Update on the fatal Coal Canyon fire, August 13, 2011

Road leading through Coal Canyon fire
Road leading through Coal Canyon fire. Credit: Black Hills National Forest

A few more details are now available about the incident that claimed the life of Trampus Haskvitz, 23, of Hot Springs, South Dakota on August 11, 2011. In addition to Mr. Haskvitz four other firefighters, two others from the state of South Dakota and two from the U.S. Forest Service, were injured. Austin Whitney, 20, of Hot Springs suffered third-degree burns to his hands and neck and is being treated at a burn center in Greeley, Colo. Kevin Fees, 20, also of Hot Springs, was treated and released Thursday at Rapid City Regional Medical Center after suffering burns to his hands and neck. Both Mr. Whitney and Mr. Fees are employed by the state of South Dakota.

Other than the fact that they were treated for injuries and released and one worked out of Custer and the other out of Hot Springs, nothing else has been released about the USFS firefighters.

Joe Lowe, director of the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division, said during a news conference Friday that the firefighters had been making an initial attack with an engine on a lightning caused fire approximately 9 miles north of Edgemont, South Dakota. (It is unclear if Lowe’s description includes the two USFS injured firefighters or just the three firefighters from the state of South Dakota.)  Some of the firefighters were working on a flank of the fire from a mid-slope road when strong winds from thunderstorm activity caused spotting below them. The firefighters could not suppress the spot fire and became trapped between it and the main fire. They deployed fire shelters in the timber fuel type but the heat was very intense. The aluminum hose bed on an engine melted off.

Coal fire 8-13-2011
Map of the Coal fire 8-13-2011, showing heat detected by satellites. MODIS

Rocky Mountain Type 2 Incident Management Team C, Jay Esperance Incident Commander, took over management of the fire at 6 p.m., Friday evening August 12. The fire has burned 1,325 acres and is 20% contained as of Saturday night.

Visitation for Mr. Haskvitz will be held from 6:00 pm until 9:00 pm, Monday, August 15, 2011, at McColley’s Chapel of the Hills in Hot Springs, SD.

Funeral services will be held at 2:00 pm, Tuesday, August 16, 2011, at the Mueller Auditorium in Hot Springs with Chaplain Morris Nelson officiating.

The Argus Leader had this quote from Joe Lowe:

We will send this fire back to hell, where it belongs. It has taken one of ours and become very personal.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

3 thoughts on “Update on the fatal Coal Canyon fire, August 13, 2011”

  1. Our hearts go out to the family of Mr. Haskvitz. Our son, James Horan, has been pulled from his home district (Pike National Forest) in Colorado to fight the Coal Canyon fire. The tragedy that has visited the Haskvitz family brings into clear relief the very real danger that our forest fire fighters face on a regular basis. Please know that we hold the Haskvitz family in our hearts during this unbearable time.

  2. The tradegy of this event just reinforces for the rest of us: LCES, even on IA. And when there are T-storms around, maybe it’s best to back off to your Safety Zone until after they pass.
    I hope we can all learn something from the loss of Trampus.

  3. I can’t thank you enough for all the information I’ve been getting
    I am just so sorry and for the family’s and for all who work the
    My son called me when he was leaving to go up on Friday and the name of the fire—And today to have yesterday’s update was just wonderful and thank you so much


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