Boise firefighter's legacy to last years

Mark Urban is remembered for his humor and for carrying out his job quietly.

rbarker@idahostatesman.comOctober 4, 2013 

CORRECTION: The original story incorrectly made a reference to the Battle Mountain Nev. Smoke Jumper Base.

Smokejumper Mark T. Urban was remembered Friday as a quiet mentor, someone who carried out his job efficiently without seeking credit.

More than 600 people attended a memorial service for Urban at the National Interagency Fire Center where he was based. Urban, 40, died Sept. 27 near Prairie during an annual proficiency jump when his parachute did not open properly.

Fire trucks circled the lawn in front of the Jack Wilson Building, which was filled with Urban’s family and friends and members of the wildlands and urban firefighting community. Long-bearded boys in flannel shirts and Carhart pants stood next to Boise firefighters in crisp navy blue uniforms.

Federal workers on furlough wiped their eyes as Urban’s friends and co-workers told stories of him running rivers, skiing mountains, playing the mandolin and drinking beer.

Fellow smokejumper Phil Lind, who served as master of ceremonies, described Urban as a man of “tremendous discipline” who “simply got things done.”

“Mark exemplified what it means to be a good man,” Lind said.

Urban was the second Idaho firefighter to die this year, and the 33rd nationwide, the most since 1994.

He was one of 75 Bureau of Land Management Great Basin Smokejumpers who flew out of Boise to fires in Idaho, Utah, Nevada and beyond. He’s survived by his wife, Rebecca, his parents, Thomas and Pamela Urban, and his sister, Sara Quaglia.

The ceremony began with a flyover by a de Havilland Canada DHC-3 Otter, one of the planes that drops smokejumpers. After it circled NIFC, the plane dropped pink, yellow and blue streamers that floated to the ground with the shushing sound of a parachute landing.

An interagency honor guard marched in to the bagpipes and drums of the Boise Fire Department, which played “America the Beautiful” and “God Bless America.”

Unlike many of the aggressive, type-A personalities that are attracted to firefighting, Urban was reserved, said his immediate supervisor Derrick Hartman. Urban trained rookie smokejumpers and also helped choose new crew members.

“In many ways, Mark Urban will be around the Great Basin Smokejumpers for years to come,” Hartman said.

In his trainer role, and as a spotter for the crew when in the heat of a wildfire, Urban “made sure everyone was safe,” said fellow smokejumper Steve Baker.

Baker compared Urban to other American heroes who died in flight. And he told Urban’s family that the firefighting community would be there for them like it was for his family when his brother, an emergency medical technician, died in a crash six years ago.

“Our family survived because of this family,” he said, stretching his arms to include the crowd.

Rocky Barker: 377-6484

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