite image of his nephew will always be him as a young kid.
“He used to run around in jean shorts, a batman cape and cowboy boots,” he said. “He wouldn’t take them off.
“He was quite a sight.”
Pentecost said that he had texted with Jesse early Tuesday morning.
“I asked him how’s it going? He wrote back, ‘It’s smoky and everyone’s wearing masks and it’s crazy.’
“I told him to be careful. He wrote back and said he would. He promised he would.”