Vigil Wednesday for firefighter killed near Lake Tahoe
A candlelight vigil will be held Wednesday night for a U.S. Forest Service firefighter killed Saturday while battling a wildfire just inside the Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit boundary south of Echo Summit.
Michael Hallenbeck, 21, died Saturday evening after being struck by a tree around 5:30 p.m. during the initial attack on the Sierra fire, according to information from the U.S. Forest Service. Efforts to resuscitate Hallenbeck were unsuccessful.
Hallenbeck, from Shingle Springs, Calif., was a member of Organized Crew 36 on the LTBMU.
“Mikey was so excited to become a firefighter,” according to a statement from members of Hallenbeck’s family. “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.”
Sierra-at-Tahoe will hold a candlelight vigil for Hallenbeck at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 12. Candles for the vigil will be lit at sunset on the Solstice Plaza at the base area of the resort. Candles will be provided. During the 2015-16 ski season, an organized “Ride for Mikey” will also take place at Sierra, according to the resort.
El Dorado County, South Lake Tahoe, Lake Tahoe Basin agencies and California have ordered flags at half-mast to honor Hallenbeck’s memory.
“Firefighter Hallenbeck’s loss of life is evidence of the serious dangers and risks firefighters face every time they answer the call,” South Lake Tahoe said in a statement. “The City joins many other agencies and the public in sending condolences to Michael Hallenbeck’s family.”
Services for Hallenbeck will be held in Shingle Springs on Saturday.
“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, in a statement. “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 Sierra fire was one of several dozen lightning-caused fires that began around Northern California Saturday. The fire was approximately one-tenth of an acre and was extinguished over the weekend. One other firefighter was injured during the fire but was released from the hospital after being treated.