Services held for Trampus Haskvitz (updated)

Trampus Haskvitz funeral
Trampus S. Haskvitz
Trampus S. Haskvitz, 1987 - 2011

Tuesday afternoon the life of Trampus Haskvitz was celebrated at Hot Springs, South Dakota. Trampus was killed in the line of duty on the Coal Canyon fire northeast of Edgemont, SD on August 11 when he became trapped between a spot fire and the main fire.

The services were held at the Mueller Center in front of a standing room only crowd. There were an estimated 1,300 people in the main auditorium plus an additional 400 who watched it on video in another room.

Speakers during the service included South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, Joe Lowe director of the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division, Trampus’ brother Ben, and Chaplin Morris Nelson.

While Trampus was a firefighter with the state of South Dakota, the Coal Canyon fire is primarily on U. S. Forest Service land and is listed as a USFS-responsibility fire. The USFS sent a sizeable delegation of high-ranking personnel, including Tom Harbour the Director of Fire and Aviation, and various regional officials, including, I believe, a couple of Regional Foresters.

The Rapid City Fire Department assisted with the planning of the services and also supplied the Honor Guard.

After the services in the Mueller Center, a procession of over 130 fire department vehicles escorted Trampus to the cemetery. Unlike most fire department funerals, most of the trucks were brush engines, rather than structure rigs.

The Rapid City Journal has had extensive coverage of this tragedy, and that continued with their excellent article in Wednesday’s paper written by Kevin Woster. Here is an excerpt:

They buried a hero here Tuesday, on a summer day that began with smoke from the fire that killed him hanging in the air above this Southern Hills town.

Trampus Haskvitz, 23, a Buffalo Gap native remembered for his strong heart, gentle spirit and fearless approach to life, died last Thursday fighting the Coal Canyon Fire in the rugged canyon lands near Edgemont.

And smoke from that waning blaze, which was 95 percent contained on Tuesday, created a hazy beginning to a day that drew hundreds of firefighters to say goodbye.

Chaplain Morris Nelson noted the poignant presence of that smoke during a memorial service for Haskvitz at the Mueller Center Auditorium.

“Trampus died last Thursday fighting the fire you can still smell,” Nelson said to about 1,500 people in the packed auditorium.

The crowd included Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker, who sat with officers from the city fire department and police department, which just last week buried two of its officers slain in a North Rapid gunfight that draped the city in sadness.

The death of Haskvitz heaped tragedy upon tragedy. And Chaplain Nelson urged those who knew and loved him to remember Haskvitz and his sacrifice whenever they saw or smelled a fire.

Nelson was joined by a fire commander, a governor, a teacher and a brother in offering eulogies to Haskvitz, a college football player who honed that athleticism in seasonal firefighting work for the state Wildland Fire Suppression Division.

In his eulogy, Gov. Dennis Daugaard turned to the John Donne poem “No Man is an Island” and its powerful message of interconnectedness, particularly “any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.”

The ending of the poem, “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” was especially personal, because the memorial service ended with a traditional firefighter’s “last alarm.”

On a shining fire bell near Haskvitz’ casket, an honor squad member from the Rapid City Fire Department rang a sequence of three rings three times, concluding the service as many wept.

Other articles in the Rapid City Journal:

The video below shows the first 15 minutes of the 18-minute procession as it passed by my location (YouTube has a 15-minute limit). The fire trucks begin showing up at 2:10 minutes into the video.

Here are some photos I took on Tuesday.

Trampus Haskvitz funeral
Firefighters entering the services.
Trampus Haskvitz funeral
Engines staged before the services.

Trampus Haskvitz funeral
Trampus being escorted.

Trampus Haskvitz funeral

Trampus Haskvitz funeral

Trampus Haskvitz funeral

Trampus Haskvitz funeral

Fire departments from hundreds of miles away sent engines to help honor Trampus. There were representatives from North Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, and many from eastern South Dakota. There were trucks from departments I have never heard of, such as Reva, Sorum, and Metro. The engine below may have traveled the most miles.

Trampus Haskvitz funeral
Colorado State Forest Service engine.


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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.

5 thoughts on “Services held for Trampus Haskvitz (updated)”

  1. My heart and prayers go out to Trampus Haskvitz’s family. My own son is currently fighting the Coal Creek fire.

  2. There should be a fund set up in his name and to his family. This man gave the ultimate sacrifice to his fellow man and it should not go un-rewarded.

    1. John, a memorial fund has been established. Here is a quote from an article in the Rapid City Journal:

      HOT SPRINGS — A memorial fund was established in the name of fallen firefighter Trampus Haskvits at the Wells Fargo Bank in Hot Springs, according to a news release from the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division.
      Donations to the memorial can be made by contacting the bank at 605-745-4121 or by mailing the dontation to Wells Fargo Bank, N.A., Trampus Haskvitz Memorial, 101 South Chicago, Hot Springs, SD 57747

      A person could also donate to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, which is assisting the firefighters and their families who were affected by this tragedy.

  3. there were also a couple of trucks from Minnesota also..But this was a very nice way to honor him here.. Thumbs up to you..


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