South Dakota firefighter killed while responding to a fire in California

By Ken Sandusky, U.S. Forest Service,
released at 7:45 p.m PT, July 31, 2015


“Alturas, Calif. – 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 (map). 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 Saturday morning.

Additional detailed information on the Frog Fire will be available on Inciweb at”


California Governor Brown also issued a statement about the fatality and mentioned that Mr. Ruhl is survived by his wife, Erin, and their two children. He worked for the U.S. Forest Service for 14 years and previously served in the U.S. Coast Guard.

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

At Wildfire Today our sincere condolences go out to Mr. Ruhl’s friends, co-workers, and family.

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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.

9 thoughts on “South Dakota firefighter killed while responding to a fire in California”

  1. So very sorry to hear, Bill.

    RIP, Capt. Ruhl. Thank you for your service. Prayers for your family and colleagues.

  2. RIP David Ruhl.

    This time it’s an actual US Forestry Service employee… so by law… this Wildland Fire fatality MUST be investigated by the U.S. Agriculture Department’s Office of Inspector General ( OIG ) and not just some put-together, temporary “Special Accident Investigation Team” ( SAIT ).

    Any word yet about whether there was any attempt at a Fire Shelter DEPLOYMENT?

  3. When OIG gets invovled I don’t think that is a good thing for Fire, remember what came out of Thirty Mile.

  4. Lefty – the Thirtymile fire resulted in the law (PL 107-203) that mandates that the USDA OIG investigate USFS burnover fatalities. Good idea or bad, it’s now a Law. Tell your Congress-person it’s a bad Law and to repeal it before it leads down the path to another Cramer Fire investigation.

  5. Sorry about the loss of a fellow firefighter. Prayers from my family goes out to Donald Ruhl’s family. May the great spirit watch over the family and know that we care

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