DSU alum killed, 4 injured in SD forest fireSIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A 23-year-old firefighter was killed and four others were injured fighting a lightning-sparked blaze on U.S. Forest Service land in western South Dakota’s Black Hills, officials said Friday.
SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (AP) — A 23-year-old firefighter was killed and four others were injured fighting a lightning-sparked blaze on U.S. Forest Service land in western South Dakota’s Black Hills, officials said Friday.
Trampus Haskvitz of Hot Springs, a former Dickinson State University football player, died Thursday after heat generated from 14- to 20-foot flames proved too great for the firefighters’ protective fire shelters, which are backpacks that unfold into what look like aluminum foil one-person tents, said Joe Lowe, director of South Dakota Wildland Fire Suppression.
The heat was so intense it also melted their engine, Lowe said.
Crews continued fighting the 150-acre fire nine miles north of Edgemont on
“I can tell you this, we will send this fire back to hell where it belongs,” Lowe said. “We will do that, because it’s taken one of ours and become very personal at this time.”
A weather front had just moved through the area, and strong erratic winds from a downburst of unstable air spread the fire. The firefighters were on a midslope road when the fire spotted below them, Lowe said.
“At that point, they became trapped between two bodies of fire,” he said. “They could not get the spot fire. It gained in size that quickly and ran uphill.”
Two 20-year-old firefighters from Hot Springs were injured. Austin Whitney, who suffered burns to his arms and third-degree burns to his hands and neck, has been transfered to a certified burn center in Greeley, Colo. Kevin Fees suffered minor burns to the back of his hands and neck and some singed hair. He was treated at Rapid City Regional Hospital and released.
Two U.S. Forest Service firefighters, one from Hot Springs and one from Custer, also were treated for injuries at the hospital and released, said Dennis Jaeger, deputy supervisor for the Forest Service.
“He was a great kid,” said DSU head football coach Hank Biesiot of Haskvitz in a press release. “He and the rest of the family have stayed in touch with us. In fact, Trampus stopped by just a few days ago.”
“Tramp was a great guy and a better friend,” said Jason Kraft, a former linebacker on the DSU football team in the release. “He was always fun to be around and had a nonchalant demeanor that made him easy to get along with. I’ll miss him as a friend and teammate. Tramp will sorely be missed by all his friends and especially his family.”
Funeral services for Haskvitz are 2 p.m. Tuesday at the Mueller Center in Hot Springs, S.D.
“He’ll die a hero,” Lowe said, his voice choking up. “He will always be remembered by the fire service community here.”
Dickinson State Alumni Services contributed to this story.