US Forest Service firefighter killed while battling blaze ID'd

VALLEJO, Calif. (KGO) -- A U.S. Forest Service firefighter who died Saturday evening in the Lake Tahoe area while battling a wildfire has been identified.

Authorities with the agency released a statement saying Michael "Mike" Hallenbeck from Shingle Springs, Calif. died from injuries received while suppressing a wildfire on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit (LTBMU) in Northern California. The 21-year-old was a member of Organized Crew 36 on the LTBMU.

Hallenbeck was struck by a tree at approximately 5:30 p.m. during the initial attack on the Sierra Fire, just inside the LTBMU boundary south of Echo Summit.

"Our hearts go out to the family, friends and fellow crewmembers of this brave firefighter," said U.S. Forest Service Pacific Southwest Regional Forester Randy Moore. "The loss of any member of our Forest Service family is a tragedy. The grief we are feeling at the sudden loss of two of our firefighters; Dave Ruhl last week on the Modoc National Forest and now Mike Hallenbeck on the Basin, reminds us of the sacrifices these men and women make every day."

The Sierra Fire is one of several dozen lightning-caused fires that began on multiple national forests in Northern California on Saturday.

On July 30, a firefighter was killed by a wildfire in Northern California as he scouted the area and became trapped by the wind-stoked blaze. U.S. Forest Service firefighter David Ruhl, 38, was driving down a Modoc National Forest road in a vehicle. The fire suddenly grew and trapped him, information officer Ken Sandusky said.

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 of the Modoc National.

Click here for full coverage on the wildfires burning in Northern California.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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