County Sheriff’s office completed a report on the Gales Fire fatality

A contract firefighter was killed by a falling tree in Oregon, August 23, 2021

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3-D Map, fatality, Gales Fire
3-D Map, fatality, Gales Fire Aug. 23, 2021.

A report completed by the Lane County Sheriff’s office concluded that Frumencio Ruiz Carapia was killed by a falling tree while working on the Gale Fire on the Willamette National Forest in Oregon, August 23, 2021. The incident occurred about 34 air miles east-southeast of Eugene.

Mr. Carapia, 56 years old, was employed by GE Forestry, a company based in Central Point, which is near Medford, Oregon. Originally from Mexico, he had worked for more than 25 years with GE. Mr. Carapia is survived by his four adult children, a grandson, and was looking forward to the birth of a granddaughter.

Vicinity map, Gales Fire Fatality
Vicinity map, Gales Fire Fatality, Aug. 23, 2021.

The crew was putting in a cold line on the edge of the fire. The Sheriff determined that a green tree snapped and slid down the slope striking Mr. Carapia. He suffered numerous very serious injuries and was deceased before he could be extricated from under the four-foot diameter tree.

Map, Gales Fire Fatality, Aug. 23, 2021
Map, Gales Fire Fatality, Aug. 23, 2021.The burned area is shown in brown. The white line is the fire edge.

Below are excepts from the Sheriff’s report, written in the first person by the responding officer:

“I made contact with the on scene command and was provided a name for the involved individual who was identified as Frumencio Ruiz Carapia. I was further advised the death was witnessed by the crew boss who was identified as Armando Tovar. I made contact with Tovar who stated his crew was putting in a “cold line” which was explained to be a fire line along the edge of the fire. Tovar stated the crew was in a steep creek drainage when he heard and observed a large tree snap above the crew. Tovar started calling on the radio for the crew to get out of the area. Tovar stated he observed the tree which he called a “green tree” snap and fall down the creek drainage and slide towards Ruiz Carapia, striking him. When asked if there was any chainsaw use going on in the area he stated there was none and they were only digging a fire line. The deceased was located under the tree and a call for help was placed on the radio.”

Fatality Gales Fire
The tree that fell during the Gales Fire, killing Frumencio Ruiz Carapia, Aug. 23, 2021. Lane County Sheriff’s office photo.

“I went with a crew down to where the deceased was located. The area is a steep creek drainage with old growth trees. I observed approximately 3 snags above the location where the deceased was located. The snags were burning near the base and as well as several feet up the trees. I was advised by fire personnel the trees were immediate hazards to the safety of the crew however because of the terrain and where we needed to go they were unable to cut them down. I was advised we needed to hastily work the scene and remove the deceased to get out of danger. I took a few photos of the scene and the deceased.”

“I maintained an observation of the deceased as he was removed from under the tree. I observed the tree to be approximately 75 feet long and about 4 feet in diameter. The tree appeared to have broken off from its base and fell down the creek drainage along the north side of the creek drainage before coming to rest in the creek bottom.”

Frumencio Ruiz Carapia
Frumencio Ruiz Carapia

The report did not include photos of the base of the tree.

The Gales Fire, managed as part of the Middle Fork Complex, ultimately burned more than 29,000 acres.

Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex, OR
Gales Fire, Middle Fork Complex of fires, OR, Aug. 16, 2021, InciWeb.

Wildfire Today’s first report about this line of duty death.

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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 “County Sheriff’s office completed a report on the Gales Fire fatality”

  1. Condolences to his family and crew. This is a terrible event for them and everyone involved who was there and witnessed it. It’s something that changes you forever. They are all in my thoughts and prayers. I hope they all get the support and love they need.
    Life is short please hug you’re loved ones.

  2. RiP Mr. Carapia,

    This is clearly Watch Out No. 19 – Death From Above. Every year for over 21 years now the mechanism responsible for WFs and FFs deaths on wildfires and RX burns has been HAZARD TREES.

    Among other things, these hazard trees are the result of poorly managed wildlands and a serious lack of fire.
    Nationally, our wildlands are dead, dying, disease-, and insect-infested fuel-loaded time bombs.

    Refer to them all as HAZARD TREES in the future and practice strict risk management when working in these fuel types.

  3. Funny how there is no comment on this tragedy!
    What, maybe because he was a contract FF? I guess that’s what we will go off of!
    Being in the contract world long enough you deal with the prejudice, which is hard enough.
    So saddened when our engines heard about this incident, we where on a fire close to this incident. Listening to overhead warn about the over head hazards, yet still sending us all out to get those political smokes.

    1. My comment is that we should not be deploying anyone in “steep’ or dangerous terrain to fight fires which only weather will stop. No person’s life is worth this futile and dangerous work Saddens me.


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