Fund raiser for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation

WFFThe family that lost their son, Trampus Haskvitz, to a wildfire last year was so impressed with the support they received from the Wildland Firefighter Foundation that they are helping to organize a fund raiser for the organization. Here is a message from them and others asking for us to contribute.


Dear Firefighters,

On August 11, 2011, South Dakota lost a brave Wildland Firefighter in the Coal Canyon Fire near Edgemont, South Dakota.

Trampus S. Haskvitz was a recent graduate of Dickinson State University in Dickinson, North Dakota and was in his fifth year of firefighting based out of Hot Springs, SD with the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division as a FFT I ICT 5. He was an Engine Boss when he tragically lost his life saving others from a wildfire.

In his memory and to honor all Wildland Firefighters, his family is planning the First Annual Trampus S. Haskvitz Golf Tournament in Hot Springs, South Dakota on June 2, 2012 to raise funds for the Wildland Firefighters Foundation (WFF) based in Boise, Idaho. All proceeds collected as a result of the golf tournament will go to the WFF.

To make the golf tournament as meaningful and successful for the Wildland Firefighters Foundation as possible, Trampus’ family is respectfully soliciting donations from the fire community. Any merchandise, gift certificates or cash will be gratefully accepted. Cash donations can be sent directly to the 1st Annual Trampus S Haskvitz Golf Tournament at Wells Fargo Bank in Hot Springs SD. Questions or concerns about merchandise and gift certificates, please contact Jim Stevens Chief of the Hot Springs VFD.

The mission of the Wildland Firefighter Foundation is to honor past, present, and future Wildland firefighters. The Foundation helps maintain and grow the national monument established for those who have lost their lives in Wildland fires and to operate a financial fund providing assistance to the families of fallen and injured Wildland firefighters. In addition, the Foundation partners with private and interagency organizations to educate the public about Wildland fires and to promote excellence and safety in firefighting.

Trampus’ family and his firefighting colleagues in Hot Springs would like to thank you in advance for any support you can provide this annual event. It promises to be an exciting and fun weekend in the Black Hills of South Dakota and you can make a very positive impact on the Wildland Firefighting Community with your support.

Compassion Spreads Like Wildfire.


Trampus’ Family: Don, LuJean, Benjamin, Betsy and John Haskvitz

Jim Strain, Assistant Chief of Operations, South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression; Office Phone: 605-393-8114, for any questions or concerns.

Jim Stevens, Chief of the Hot Springs VFD; Cell #: 605-890-2124, for any questions concerning merchandise and gift certificates.

P.S. We will be putting the information to register for the 1st Annual Trampus S Haskvitz Golf Tournament on the internet soon and will inform you of the domain in the near future.

Firefighter appreciation night at Rapid City Rush game

Saturday night, January 14 the Rapid City Rush hockey team in Rapid City, South Dakota is honoring firefighters and the Wildland Firefighter Foundation with a Firefighter Appreciation Night. This is part of their “Heroes Weekend” — police on Friday and firefighters on Saturday. Discounted tickets for both groups are available by calling 605-716-7825. The team will have Special Edition Police and Fire Jerseys that will be worn this weekend and auctioned off after each game.

Here are some more details from Jim Strain, Assistant Chief for Operations with the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression:

…For Saturday Night, the Western Dakota Tech Fire Science program students under the direction of Megan Jaros’ Dad, Tom Jaros, will sell “Chuck-a-Puck” fundraiser pucks for the 2nd period intermission Chuck a Puck throw. All proceeds from the fundraiser will go to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation. Vicki Minor, Executive Director, will be there with *Trampus Haskvitz’ s Mom and Dad and Tramp’s sister and brothers as well. The Rush will show a picture of Tramp up on the big screen, and have a moment of silence in his memory.

In addition, all firefighters in the audience will be asked to stand and be recognized at some point in the game, so if you do go, wear your fire hoodie or shirt, and nomex pants and boots.

*Trampus S. Haskvitz was entrapped and killed on the Coal Canyon fire in the Black Hills of South Dakota on August 11, 2011.


Thanks go out to Jim

South Dakota: A third engine burnover on October 5

Earlier we had a report of two burnovers of engines on two fires in South Dakota on October 5. We just found out from Jim Strain about another one that occurred the same day.

Subject: Third Engine burnover in South Dakota

Wednesday, October 5th, saw yet another report of an entrapment on a prairie fire in the State of South Dakota. This is the third burn over/entrapment incident to be reported for that date. This incident occurred in Hutchinson County, about 1 mile South and 1 ¼ miles west of Tripp, SD. Jim Burk called the fire department today and gathered some more facts on the situation.

The fire was burning in CRP (Fuel Model 3) and had jumped the county road. The Tripp VFD engine was driving through the smoke, become disorientated, and drove down the steep embankment on the south road ditch. The engine did not roll, but as the firefighters exited the vehicle, one firefighter twisted his ankle trying to get up the steep embankment, and the other firefighter tried to crawl up the ditch, but could not, so exited the ditch running towards the west. That firefighter sustained 2nd degree burns to the face and arms. He will require skin grafts on the upper arms and is in the hospital at Sioux Falls. No damage to air ways. The firefighter was wearing his structure turn out bunker pants.

The weather from the nearest RAWS (Lake Andes) showed 95 degrees, 19 RH and winds SE at 25.

I have filed the ‘Wildland Fire Fatality and Entrapment Initial Report” through GPC and RMCC to NICC.

The SD Fire Marshal’s Office is checking into this report as well. This report is initial, and all information is preliminary and subject to change.


Asst. Chief — Operations, South Dakota Dept of Agriculture – Division of Wildland Fire Suppression

Update on firefighter burned on the Coal Canyon fire (updated)

(Scroll down to see an update.)

The Rapid City Journal has an article that updates us on the condition of Austin Whitney who was seriously burned on the Coal Canyon fire in southwest South Dakota August 11, 2011. Austin’s partner on the engine crew that was burned over, Trampus Haskvitz, was killed on that fire.

Here are some excerpts from the article:

Firefighter Austin Whitney said he will be back at his job with South Dakota Wildland Fire Supression as a seasonal firefighter.

“I’m still a little sore in the arms, but that’s why there’s physical therapy,” Austin, 22, said Wednesday during a telephone interview from the Western States Burn Center at North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley, Colo. Doctors will tell Austin today if he is ready to head home to Hot Springs and begin the next phase of his recovery.


“The pain was unbearable,” Austin said, when asked about his injuries. Immediately after the incident, all he wanted to do was go home and see his family, he said.

Austin has a lengthy recovery ahead of him. He had four skin grafts Aug. 15 to cover third-degree burns on his left arm and second-degree burns on his right arm and both calves. The largest is about 29 inches along and covers most of his left arm. Skin was grafted on his right elbow and small areas below the elbow, and there are 4-inch by-6-inch grafts on the calf of each leg, his father, Robert Whitney, said.


Austin Whitney said his personal protective fire-resistant clothing “did its job for what I was in.” His leather gloves prevented any significant injuries to his fingers. He had only a couple minor burns on a finger and thumb.

For the next year, Austin will require therapy to flex and stretch the skin grafts. Most of his range of motion has returned, his father said.

“On the elbows, I still need to stretch the skin,” Austin added, noting that the graft areas are still tender. “Everything else, I’m doing just fine.”


Since his hospitalization, Austin has received visits from countless firefighters. His T-shirt and hoodie collection of fire agency logos has grown by 16 pieces.

The cards, flowers and letters made a “big difference” in Austin’s recovery, Robert Whitney said.

The Wildfire Firefighter’s Foundation has assisted the Whitneys with their expenses in Greeley, Robert Whitney said. He suggests that anyone who is interested in supporting firefighters make a donation to the organization.

“It’s an overwhelming deal, that when something like this happens, how the firefighter brotherhood will band together and support the families and friends,” Robert Whitney said.


Austin remembers most of what happened the afternoon of the fire, but there are parts of the incident he cannot talk about because of the investigation.

“I do know that I did get pulled out by a couple Forest Service guys,” Austin said. “They got me into a safety zone after the fire was backing down.”

According to a U.S. Forest Service 72-hour report on the incident that killed Haskvitz, Forest Service, state and volunteer firefighters responded to the fire about 1:30 p.m. in Coal Canyon, 9 miles north of Edgemont.

Firefighters were digging a line around the flank of the fire when they were trapped about 3:10 p.m., when their escape route was overtaken by what the report termed a “rapidly spreading fire.” Haskvitz died in his vehicle, according to the report.

Austin said there wasn’t time for him to deploy his “shake and bake,” the small safety tents wildland firefighters carry.

“I didn’t have time to. I wish I would have,” Austin said.

Austin Whitney has told his father that flames were probably 100 to 200 feet tall coming up the canyon.

“It was just one of those things you just couldn’t avoid,” Austin said. “It’s one of those things that everyone wishes they could have” avoided.

The Forest Service firefighters who pulled Austin Whitney out of the fire have not been identified by fire authorities.

Robert Whitney joins his son in thanking those firefighters.

We hope Austin has a speedy recovery.


UPDATED at 4:40 p.m. MT, August 25, 2011:

Jim Strain of the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression tells us that Austin was discharged from the Burn Center in Greeley, CO this afternoon. His plans are to stay overnight in Greeley and visit some local fire departments on Friday morning before returning to his home in Hot Springs, South Dakota. Then with visiting nurses, he will continue home care, including rehab and physical therapy.

This is good news!





Update on firefighter injured on Coal Canyon fire

Austin WhitneyAustin Whitney, one of the firefighters that was injured on the Coal Canyon fire in South Dakota when their engine crew was trapped between a spot fire and the main fire, is recovering from his burns in a hospital in Greely, Colorado. His fellow crew member, Trampus Haskvitz, was killed during that burn over. Austin works for the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression and their Assistant Chief for Operations, Jim Strain, has been proactive in monitoring his recovery and providing assistance to the family. Jim was involved in setting up a web site where those interested in Austin’s condition can keep up to date on his status. Here is some information from that site, which was updated on August 17:

Welcome to our CaringBridge website. We’ve created it to keep friends and family updated about our loved one. Get started by reading the introduction to our website, My Story.

This story is about Austin Whitney, a State of South Dakota Div of Wildland Fire Suppression Seasonal firefigher that works in the Hot Springs Field Office. On August 11, at around 1500 hours, The crew of State Engine 561 of Trampus Haskvitz, KC Fees and Austin Whitney were entrapped in an engine burnover on the initial attack of the Coal Canyon fire. We lost Trampus in that incident, but KC and Austin survived and this is Austin’s story of recovery. Austin comes from a long family line of wildland firefighters in the Pringle SD area.


by JES

Talked to Austin’s Dad, and he said that Austin is doing as well as expected after the skin grafting surgical procedure on Monday. The team grafted skin on his left arm and on his shins. The surgical dressing and wrapping should be coming off in the next few days, and that is good news. Austin is in good spirits and appreciates very much the visits from the Greeley FD, and other fire departments. In fact, Evans FD [near Greely, CO] dropped by, along with Colorado State Forest Service, and the Rocky Mountain National Park Fire Use Fuels Module. They dropped off crew T-shirts and Austin’s parents said that Austin appreciates very much the chance to visit and talk to his fellow firefighters about the fire and his recovery. They can talk in language that he can understand and that makes him feel bonded to the world of wildland fire. Sounds like Fort Collins and Boulder will be coming by in the future, and Austin is looking forward to those visits as well. (8-17, JES)

If you want to visit Austin, first contact his father via email at: pit boss 83 at hot mail dot com. (Remove all spaces, and you know what to do with the “at” and “dot”.) His father knows which times are best for visits.  Austin is in the Western States Burn Center at the North Colorado Medical Center, 1801 16th Street, Greeley, CO 80631-5199.

Three other firefighters were also injured, one working for the State of South Dakota, and two who work for the U. S. Forest Service. They were all treated at a hospital and released.

I knew that the Wildland Firefighter Foundation has been assisting the families of the firefighters affected by the burn over, and I asked Jim Strain for a few more details in the case of Austin and his family. Here is his response:

As for the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, enough cannot be said. Vicki Minor, the executive director, stepped up the first day and arranged hotel rooms and a rental car for Austin’s family. And Vicki stays in contact with the family and is helping to support them while they are staying the Greeley Area. Her years of experience in dealing with this type of situation is invaluable.

Consider making a donation to the WFF. They do great work for injured firefighters and their families. I just re-upped my membership in the 52 Club, which represents a dollar for each week of the year.

More information about the Coal Canyon fire burn over:

Coal Canyon fire injury update

Jim Strain, Assistant Chief for Operations with the South Dakota Division of Wildland Fire Suppression, distributed the information below about the condition of Austin Whitney who was seriously injured while fighting the Coal Canyon fire north of Edgemont, South Dakota on Thursday, August 11. This is the same fire on which Trampus Haskvisk was killed when their engine crew was burned over. Information about Trampus’ funeral can be found HERE. Three other firefighters were also injured on Thursday but were treated and released.


Just wanted to pass on an update on the condition of Austin Whitney, the SDS WFS seasonal firefighter that was involved in the burn over of State Engine 561 on the Coal Canyon fire on Thursday.

This information has been provided by the family and Austin, and they want to share this information, so feel free to pass on to anyone else that wants to know. My e-mail list is by no means inclusive.

Austin is at the Western States Burn Unit in the North Colorado Medical Center in Greeley.  I accompanied the family down to Greeley on Friday, and have been in contact since my arrival back home.  But as of today, Austin had 13% of his body burned, and will be going procedures starting Monday to skin graft the serious burned area on his left elbow and arm.  Thankfully, his lungs and airways were spared from the heat. But he has a long road ahead with recovery and rehab.   Austin is engaged and alert, shows a determined spirit, visits with the nurses and family when he can, and is talking to friends and family on his cell phone.

The family asked if some of fellow fire crew members from the Hot Springs field office could visit, so I have sent down Steve Esser, Ben Maisel and Kevin Fees today to visit with family and Austin before he starts the skin graft procedure.  Steve will provide an updated report to us when gets back. In addition, Bob Whitney, Austin’s dad, did an interview with the Rapid City Journal about Austin, and that should be in the newspaper soon.

The Wildland Firefighter Foundation has been most supportative and helpful.  They have provided the rental car and motel rooms for the family and his fiancé, Becky Dawson. The Greeley Fire Department has dropped by everyday to check on the family.

Cards and letters can be sent to: North Colorado Medical Center, Attn: Austin Whitney, Burn Unit, 1801 16th St, Greeley Colorado, 80631.  We will be working with the family to get a Caring Bridge website set up. Bob and Julie Whitney, Austin’s mom and dad,  are always appreciative of any support they can get at this time.


Jim Strain

Asst Chief Operations