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Incident Name: Frog Fire on the Modoc National Forest, CA
Date:  7/30/2015, approximately 1730 hrs
Personnel:  David J. Ruhl from the Black Hills National Forest, SD
Age: 
Agency/Organization:  US Forest Service
Position: wildland firefighter

Summary:  Firefighter David Ruhl died on 7/30/2015 while engaged in initial attack activities on the Frog Fire on the Modoc National Forest in Northern California.The fire began just southwest of Lava Campground on the Big Valley Ranger District. Contact was lost with Dave -- who had left his vehicle and was scouting the fire on foot during initial attack. The  linghtning-ignited fire exhibited aggressive fire behavior due to the influence of nearby thunderstorms. Upon losing contact, a search and rescue effort was immediately put into action, but was hampered by darkness and continued fire spread. At approximately 0915 on 7/31/2015 the body of Dave Ruhl was located. Autopsy determined that Dave died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation. A USFS review team is investigating the incident. (For the details, read the entire Frog Fire Fatality Learning Review Report under Reports, Documentation and Lessons Learned.)

Photos compliments of the Forest Service, family and friends

 

Dave Ruhl Dave Ruhl
Dave Ruhl Dave Ruhl
Dave Ruhl Dave Ruhl

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Maps

Frog Fire Origin: 41.399001, -121.391999; estimated accident location is within a quarter of a mile: 41.4058, -121.4098

 

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • It is with sadness that I must inform you all of the loss of Dave Ruhl.  Dave was one of our firefighters on the Mystic Ranger District, on the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota.  He was recently detailed to the Modoc National Forest in California.  Yesterday, July 30, Dave was responding to the Frog Fire outside Alturas, California, when he lost his life. 

    Dave and his wife Erin have two children.  He worked with the Forest Service since 2001 and previously he served our country in the United States Coast Guard.

    As a firefighter, Dave worked to help preserve the lives of others, their homes, and public lands.  Dave, like all of our employees, chose to serve his country by wearing the U.S. Forest Service uniform, and he performed an incredibly important job.  As the Regional Forester, I am truly saddened by this loss.

    In this time of sadness, please take care of each other and keep a watchful eye on those around you.  We will support each other in the difficult days ahead.

    I know that you share with me, my deepest condolences for Dave’s family, colleagues, and his friends on the Black Hills National Forest.

    Daniel J. Jirón

    Regional Forester

    Forest Service

    Rocky Mountain Region

  • Message from the Secretary of the Department of Agriculture:

    It is with great sorrow that I send this message to inform you of a recent tragedy. On July 30, 2015, David J. Ruhl, Supervisory Forestry Technician, died tragically while fighting a fire on the Modoc National Forest in Northern California.

    David has been an employee of the Forest Service for just over 13 years.

    In honor of this brave man who lost his life serving the American people, and in honor of his family, who lost their loved one, I am ordering all USDA facilities to fly the United States flag at half-staff from sunrise on July 31, 2015 to sunset on August 6, 2015.

    Please keep his family in your thoughts and prayers and join me in honoring this brave man.

    /s/ Thomas J. Vilsack, Secretary

  • To: Region 5 Forest Service Employees:

    I am saddened to announce to you the loss of Dave Ruhl. Dave was on detail to the Modoc National Forest from the Mystic Ranger District on the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota. Yesterday, July 30, while Dave was responding to the Frog Fire outside of Alturas, California, he lost his life.

    Dave and his wife, Erin, have two children. He worked with the Forest Service since 2001 and previously served our country in the United States Coast Guard.

    As a firefighter, Dave worked to help preserve the lives of others, their homes, and public land. Dave, like all of our employees, chose to serve our country by wearing the U.S. Forest Service uniform. He performed an incredibly important job and I am truly saddened by this loss.

    In this time of sadness, please take time to reflect and be situationally aware of others and your surroundings. I know that you share with me my deepest condolences for Dave’s family, colleagues, his friends and co-workers on the Black Hills and Modoc National Forests.

    Randy Moore

    Regional Forester

    Forest Service

    Pacific Southwest Region

  • California Governor Jerry Brown announced 7/31/2015 that in honor of Firefighter Ruhl, California Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.
  • US Forest Service: 24 Hour Report - Firefighter Fatality Frog Incident
  • Announcement that his death is a LODD

    Dave Ruhl LODD Dave Ruhl LODD
  • Message to firefighters about the investigation

    Investigation for potential lessons learned Investigation for potential lessons learned

  • US Forest Service: 72 Hour Report - Firefighter Fatality Frog Incident
  • US Forest Service: The Forest Service has assigned a team of experts to conduct a Coordinated Response Protocol or CRP to review what happened. The team will look at everything from fire management and fire behavior to equipment, to how those assigned to the fire performed during the crisis. The process started August 3. When it is finished the Forest Service will make a copy of the report available to the public.

  • US Forest Service: Draft Frog Fire Fatality Learning Review Report (25 pages, 2.2 MB pdf)
  • US Forest Service: (link to Lessons Learned website for download)  Frog Fire Fatality Learning Review Report - Final (66 pages, 9 MB pdf)

Frog Fire, 7/30/2015 Frog Fire, 7/30/2015

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

Dave Ruhl Dave Ruhl

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Media Articles and Reports

  • Inciweb: The Frog Fire
  • Autopsy next for fallen Forest Service firefighter

    8/2/2015 | Online article

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KCRA) —An autopsy has been ordered for the U.S. Forest Service firefighter who died while responding to the Frog Fire in the northwest part of the state, officials said Sunday.

    David "Dave" Ruhl, of Rapid City, South Dakota, was on a temporary assignment when responding to the Modoc National Forest. The engine captain was found Friday morning by a search and rescue team that had worked overnight after he went missing on Thursday.

    Ruhl was in a vehicle Thursday, looking for ways to fight the blaze [the investigation found that he was scouting on foot], when officials lost contact with him. His body was recovered Friday. The Modoc County Coroner's Office will conduct an autopsy to determine the nature of his death sometime next week.

    "This loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking," said Forest Service supervisor Amanda McAdams. The service says another step in the investigation will be to determine how the fatality occurred and what lessons can be learned. (More at the link)

  • Fallen Forest Service firefighter died of carbon monoxide poisoning, smoke inhalation

    08/05/2015 12:00 AM | Online Article

    U.S. Forest Service officials said Tuesday that Black Hills National Forest Fire Engine Captain David "Dave" Ruhl died as a result of carbon monoxide poisoning and smoke inhalation. The findings were released Tuesday after an autopsy was completed. (snip) (More at the link)

    In a news release sent out today, Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams praised the Modoc County Sheriff saying,

    "The Sheriff's Office has been side-by-side with Forest employees from the beginning of the search through the arrangement of the procession to honor his service, and to the planning for his return to the Black Hills. The actions and professionalism of the Sheriff's Office that honors Dave and his family makes me realize how lucky we are to have them as partners. We are glad we are now able to return Dave home."

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • United States Flag half staff notification in memory of David J Ruhl: July 31 -August 6, 2015 (6 K pdf)
  • Frog Fire News Release: Line-of-Duty Fatality Confirmed

    Incident: Frog Fire Wildfire

    Released: 7/31/2015, 7 PM

    It is with great sadness we must confirm a Forest Service firefighter lost his life yesterday while responding to the Frog Fire northwest of Adin, California. The deceased is David “Dave” Ruhl of Rapid City, South Dakota.

    Search and rescue was conducted throughout the night until the firefighter was found this morning.

    Dave was on temporary assignment to the Big Valley Ranger District of the Modoc National Forest as an Assistant Fire Management Officer since June 14. Dave’s permanent position is Engine Captain on the Mystic Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest in Rapid City.

    The Forest Service is investigating this line-of-duty death.

    “This loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking,” said Forest Supervisor, Amanda McAdams. “Please keep the family and all of our Forest Service employees in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

    The Frog Fire southeast of Lava Camp on the Big Valley Ranger District started yesterday afternoon, exhibiting active fire behavior and growing to more than 800 acres by this evening with active spotting ahead of the fire front.

    Northern California Team 1 is expected to take over management of the fire tomorrow morning.

  • Frog Fire News Release --Service Planned for David Ruhl

    Incident: Frog Fire Wildfire

    Released: 8/4/2015

    Rapid City, SD – A memorial service and funeral have been planned in memory of David “Dave” Ruhl, Black Hills National Forest firefighter who died Friday, July 31, while responding to the Frog Fire on the Modoc National Forest near Alturas, Calif.

    A procession and memorial service will be held Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. The procession will begin at 1 p.m. from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 520 Cathedral Drive in Rapid City to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center. The route will go north along 5th Street and conclude in the west parking lot of the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

    Visitation will be at 2 p.m. at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center, 444 Mt. Rushmore Rd., Rapid City, SD 57701, followed by a memorial service which will begin at 3 p.m. Ruhl’s funeral will be held Monday, Aug. 10, 2015, at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

    Erin Ruhl, Dave’s wife, said he was an avid outdoorsman and always on the go. “He loved to hunt, ski, bike and hike and the Forest Service fit him to a T,” said Erin Ruhl. “He made lasting friends from all over and had an awesome sense of humor.” (More at the link)

  • Frog Fire Announcement:

    On Thursday August 6, 2015, we will hold a Moment of Silence at 12:00 p.m. for Assistant Fire Management Officer David Ruhl, who gave the ultimate sacrifice on the Frog Fire. Ruhl will be leaving with his family from the Redding airport on his journey home to South Dakota on Thursday August 6, 2015. This time period corresponds with Moments of Silence on the Black Hills National Forest and the Modoc National Forest.

  • Frog Fire News Release -- Fallen Firefighter Update

    Incident: Frog Fire Wildfire

    Released: 8/6/2015

    Alturas, Calif. Black Hills National Forest Engine Captain David Ruhl will be rejoined with his family on Thursday, August 6. Ruhl died while engaged in initial attack on the Frog Fire July 31.

    David will be accompanied by engines from the Modoc National Forest and will be joined by other fire departments during portions of the journey. The procession will depart from Mt. Shasta Memorial Chapel at 8 a.m. Thursday with the procession proceeding along Interstate 5 and Hwy. 44 to the Northern California Geographic Area Coordination Center in Redding. David will rejoin his family in a private setting at the center.

    The public is invited to pay their respects along the route.

  • Modoc National Forest Facebook Page: Story of the Procession  |  Video of the Procession (4 min 23 sec)
  • Black Hills National Forest Firefighters wait for their brother, David Ruhl's arrival at the airport in Rapid City South Dakota. (posted by the Wildland Firefighter Foundation)

    Dave Ruhl Procession Dave Ruhl Procession

  • Dave coming home. Arriving in Rapid City, South Dakota

    Dave Ruhl arrives home Dave Ruhl arrives home

    Dave Ruhl arrives home Dave Ruhl arrives home

  • Flag Ceremony at Dave's fire station in Rapid City SD --  FS Honor Guard
  • Frog Fire News Release --Obituary for David Ruhl

    Incident: Frog Fire Wildfire

    Released: 8/6/2015

    RAPID CITY | David “Dave” John Ruhl, 38, died Friday, July 31, 2015, at the Modoc National Forest in Adin, CA.

    Dave was born on May 9, 1977, in Thornton, CO, to John Ruhl and Pamela Sachs. He graduated in 1995 from Whitewater High School in Whitewater, WI, and immediately joined the United States Coast Guard. He was an MK2 Machinery Technician on active duty during the Gulf War and was stationed on the USCG Mackinaw and USCG Chippewa. Dave was honorably discharged in 1999.

    He then moved to Pierre, SD, where he became employed with the South Dakota State Women’s Prison as a correctional officer. This is where he met the love of his life, Erin, who was also a correctional officer at the prison. Dave and Erin were married on Oct. 23, 2004, and blessed with two children, Tyler and Ava.

    Dave had a deep love for his faith, family, and life as a firefighter. He enjoyed hunting, fishing, hiking, skiing, bicycling, hockey, and being outdoors, but mostly spending time with his family and friends. Dave was an avid Denver Broncos and Colorado Avalanche fan.

    Dave’s career with the U.S. Forest Service began in May 2001 with the Fort Pierre National Grassland as a seasonal firefighter rising to the rank of an Assistant Engine Captain. In 2008, he transferred to the Dubois Ranger District in Dubois, ID, and became an Engine Captain. In 2010, he transferred to the Mystic Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest. He took advantage of every available opportunity to become more knowledgeable about his profession and took on many temporary assignments nationwide in an effort to broaden his firefighting experience and to improve his skills as he was very passionate about his job.

    He loved his fire family and always made sure they had every available opportunity to further them in their careers. Dave was a huge advocate of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation and encouraged other firefighters to become members.

    Dave was also a volunteer firefighter for the Pierre Fire Department, Pierre Rural Fire Department, Pierre Rescue/Dive Squad through the Pierre Fire Department, and was a volunteer for Clark County EMS in Dubois, ID. He was actively involved with coaching his son Tyler’s youth hockey team and played hockey himself.

    Dave & Erin Dave & Erin
    Dave, Ava & Tyler Dave, Ava & Tyler

    Dave is survived by his wife Erin, son Tyler, and daughter Ava, of Rapid City, SD; father John Ruhl of Elk Horn, WI; mother Pamela Sachs and life partner Del Thomas of Janesville, WI; brother Michael Ruhl (Sheila), nephew Mitchell and niece Kailey, of Elk Horn, WI; grandmother Virginia Sachs of Berkley, Illinois; Aunt Joanne Ratz of Berkley, Illinois; father and mother-in-law Daryll and Mary Lou Stuart of Fort Pierre, SD; sister-in-law Darylynn Plucker (Monte) of Parker, SD; sister-in-law Shellie Krog (Shayne) of Fort Pierre, SD; brother-in-law Daryll Stuart, II and life partner Chad Davis, of Chattanooga, TN; niece Mandee Adrian (Jared) of Sioux Falls, SD; nephew Casey Krog (Brittany) of Harrisburg, SD; nephew Tanner Plucker (Melissa) of Sioux Falls, South Dakota; niece Sara Deelstra (Michael) of Parker, SD; great-nieces McKenzye, Jaylyn, Evelynn and Baylor, and great-nephews Connor, Colton, Jaycyn and Lincoln. He is preceeded in death by his paternal grandparents and his maternal grandfather.

    The Memorial Service is Sunday, Aug. 9, at 3 p.m. MDT at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center in Rapid City, SD.

    The Mass of Christian Burial is Monday, Aug. 10, at 10 a.m. MDT at Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Rapid City, SD, with Father Mike Mulloy as Celebrant. Inurnment will follow at Black Hills National Cemetery near Sturgis, SD.

    Family and friends may sign Dave’s online guest book at kirkfuneralhome.com

    In lieu of flowers, a memorial has been established with the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, 2049 Airport Way, Boise, ID 83705.

  • Dave Ruhl Biography Dave Ruhl Biography
  • Dave Ruhl's Processional from WFF's facebook video page (2 min):  Fallen Firefighter David Ruhl's precession to his memorial in Rapid City South Dakota.
  • Memorial Service Announcement
    Dave Ruhl's Memorial Dave Ruhl's Memorial
  • Dave Ruhl's Service will be streamed live at 3PM South Dakota time and 2PM Pacific time, 8/9/2015: South Dakota Public Broadcasting live link
  • David Ruhl Honor Guard Bell Ceremony Video
  • Firefighter Dave Ruhl honored in memorial service

    8/9/2015 | Online Article

    Rapid City, S.D. - As bagpipes wailed and the bell toned, hundreds of people paid their respects to David Ruhl, a Forest Service firefighter killed in a California fire.

    “We lost a courageous man,” Mary Wagner, associate chief of the U.S. Forest Service said at the memorial. “It is a loss felt by every member of the Forest Service.”

    “The kind of person he was (Ruhl) was one that others liked to follow,” Greg Bobzien, Black Hills National Forest supervisor, said.

    Ruhl, a Black Hills National Forest firefighter, was... (More at the link.)

  • Wildland Firefighter Foundation Facebook photos
  • Dave Ruhl's Memorial Dave Ruhl's Memorial

    Dave Ruhl's Memorial Dave Ruhl's Memorial

  • USFA Memorial Database: David J Ruhl    [The investigation found that Dave Ruhl had left his vehicle and was scouting on foot when contact was lost and he died. No doubt the USFA record under "Activity Type" will be corrected to reflect this. He and his vehicle were not involved in an accident, although another vehicle was, which added to the confusion about what had happened to Dave.]
  • US Forest Service Heroes Memorial: David J Ruhl

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Contributors to this article:  Mellie, John Miller, Wildland Firefighter Foundation Facebook

 

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