'He was going to do what needed to be done, and he did it without fear'
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ALBANY, Ore. - Ricky Huante woke up Wednesday morning and for a moment thought it was all a bad dream.
He even called his friend Jesse Trader's phone.
"Hoping that he would answer," Huante said, "but ..."
Efforts to battle a wildfire in southwest Oregon claimed the life of Trader, a 19-year-old Albany man - and Ricky's pal since 1st grade.
"I feel like if you knew Jesse and you didn't like him, there's something wrong with you, you know?" said Ricky Huante, who'd known Trader since the 1st grade.
As friends, family and the West Albany High School community mourn Trader, a 2012 graduate, Oregon ached with them: a 2nd forest fire fatality in August amidst the worst fire season in a decade.
William Arnold hired Trader to work at his moving company, one of the jobs the young man would work now while working towards certification as an EMT.
"This man was on a mission in life, and he made that very clear," Arnold said.
Trader's death shook Arnold to the core.
"For most of last night I was asking myself that question," he said. "Why bad things happen - seem to happen to good people?"
Arnold said Trader loved the work and that they talked often about the dangers in firefighting.
Trader wasn't afraid. "Never. Not once," Arnold said.
He last talked to Trader by phone from the fire camp last Friday.
"He was going to do what needed to be done, and he did it without fear," Arnold said. "That's the true test of character."