Posted: Jul 2, 2013 1:09 PM by Dustin Klemann, Mark Thorsell - MTN News
Updated: Jul 2, 2013 1:11 PM
BILLINGS - Dustin DeFord, one of the 19 firefighters who died while battling an Arizona wildfire, hailed from Ekalaka in eastern Montana, where he's being remembered as a light-hearted man of faith.
DeFord was known as a bit of a goof, who was also a man of faith who shared the gospel with those he worked with. He was always joking around with friends and family, lifting people up and keeping the mood light.
DeFord's family says his passion for firefighting was something he grew into. His father Steven, who is a pastor in Ekalaka, also volunteered as a firefighter - and many of the conversations among the family with nine children revolved around firefighting and hunting.
Dustin's oldest brother joined the Marines, while another three work as firefighters.
Dustin aimed to join the Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew in 2012, and when that didn't pan out, DeFord returned to Montana, assisting in fighting the devastating fires in the Treasure State.
Then in January of 2013, DeFord found himself with another chance to join the hotshot crew. He was in better shape this time around, and alongside 18 others, he was considered elite.
His mother Celeste says it was his faith that drove him, adding that regardless of his fate in dangerous situations, Dustin and his family took comfort in God's plan.
Montana Governor Steve Bullock released the following statement on Tuesday morning, calling for Montanans to keep DeFord and his family in their thoughts:
"All Montanans hold the loved ones of these fallen heroes - especially the family of Dustin Deford of Ekalaka, Montana - in our thoughts and prayers, as we are reminded of the sacrifices first responders make every single day to protect our families, neighbors and property. The sheer bravery these firefighters have shown our country will not be forgotten."
Click here to read about the other fallen firefighters at KPHO.com.