John Cammack dies from injuries

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Incident Name: Griffith wildfire near Obar, NM
Date: incident date: 06/21/17; death date: 06/22/17
Personnel: John "Johnny" C Cammack
Age: 74
Agency/Organization: Nara Visa Fire Department, Nara Visa, NM 88430; 25 S 4th St POB 303
Position: wildland firefighter

Summary: On Wednesday, June 21, 2017, while attempting to fill tankers on a wildland firefight involving several local fire departments, Firefighter John C. Cammack fell from the back of a firefighting apparatus as it was escaping from wind driven flames that had switched direction and burned over their location. A second firefighter, Kyle Perez, was also hanging onto the truck as it drove through the flames and was injured. Perez said that after Cammack fell from the truck, they quickly returned to find him walking towards them, apparently badly injured. As they approached, Cammack first inquired to Perez’ condition, asking if the thirty-five year-old firefighter was okay. Cammack was then treated by fellow responders and both firefighters were transported to the hospital. Firefighter Cammack succumbed on Thursday, June 22, 2017, to injuries sustained. Perez was later released from the hospital. (from USFA records)

Photo credit; family / Nara Visa Fire Department

John Cammack John Cammack

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Approximately 5 mi S of Obar NM, US National Grid: 13S FV 62 24


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  • Firefighter dies from injuries

    6/21/17 | Online article (Quay County Sun)

    A Nara Visa volunteer firefighter died on Thursday after suffering burns trying to extinguish a fire that was more than seven miles long and three miles wide.

    John Cammack, 74, of Nara Visa, was severely burned after falling from a fire engine during a "burn over" Wednesday night, said Nara Visa Fire Chief Gary Girard.

    Girard said a second firefighter, Kyle Perez, was also injured during the incident.

    He said the firefighters were attempting to refill a fire engine with a water tanker when the winds shifted abruptly.

    "We were no longer fighting the fire, we were running from the fire," Girard said.

    Girard said the flames were as high as the fire engine as they fled the area. He said Cammack was transported to Lubbock for treatment and Perez was admitted to a hospital in Amarillo.

    Perez' condition was not released, but a family member posted on social media that he'd been released from the hospital.

    Girard said Nara Visa, Rosebud and Logan fire departments were fighting five fires fueled by dry grass and spread quickly with wind gusts of 40 mph.

    The fires were west of Nara Visa, about 50 miles northeast of Tucumcari in Quay County.

    Girard said at one point, three of the fires combined into one large fire. He said one unit reported the fire spread across the Texas border.

    Girard said the amount of acreage burned in the fire is not known, but it took the three departments more than 10 hours to contain and extinguish.

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  • USFA Memorial Database: John C Cammack
  • Nara Visa Volunteer Firefighter was a pillar to our community

    June 25, 2017 | Online Article (The New Mexican)

    Funeral services are scheduled Tuesday at the Nara Visa Cemetery for a 74-year-old volunteer firefighter who died from burn injuries suffered while battling a brush fire near his rural community, which is mourning him as a generous and civic-minded pillar of the small town just west of the Texas border.

    Gov. Susana Martinez has ordered flags to be flown at half-staff in honor of John Cammack, and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Md., is making a plaque in his honor.

    Survivors of the June 21 fatal incident said it was 106 degrees when lightning cracked from a dark sky and ignited high sage brush. By evening, Nara Visa was surrounded by wildfire.

    Cammack, a volunteer firefighter for 30 years, jumped on a water tanker that day with Nara Visa Fire Chief Gary Girard. As they pulled up a half-mile from the fire line and began to hook up the hoses, the winds turned.

    Cammack and another firefighter, Kyle Perez, hopped on the back of an engine, intending to speed away from the flames. But the fire climbed 8 feet high in seconds and engulfed the trucks, burning over them with a furious roar.

    Cammack, who had fought hundreds of grass fires before, was knocked from the engine.

    His brother, Jay Cammack, 69, said he was heading out to fight the fire when he got a call from Perez.

    “He said, ‘Go get my good pickup’ and said ‘come get John. He’s hurt bad,’ ” Cammack recalled. “I went and found him … and John said, ‘I am going to be alright, but could sure use a pain pill.’

    A medical helicopter air-lifted John Cammack to the University Medical Center’s Timothy J. Harnar Burn Center in Lubbock, Texas. Perez also was treated for severe burns.

    The fire would consume 10,000 acres by 4:30 the next morning.

    John Cammack died just after noon on June 22, from third-degree burns that covered more than 60 percent of his body.

    Cammack was born in Tucumcari in 1942, the second of three sons of Addison and Kathy Cammack. Raised on the family’s cattle ranch near Nara Visa, he learned how to cowboy at an early age. By high school, he had racked up a number of trophies and medals for riding horses and bulls bareback. He went on to join the rodeo team at New Mexico State University, where he earned his undergraduate degree, even riding professionally for a time. He got a master’s degree from Texas A&M University and a doctorate from Colorado State University in Fort Collins.

    He worked as a veterinarian in Colorado, helping to pioneer a program to test if race horses and dogs had been administered performance-enhancing drugs. When his father died in 1985, John moved back to Nara Visa and bought the family ranch.

    “That’s what he always really wanted,” Jay Cammack said, “Was to have his own ranch.”

    In a town of less than 100 people, with little more than a post office, Cammack volunteered for the Nara Visa Fire Department, worked with the Nara Visa Community Center and the cemetery association — in addition to single-handedly mining the cattle and duties of his ranch.

    He never married or had a family of his own, and friends and family described him as a modest and private person who was always more interested in helping others than himself.

    Girard, the fire chief, said, “He was a pillar to our community.”

    When the Department of Energy pitched a plan to drill a three-mile deep borehole in Nara Visa, a project that many feared would bring nuclear waste storage, John Cammack was the first to oppose it. Contractors asked if they could drill the hole on his land, but he declined.

    “I didn’t want to do anything that would be harmful to my heirs, my neighbors, our water, or our animals,” John Cammack told The New Mexican in March.

    “It would take hours to tell you what a good man John was,” said Nara Visa resident Jimmy Valentine, 45.

    A few years ago, Valentine’s land experienced a unique period of drought, with rain hitting the fields everywhere but his. “I remember praying and praying and praying,” Valentine said. Then Cammack stopped him on the side of the road. “He said ‘I got my share and yours of rain,’ ” and offered Valentine a grassy pasture for his starving cattle.

    “Even in the fire, they say after John got burned, he was asking everyone else how they were, wasn’t even concerned with himself,” Valentine said. “It just absolutely breaks my heart the way that we lost him.”

  • Governor orders flags at half staff in honor and mourning of Nara Visa firefighter John Cammack

    6/26/17 | Online Announcement

    SANTA FE – Today, Gov. Susana Martinez issued an executive order for flags to be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset Tuesday, June 27, 2017 in honor and mourning of Nara Visa firefighter John Cammack.

    Cammack, 76, died from wounds inflicted while fighting the Griffith Fire, which threatened his community.

    The full text of the executive order is below:

    EXECUTIVE ORDER 2017-013

    WHEREAS, Nara Visa volunteer firefighter John Cammack tragically died from wounds inflicted while fighting the Griffith Fire, which threatened his community;

    WHEREAS, John Cammack’s love of nature was exemplified by his career as a veterinarian;

    WHEREAS, John Cammack understood the importance of fighting fires and how devastating they can be to our state;

    WHEREAS, John Cammack served as a volunteer firefighter for nearly 30 years, distinguishing himself as a capable, effective and dedicated public servant;

    WHEREAS, if the Griffith Fire had not been fought by John Cammack and his fellow firefighters, the town of Nara Visa could have been put in jeopardy;

    WHEREAS, John is survived by his brother, Jay Cammack, and several nieces and nephews;

    WHEREAS, this tragic loss is a solemn reminder of the risks firefighters take every single day to protect our communities;

    NOW, THEREFORE, I, Susana Martinez, Governor of the State of New Mexico, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the constitution and laws of the state of New Mexico, do hereby order that all flags be flown at half-staff from sunrise to sunset on Tuesday, June 27, 2017, the day of John Cammack’s funeral services. The hearts of the people of New Mexico go out to his family and fellow firefighters in memory of his service and sacrifice.






  • John was also honored on Tuesday in Emmitsburg, Maryland, where the flag was flown at half mast and his name and story were added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
  • Legacy Obituary: Cammack's obituary

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