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BLM firefighter honored

Published: Thursday, Aug. 24 2006 12:07 a.m. MDT

Fellow firefighters grieve Wednesday after the funeral services for Spencer Koyle in Holden.

Jason Olson, Deseret Morning News

HOLDEN — Fire trucks with their lights on lined Main Street Wednesday as the casket of firefighter Spencer Stanley Koyle was carried atop a Bureau of Land Management truck.

Firefighters, officers and residents held hands over their hearts as the truck passed en route to the cemetery to honor the 33-year-old Koyle, who died last Thursday while battling the Devil's Den Fire, burning about three miles southeast of Oak City.

"What an honor," said Bridget Bennett. "He was very well respected and honorable."

Bennett attended high school with Koyle and remembers what a likable person he was. Bennett said the graduating class of 1991 was a little wild, but Koyle was one of the calmer graduates.

"He was a little bit of a tease," she said. "But it was all in fun."

Many knew Koyle as a kind, respectable and loving man.

The LDS chapel in Holden was packed with people who knew Koyle, members of his fire crew and some who never knew him. Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was among those attending the service, which was broadcast to an overflow chapel in Fillmore.

At the cemetery, the American Legion fired rifles in salute to Koyle and his service. A flag, hung from the boom of a Richfield fire truck, was lowered as a trumpeter played Taps. It was retrieved by members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars and presented to Nichole Koyle. With their three children at her side, she clung to the flag as pallbearers put flowers on the casket.

"Every day was an opportunity to work with him," said Todd Murray, of Richfield. "You knew you were working with the best."

Murray, a fire operation specialist, fought fires with Koyle on many occasions. He also worked and talked a lot with Koyle as their offices worked together.

"You were always tired after working with him or for him," Murray said. "He was the prime example of a true leader and would never ask you to do anything he wasn't willing to do himself."

Koyle is survived by his wife, Nichole, and three children, ages 7, 4 and 18 months. During the funeral, family members shared memories of how much Koyle loved his wife and children.

On Aug. 3, Turner, Koyle's older son, turned 7. Koyle had a softball game that evening and was the last batter of the game. He hit a home run and let his son run around the bases for him.

Mike King, Koyle's brother, said Koyle stood at home plate with his arms open waiting for Turner.

"They (the family) will miss him and they are missing him," said LDS stake President Frank Stevens, who was the family's spokesman. "He was just the life of the party and a very fun young man."

The fire that killed Koyle has now burned more than 7,800 acres and is only 15 percent contained, said Chuck Dickson, spokesman for crews fighting the Devil's Den Fire in Fishlake National Forest in Millard County.

More than 400 people were battling the blaze Wednesday. Fire crews spent most of the day working on the south side in anticipation of a storm front that is expected to move in over the weekend, Dickson said.

Koyle died last week after winds shifted, causing the fire to change direction and become more intense. Firefighters were ordered to evacuate from the area. Koyle was surrounded by the fire and deployed his fire shelter, authorities said.

An investigation into Koyle's death is being conducted and a report is expected within 45 days.

"We want to make sure we know the truth so that we can learn from it," Dickson said.


E-mail: blee@desnews.com

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