South Dakota firefighter dies battling California forest fire

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A South Dakota firefighter, on temporary assignment in California, was killed while scouting a fire late Thursday.

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David Ruhl, 36 years old, was helping to fight a blaze in Modoc National Forest, located in the far northeast corner of California, at the time of his death the Rapid City Journal reports.

Ruhl lived in Rapid City with his wife, Erin, and two children, according to a statement from Gov. Edmund Brown's office. He served with the Mystic Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest in South Dakota.

Brown called Ruhl's death "tragic," noting he "left his home state to help protect one of California’s majestic forests."

He ordered flags be flown at half-staff in his honor.

The Associated Press reports Ruhl was scouting, trying to figure out how to best push back against the blaze, when he became trapped by the flames.

Crews searched throughout the night and found his body Friday morning.

Forest Supervisor Amanda McAdams called Ruhl's death "tragic and heartbreaking," according to a release from the Forest Service.

Brown declared a state of emergency Friday, after severe drought conditions and extreme weather led to fires across thousands of acres of land.

The Rapid City Journal reports Ruhl was originally born in Wisconsin (his social media indicates he went to Whitewater High School), and served in the U.S. Coast Guard. He joined the Mystic Ranger District in 2001.

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