Firefighter dies after battling 1 of several California wildfires, agency says

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A firefighter battling one of several wildfires across California has died, the U.S. Forest Service announced on Friday.

David Ruhl, of Rapid City, South Dakota, lost his life while responding to the Frog Fire in Modoc National Forest in Alturas, California, according to the statement.

Ruhl was found Friday morning after a search was conducted throughout Thursday night. Ruhl was on temporary assignment to the Big Valley Ranger District of Modoc National Forest as an Assistant Fire Management Officer since June 14. His permanent position is Engine Captain on the Mystic Ranger District of the Black Hills National Forest in Rapid City.

“This loss of life is tragic and heartbreaking,” said Forest Supervisor, Amanda McAdams. “Please keep the family and all of our Forest Service employees in your thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.”

The Forest Service is investigating the line-of-duty death.

The fire on the Big Valley Ranger District started Thursday and is one of the several fires burning throughout California. By Friday evening, this particular fire grew to more than 800 acres, according to the Sac Bee.

The announcement of Ruhl’s death comes after California Gov. Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency for all of the state.

"They only need a little wind to allow them to burn at an explosive rate," said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the California Department of Fire and Forestry Protection.

Brown said the declaration would help speed up help for thousands of firefighters working to corral the blazes. As part of the order, he activated the California National Guard to help with disaster recovery.

Brown offered his condolences to the deceased firefighter in a statement late Friday.

"Firefighter Ruhl will be remembered for his service and bravery and we extend our deepest condolences to his family, friends and colleagues with the U.S. Forest Service," Brown said in a statement.

A fast-spreading wildfire north of San Francisco torched a third home and is threatening more than 450 structures. At least 650 residents have been evacuated from their homes as the blaze raged in hills covered in dense brush and oak trees and dotted with ranch homes. It has charred 23 square miles near Lower Lake, south of Clear Lake, a popular summer recreation spot.

The wildfire in the hills was only 5 percent contained Friday.

Crews are still battling a blaze east of Napa Valley. They held their ground as the fire tried to spread more, more than a week after it started. The blaze has charred more than 12 square miles in Solano County.

The 200-acre fire, about 20 miles from the park's entrance, was partially contained Friday. About two dozen homes are threatened and voluntary evacuations are in place.

Lisa Ann Vilmur was arrested Thursday night for recklessly causing a fire and jailed on $100,000 bail. It was not known Friday if she has an attorney.

In a separate foothills blaze northeast of Sacramento, evacuation orders have been lifted for residents of 50 homes. The fire, which ignited Saturday, burned through more than 3 1/2 square miles and is almost fully contained.

In the central California community of Cascadel Woods, residents of more than 200 homes were ordered to evacuate on Thursday. A wildfire burning near Bass Lake for several days spread to more than 6 square miles and is partially contained.

Authorities say a boy acknowledged starting the fire by playing with a lighter to burn pine needles in the dry Sierra Nevada. They say the boy faces criminal charges but is not in custody because he and his family are cooperating.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.