US Forest Service firefighter killed while battling blaze

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Sunday, August 9, 2015

VALLEJO, CA -- 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.

The firefighter was hit about 5:30 p.m. Saturday while working in a remote area between the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and Eldorado National Forest, the agency said in a news release. The firefighter's name and age were not released.

A second male firefighter who was also injured in the incident has been treated and released from a nearby hospital, the Forest Service said.

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.

More than 10,000 firefighters have been dispatched to fight 18 wildfires currently burning in drought-stricken California.

The largest blaze statewide is burning in Lake, Yolo and Colusa counties and prompted the evacuations of hundreds of residents. The wildfire 100 miles north of San Francisco has destroyed 43 residences, 53 outbuildings and eight other structures.

The fire, which has charred more than 107 square miles since igniting July 29, was 70 percent contained Sunday and was expected to be fully contained by Thursday, Cal Fire said.

In Central California, a wildfire was expanding in the Tulare County portion of the Sequoia National Forest.

The Forest Service said the blaze has consumed 2 square miles and posed no threat to any structures by Sunday morning. However, the wildfire, which began with a lightning strike July 31, could be a major threat to the giant sequoias - the largest trees on Earth - as well as Hume Lake Christian Camp and the surrounding areas if it crosses the Kings River to the south. This spread would also close public access to Kings Canyon National Park.

About 300 firefighters are focusing their efforts on keeping the wildfire north of the river, Forest Service spokeswoman Linda Hecker told the Fresno Bee.

Hecker said the fire crews are using helicopters to drop water from Hume Lake onto the fire's southern flank in order to keep it from advancing to the Kings River.