MapsReportsWLF LinksMedia ArticlesMultimediaComments

 

Incident Name:  Sierra fire
Date:  8/8/2015, 1730 hrs
Personnel:  Mike Hallenbeck of Shingle Springs CA.
Age: 21
Agency/Organization:  US Forest Service
Position: firefighter

Summary:  On 8/8/2015 Mike Hallenbeck, a U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter was working on Organized Crew 36 on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) in the Lake Tahoe area. Mike was struck by a tree during initial firefighting efforts on a new wildfire named the “Sierra” Fire. The incident occurred at approximately 5:30 pm in a remote area between the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Eldorado National Forest. Mike succumbed to his injuries. A second firefighter who was also injured in the incident was treated and released from a local hospital.

Mike Hallenbeck, photo from US Forest Service

Mike Hallenbeck Mike Hallenbeck

 

Horizontal line

Maps

Lake Tahoe area, remote area between the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Eldorado National Forest; just inside the LTBMU boundary south of Echo Summit

Return to top

Horizontal line

Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

  • US Forest Service statement on death of firefighter:

    "VALLEJO, California, August 8, 2015 – It is with great sorrow we must confirm the loss of a U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter this evening in the Lake Tahoe area.

    The fire crew member succumbed to injuries suffered when struck by a tree during initial firefighting efforts on a new wildfire named the “Sierra” Fire. The incident occurred at approximately 5:30 pm in a remote area between the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Eldorado National Forest.

    A second firefighter who was also injured in the incident has been treated and released from a local hospital. Additional information will be forthcoming as details become available."

  • All Region 5 Employees:

    It is with a very heavy heart I write to inform you of the loss of US Forest Service firefighter, Mike Hallenbeck. Mike was a 21-year-old crew member from Shingle Springs, Calif., who died Saturday afternoon as a result of injuries received on a wildfire on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) in northern California.

    Mike, a member of the Organized Crew36 based on the LTBMU, was struck by a tree during the initial response to the Sierra Fire which straddled the Eldorado National Forest and LTBMU. The incident occurred around 5:30 p.m. Efforts to resuscitate him were not successful.

    Our hearts go out to the family and friends of this brave young man who lost his life yesterday working with his crew to control the blaze. We are launching a Coordinated Response Protocol (CRP) to learn everything we can to prevent future tragedies like this.

    We recognize the impact and significance of losing multiple members of our R5 Forest Service family within a very short time. We need to ensure we continue to support each other and stay vigilant as we continue firefighting efforts across the Region. There is no greater value than the lives of our Forest Service employees and the public we serve.

    Randy Moore

    Regional Forester

    Forest Service

    Pacific Southwest Region

  • Forest Service News Release: Fallen firefighter identified

    VALLEJO, California, August 9, 2015 - A 21 year-old firefighter from Shingle Springs, Calif., died Saturday afternoon as a result of injuries received while suppressing a wildfire on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) in northern California. Michael "Mike" Hallenbeck was a member of Organized Crew 36 on the LTBMU.

    Hallenbeck was struck by a tree at approximately 5:30 p.m. during the initial attack on the Sierra Fire, just inside the LTBMU boundary south of Echo Summit. Efforts to resuscitate Hallenbeckwere not successful.

    "Our hearts go out to the family, friends and fellow crewmembers of this brave firefighter," said U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore. "The loss of any member of our Forest Service family is a tragedy. The grief we are feeling at the sudden loss of two of our firefighters; Dave Ruhl last week on the Modoc National Forest and now Mike Hallenbeck on the Basin, reminds us of the sacrifices these men and women make every day."

    The Sierra Fire is one of several dozen lightning-caused fires that began on multiple national forests in northern California on Saturday.

  • Mourning our Loss

    It is with great regret and sadness that I report the death of Michael “Mike” Hallenbeck, a fire fighter who died Aug. 8, while suppressing a wildfire in Northern California. My deepest condolences and thoughts go out to Mike’s family, his friends, and to his crew members at Organized Crew 36 on the Lake Tahoe Basis Management Unit where he worked. A feeling of grief has swept over our entire organization as we have lost two brave fire fighters; Dave Ruhl last week on the Modoc National Forest and now Mike on the Basin, within a week of each other.

    Tragedies of this nature should serve as a reminder of the heroic work and sacrifices made by men and women, like Mike. They put others before themselves routinely in order to combat wildfire across our nation – protecting people and communities. These tragic incidents also strengthen our commitment to safety for ourselves and each other, especially during this arduous fire season.

    We are still gathering all of the details of this tragic event and will share them as we can. But for now, we need to continue to keep those closest to Mike in our thoughts and prayers.

    The people across the U.S. Forest Service truly care for each other and for the essential work we do each and every day.  Let’s continue to do so as we honor Mike in the difficult days ahead.

    Chief Tidwell, Forest Service Chief

  • US Forest Service: 24 hour Report
  • US Forest Service: 72 hour Report
  • US Forest Service: Sierra Tree Strike Incident Learning Review Status Report

Return to top
Horizontal line

Wildlandfire.com Links:

Return to top

Horizontal line

Media Articles and Reports

  • U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Killed at Sierra Fire

    8/9/15 | Online Article (Sacramento Bee on Firehouse.com)

  • Firefighter killed at South Lake Tahoe fire

    8/11/2015 | Online Article

    Lighting sparked a small wildfire over the weekend in the South Lake Tahoe area, which went on to kill one firefighter and injure another, the U.S. Forest Service said Sunday. The Sierra Fire ignited Saturday afternoon in rugged terrain south of Echo Summit in the Eldorado National Forest. The lightning followed a thunderstorm in the area west of the Sierra Crest.

    The blaze reached about one-tenth of an acre and was 75 percent contained as of Saturday night.

    Michael Hallenbeck, a 21-year-old member of Organized Crew 36 on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit, was struck by a tree at approximately 5:30 p.m. during the initial attack on the Sierra Fire, the U.S. Forest Service said in a statement Sunday. Efforts to resuscitate Hallenbeck, who was from Shingle Springs, Calif., were not successful. “Our hearts go out to the family, friends and fellow crewmembers of this brave firefighter,”

    U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore said in the statement. “The loss of any member of our Forest Service family is a tragedy. The grief we are feeling at the sudden loss of two of our firefighters — Dave Ruhl last week on the Modoc National Forest and now Mike Hallenbeck on the Basin — reminds us of the sacrifices these men and women make every day.” (more at the link)

  • Fallen Firefighter’s Procession Draws Hundreds Along Highway 50

    August 13, 2015 | Online Article

    SOUTH LAKE TAHOE (CBS13) — Hundreds lined up along Highway 50 on Thursday to honor a fallen firefighter. Just as strangers showed up on Wednesday night for a candlelight vigil, many who never knew Mike Hallenbeck lined up to honor him on Thursday.

    It was a final journey filled with love, appreciation and heartache for a young man whose life was cut short doing his job. Hallenbeck was killed on Saturday after being hit by a falling tree as the U.S. Forest Service wildland firefighter battled the Sierra Fire in Lake Tahoe. (more at the link)

  • Video of Mike's procession from the Wildland Firefighter Foundation Facebook page

Return to top

Horizontal line

Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Hallenbeck’s family has released the following statement on his death:

    “Mikey was so excited to become a firefighter. When he first found out he had the position, he spent every day hiking with a pack to prepare. Mikey loved the outdoors and sports. He played football, basketball, soccer, ice hockey, tennis and golf. He also loved to snowboard and hike. He spent the last two ski seasons working for Sierra Ski Resort. Now he has had a greater calling. We are so very proud he stepped up to work hard and be brave to put others before himself. We cannot even begin to express the pain our family is going through and we ask for the respect of our privacy as we go through this devastating ordeal.”

  • From Office of the Governor:

    SACRAMENTO August 9, 2015 - Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. today issued the following statement regarding the death of U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Mike Hallenbeck:

    “This tragedy reminds us of the dangers firefighters face every time they suit up. Anne and I are grateful for U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Mike Hallenbeck’s service and on behalf of all Californians, we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues.”

    Hallenbeck, 21, of Shingle Springs, California, served in the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit. He died today from injuries sustained while battling the Sierra Fire in El Dorado County.

    Hallenbeck is survived by his parents, Toni and Kirby Hallenbeck, and sister, Jessica Hallenbeck.

    In honor of Firefighter Hallenbeck, Capitol flags will be flown at half-staff.

  • South Lake Tahoe Local CBS 13 in a video covers the procession attended by and participated in by humdreds

    Mike Hallenbeck honored Mike Hallenbeck honored

  • USFA Memorial Database: Mike Hallenbeck
  • US Forest Service Heroes Memorial Database: Mike Hallenbeck

Return to top

Contributors to this article: John Miller, Mellie

 

WFF Boots & Wreath logo. Please support the Wildland Firefighter Foundation