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Signal Peak lookout dies in accident

John Kavchar, "looking out." He died in an accident Saturday. (Photo Courtesy of Mark Johnson)

Longtime Signal Peak lookout, John Kavchar, along with his horse, Sundance, died Saturday in an accident. He called in the recent Signal Fire and had to evacuate the lookout tower that day.

When Kavchar didn't check in with Forest Service dispatch this past Sunday morning, his colleagues, including Mark Johnson, relief lookout, went looking for him. They found him and his horse along the Ridge Trail between Signal and Blacks peaks. Both were dead.

Apparently, the horse reared and both were killed in the subsequent fall. His body has been sent to Albuquerque to the Office of the Medical Examiner. Funeral plans will be made after his remains are returned.

The Gila National Forest has been holding meetings to help employees understand events and deal with their feelings.

This reporter most recently spoke to Kavchar, a personal friend, to get a lookout's perspective on the Signal Fire.

Kavchar was always happiest when on "his" peak and riding and hiking the trails in the surrounding area. He was an excellent host to the hikers, bicyclists, bikers and tourists who traveled to the top of the mountain. He invited them up the tower to get a bird's eye view of the surrounding forest. He will be missed.

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