A U.S. Forest Service firefighter was killed in the Lake Tahoe area after he was struck by a tree while battling a wildfire — the second firefighter killed in a California blaze since the summer wildfire season got underway, officials said.
Michael Hallenbeck, 21, of Shingle Springs, Calif., was hit Saturday during the initial attack on a fire that broke out south of the Echo Summit mountain pass, the agency said in a statement Sunday.
On July 30, a firefighter was killed by a wildfire in the Modoc National Forest while he scouted the area for ways to fight the blaze. U.S. Forest Service firefighter David Ruhl, of Rapid City, South Dakota, had been on temporary assignment since June in California, where he was an assistant fire management officer for the Big Valley Ranger District.
"The grief we are feeling at the sudden loss of two of our firefighters ... reminds us of the sacrifices these men and women make every day," said Randy Moore, the agency's Pacific Southwest regional forester.
More than 10,000 firefighters have been dispatched to fight more than two dozen wildfires that are still burning in drought-stricken California.