Governor lowers flags in honor of Beartown Firefighters

MARQUETTE – To honor the lives of James Shelifoe, Jr. and Alan Swartz – the Beartown Firefighters killed in a single-vehicle accident Saturday – Gov. Rick Snyder has ordered U.S. and Michigan flags to be lowered to half-staff Wednesday and Thursday.

Shelifoe and Swartz, both of Baraga, were part of a Beartown Firefighter crew traveling to Utah to help assist with the Box Canyon fire. The truck carrying nine passengers struck a median and rolled in Blaine, Minnesota around 3 p.m. Saturday.

The seven other passengers were injured in the crash, but are expected to recover, according to a statement issued by the Keweenaw Bay Indian Community.

“James and Alan will be remembered for their service and commitment to the Keweenaw Bay community and tribal nations throughout our state and nation,” Snyder said in the release. “On behalf of all Michiganders, we send our support during this difficult time to their family, friends and community.

According to the release, Shelifoe was a member of the firefighting crew for years, and enjoyed being outdoors and spending time with his family.

Swartz also enjoyed outdoor activities, including fishing, snowmobiling, camping and fishing.

Traditional Native services for Shelifoe will be held at 1 p.m. Wednesday at the KBIC Zebal Hall, with visitation starting at 11 a.m. Funeral services for Swartz are planned for 1 p.m. Thursday at Zeba Hall, with visitation also beginning at 11 a.m., according to the KBIC.

Michigan residents, businesses, schools, local governments and other organizations are encouraged to display the flag at half-staff. Flags should be returned to full staff on Friday.