Falling Tree Kills Wildland Firefighter, Injures Another Battling Sierra Fire Near Lake Tahoe

A 21-year-old wildland firefighter was killed Saturday while helping to battle the so-called Sierra Fire near Lake Tahoe in Northern California, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

An agency statement indicated that Michael Hallenbeck was struck by a falling tree around 5:30 p.m. in a remote area between the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit and the Eldorado National Forest.

Cheva Gabor, speaking on behalf of the U.S Forest Service, told NBC Bay Area that the firefighter was in the initial attack phase on Echo Summit when the accident occurred. 

"We are very saddened this morning," she said. "When we have a loss like this, it's devastating."

A second firefighter, who was also injured during the same incident, was treated and released from a local hospital. Further details were not immediately available. 

Fire crews face a myriad "hazards" while doing their jobs, Gabor said, adding, "This is something we absolutely hate to see

Seventeen wildfires have scorched California homes and rural areas in recent weeks.

Saturday's death comes less than ten days after Black Hills National Forest Engine Capt. David Ruhl died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning while battling the Frog Fire in Modoc National Forest.

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