Coal Canyon fire fatality, 72-hour report

Below is a portion of the “Expanded 72-hour report” issued by the U. S. Forest Service’s Washington Office for the incident on the Coal Canyon fire which resulted in the death of firefighter Trampus S. Haskvitz.

Coal Canyon fatality 72-hour report

Services held for Trampus Haskvitz (updated)

Trampus S. Haskvitz
Trampus S. Haskvitz, 1987 - 2011

Tuesday afternoon the life of Trampus Haskvitz was celebrated at Hot Springs, South Dakota. Trampus was killed in the line of duty on the Coal Canyon fire northeast of Edgemont, SD on August 11 when he became trapped between a spot fire and the main fire.

The services were held at the Mueller Center in front of a standing room only crowd. There were an estimated 1,300 people in the main auditorium plus an additional 400 who watched it on video in another room.

Speakers during the service included South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard, Joe Lowe director of the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division, Trampus’ brother Ben, and Chaplin Morris Nelson.

While Trampus was a firefighter with the state of South Dakota, the Coal Canyon fire is primarily on U. S. Forest Service land and is listed as a USFS-responsibility fire. The USFS sent a sizeable delegation of high-ranking personnel, including Tom Harbour the Director of Fire and Aviation, and various regional officials, including, I believe, a couple of Regional Foresters.

The Rapid City Fire Department assisted with the planning of the services and also supplied the Honor Guard.

After the services in the Mueller Center, a procession of over 130 fire department vehicles escorted Trampus to the cemetery. Unlike most fire department funerals, most of the trucks were brush engines, rather than structure rigs.

The Rapid City Journal has had extensive coverage of this tragedy, and that continued with their excellent article in Wednesday’s paper written by Kevin Woster. Here is an excerpt:

They buried a hero here Tuesday, on a summer day that began with smoke from the fire that killed him hanging in the air above this Southern Hills town.

Trampus Haskvitz, 23, a Buffalo Gap native remembered for his strong heart, gentle spirit and fearless approach to life, died last Thursday fighting the Coal Canyon Fire in the rugged canyon lands near Edgemont.

And smoke from that waning blaze, which was 95 percent contained on Tuesday, created a hazy beginning to a day that drew hundreds of firefighters to say goodbye.

Chaplain Morris Nelson noted the poignant presence of that smoke during a memorial service for Haskvitz at the Mueller Center Auditorium.

“Trampus died last Thursday fighting the fire you can still smell,” Nelson said to about 1,500 people in the packed auditorium.

The crowd included Rapid City Mayor Sam Kooiker, who sat with officers from the city fire department and police department, which just last week buried two of its officers slain in a North Rapid gunfight that draped the city in sadness.

The death of Haskvitz heaped tragedy upon tragedy. And Chaplain Nelson urged those who knew and loved him to remember Haskvitz and his sacrifice whenever they saw or smelled a fire.

Nelson was joined by a fire commander, a governor, a teacher and a brother in offering eulogies to Haskvitz, a college football player who honed that athleticism in seasonal firefighting work for the state Wildland Fire Suppression Division.

In his eulogy, Gov. Dennis Daugaard turned to the John Donne poem “No Man is an Island” and its powerful message of interconnectedness, particularly “any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind.”

The ending of the poem, “never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee” was especially personal, because the memorial service ended with a traditional firefighter’s “last alarm.”

On a shining fire bell near Haskvitz’ casket, an honor squad member from the Rapid City Fire Department rang a sequence of three rings three times, concluding the service as many wept.

Other articles in the Rapid City Journal:

The video below shows the first 15 minutes of the 18-minute procession as it passed by my location (YouTube has a 15-minute limit). The fire trucks begin showing up at 2:10 minutes into the video.

Here are some photos I took on Tuesday.

Trampus Haskvitz funeral
Firefighters entering the services.
Trampus Haskvitz funeral
Engines staged before the services.

Continue reading “Services held for Trampus Haskvitz (updated)”

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

Coal Canyon fire fatality funeral arrangements

The funeral for Trampus Haskvisk who died fighting the Coal Canyon fire north of Edgemont, South Dakota will be at 2:00 p.m. Tuesday, August 16 at the Mueller Center on 6th Street in Hot Springs, SD. Trampus was a five-year veteran with the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division so I hope there is a large turnout as a show of respect for him and his family.

Below is the information about the funeral service that was distributed by Rod Seals, Operations Chief for the Rapid City Fire Department:


Schedule for Funeral Service for Firefighter Trampus Haskvitz

 Note:  All Public Safety and Emergency Responders are encouraged to attend the funeral/celebration of life services for Trampus Haskvitz.  Because we are unsure of the number of you that will be attending, we ask that you RSVP by calling Rapid City Fire Department, Station 1 at (605) 394-4180 with the following information:  Agency name, total number of personnel attending (including family)  and number of emergency vehicles that will be in the procession.

Tuesday Line-Up:

  All South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division, Black Hills National Forest – Hells Canyon District, and the National Park Service – Wind Cave personnel are asked to arrive at the Mueller’s Civic Center 11:30 to line up for the procession. Line-up for these agencies will be in front of the Muellers Center on 6th street. Your family is welcome to sit with you in a designated seating area.

 All WFS, BHNF-Hells Canyon District, and NPS-Wind Cave personnel are asked to follow the signs to the staging area within the Mueller’s Civic Center. Seating will begin at 1:30 pm.

  All other Public Safety Departments & Agency Personnel not included in the list above are asked to line up on Galveston Avenue (1/2 block east of the Mueller Center) starting at 12:30 pm. Departments are asked to use the following route when lining up on Galveston Ave. Highway 18 Bypass turning right onto Galveston Avenue.

   Seating will begin at 1:00 pm.

   The funeral service will begin at 2:00 pm.

Tuesday Procession:

  Following the service, WFS, BHNF-Hells Canyon District, and NPS-Wind Cave personnel should line up outside the Mueller Civic Center as Firefighter Trampus Haskvitz is escorted to a fire engine. After Trampus is escorted firefighters are asked to return to their vehicles as quickly as possible.

  The procession will run west of 6th street, left on South River Street, right on Cold Brook Avenue, left on School Street, entering Evergreen Cemetery. A map will be handed out as you line up in the staging area.

 During the procession the Fall River County Dispatch will sound the emergency sirens twice.

   If your agency provides you with a Class A Uniform, please wear it.

  Should you not have a Class A Uniform, you are asked to wear your Class B (tie and uniform shirt) or Class C Uniform (agency uniform with no tie).

   Crew personnel should wear their crew shirts.

  Incident personnel should wear either a Rocky Mountain Team shirt or nomex.

South Dakota firefighter killed on wildfire

On Thursday, August 11, a firefighter employed by the state of South Dakota was killed in an entrapment on a wildfire. Here is an excerpt from theRapid City Journal:

A Hot Springs seasonal firefighter died and two others were injured after being caught in a burn-over while fighting the Coal Canyon Fire near Edgemont on Thursday afternoon.

Trampus Haskvitz, 23, died from injuries he suffered when winds from a storm system pushed the fire into the area he was working, trapping him and two others.

Haskvitz and the others were fighting a lightning-sparked fire about 9 miles north of Edgemont.

The injured are Austin Whitney and Kevin Fees, also of Hot Springs. The men were airlifted to Rapid City Regional Hospital.

Whitney is being transferred tonight to a burn center in Greeley, Colo.

Fees is in stable condition at Rapid City Regional Hospital.

“This is very sad news,” Gov. Dennis Daugaard said in a prepared statement. “Linda and I are praying for Trampus’ loved ones, and for the firefighters who were injured. Too many times in recent weeks, South Dakotans have been reminded just how much we owe to the firefighters, law enforcement and others who risk their lives to protect us all.”

The three firefighters were seasonal employees of the South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression Division.

Our sincere condolences go out to the families and co-workers, and we hope for a quick recovery for the two injured firefighters.

South Dakota firefighters have been busy over the last month. The WhoopUp fire that burned from Wyoming into South Dakota blackened over 10,000 acres in mid-July and prompted a fire behavior advisory that warned of unusually high rates of spread on fires due to heavier than normal winter and spring rains that led to a thick growth of grass.


Thanks go out to Jerome and Robert

Still more photos of WhoopUp fire near Newcastle

I have had some requests to see more of the photos of the WhoopUp fire that I took southeast of Newcastle, Wyoming on July 18, 2011…. so, I put a bunch of them in a slide show.

Originally we posted photos HERE and HERE. Articles about the WhoopUp fire are HERE.


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