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Firefighter Dies Battling Wildfire in California

by Phil Helsel /  / Updated 

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A U.S. Forest Service firefighter has died while battling a wildfire in northern California, authorities said.

Searchers who had been scouring the region all night found the body of David Ruhl Friday morning near the so-called Frog Fire, northwest of Adin, the Forest Service said.

"This loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking," Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams said in a statement.

The Forest Service is investigating the circumstances of Ruhl’s death. Ruhl, 38, of Rapid City, South Dakota, was normally assigned to the Black Hills, but was on a temporary assignment to the Modoc National Forest in California when the blaze began.

“Anne and I were saddened to learn of the tragic death of U.S. Forest Service Firefighter Dave Ruhl, who left his home state to help protect one of California’s majestic forests," California Gov. Jerry Brown said in a statement. "Firefighter Ruhl will be remembered for his service and bravery and we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues with the U.S. Forest Service."

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Ruhl is survived by a wife and two children. He was a 14-year veteran of the Forest Service and formerly served in the Coast Guard, Brown said. Brown ordered flags at the Capitol to be flown at half-staff.

The Frog Fire began near a campground Thursday and swelled to 800 acres by Friday evening, the Forest service said, and erratic winds were making the path of the blaze hard to predict.

There are more than a dozen major wildfires across the state of California, which is in the fourth year of a historic drought.

The largest is the so-called Rocky Fire in Lake County west of Sacramento, which was up to 18,000 acres and was 5 percent contained as of Friday evening, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

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