Fallen firefighter returns to Rapid City

David Ruhl
The aircraft carrying the Ruhl family passes under crossed water streams at the Air Tanker Base at the Rapid City Airport. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

Thursday a fallen firefighter returned home. The remains of David (Dave) Ruhl, killed July 30 while fighting a wildfire in northern California, were brought back to Rapid City. His wife and two children were flown Wednesday morning from Rapid City to Redding, California to receive the remains that had been transported in a procession from Mt. Shasta to the Northern California Service Center, a firefighting hub in that part of the state. Then the family got back on the King Air operated by the State of South Dakota and flew back to Rapid City.

Many firefighters were present at the Air Tanker Base to honor David Ruhl. Photo by Bill Gabbert.
Many firefighters were present at the Air Tanker Base to honor David Ruhl. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

After it landed, the aircraft taxied to the Air Tanker Base and passed under crossed water streams provided by two of the airport’s crash rescue fire engines. The plane was met by dozens of firefighters standing at attention. A member of the Honor Guard first exited the aircraft carrying the cremated remains of Mr. Ruhl and transferred them to one of the firefighters. Then Mrs. Ruhl and the two children came down the aircraft stairs and passed through two rows of saluting firefighters as they made their way to the green Forest Service engine in which Mr. Ruhl served as Captain.

David Ruhl
The remains of David Ruhl are transferred at the Rapid City Airport. Photo by Bill Gabbert
Dave Ruhl family
The Ruhl family walks through a corridor formed by saluting firefighters. Photo by Bill Gabbert.

The engine then became part of a procession that began with about a dozen engines and other emergency vehicles that had been parked at the Air Tanker Base. As it made its way out of the airport it picked up at least another two dozen other vehicles, mostly engines, that were waiting in the “cell phone” parking area. Making their way down to Highway 44 one of the Tatanka Hotshots’ crew carriers tagged on, and when the procession passed the Rapid Valley Fire Department even more joined.  Eventually the family was escorted to their home in Rapid City.

Other events that are scheduled:

Sunday, August 9, 2015 – Procession and Memorial Service In Rapid City, South Dakota: A procession will begin at 1 p.m. from the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, 520 Cathedral Drive in Rapid City (map) to the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center (map). 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.

The memorial service will be streamed live on the internet on South Dakota Public Broadcasting at www.sdpb.org/live.

Monday, August 10, Funeral: Mr. Ruhl’s funeral will be held at 10 a.m. at the Cathedral of Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

More information about the fatality.

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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 “Fallen firefighter returns to Rapid City”

  1. Thursday a fallen firefighter returned home.

    and many of us appreciate it.


    1. Yes. I hadn’t commented so far, because I didn’t know what to say in the face of this family’s great sadness. Just that I hope some day they will find comfort in the memory of the honors their loved one received. Highest respect for all the men and women who put themselves on the line for us daily.


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