Firefighter killed in blaze near Lake Tahoe
A firefighter was killed and another injured when they were struck by a tree on Saturday while fighting a small lighting fire south of Highway 50.
Shingle Springs, Calif. resident Michael Hallenbeck, 21, was identified as the fallen firefighter on Sunday. He was a member of Organized Crew 36 on the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit of the U.S. Forest Service. The second firefighter has been treated and released from a local hospital.
According to the U.S. Forest Service, both Hallenbeck and the injured firefighter were working the Sierra Fire at 5:30 p.m. in a remote area between the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Eldorado National Forest.
Hallenbeck’s family issued a statement regarding his death.
“Mikey was so excited to become a firefighter. When he first found out he had the position, he spent every day hiking with a pack to prepare. Mikey loved the outdoors and sports. He played football, basketball, soccer, ice hockey, tennis and golf. He also loved to snowboard and hike. He spent the last two ski seasons working for Sierra Ski Resort. Now he has had a greater calling. We are so very proud he stepped up to work hard and be brave to put others before himself. We cannot even begin to express the pain our family is going through and we ask for the respect of our privacy as we go through this devastating ordeal.”
The Sierra Fire was one of several dozen lightning-caused fires that began on multiple National Forests in Northern California on Saturday.
The fire was a tenth of an acre in size, burning in rugged terrain south of Echo Summit. It was 75 percent contained as of Saturday night.
“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 U.S. Forest Service, CAL FIRE and the Nevada Division of Forestry responded Saturday.