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