Frog Fire fatality learning review report
Document Type: Report
Author(s): Mike Dudley; Randy Draeger; Joe Harris; Curtis Heaton; Kevin Pfister; Ruth Spradling; Don Boursier; Shoshana Cooper; Anthony Petrilli; Joe Duran
Publication Year: 2016

Cataloging Information

  • entrapment
  • fatalities
  • fire management
  • fire suppression
  • firefighter fatalities
  • Frog Fire
  • lessons learned
  • Modoc National Forest
  • training
Record Maintained By:
Record Last Modified: September 19, 2019
FRAMES Record Number: 22901


On the evening of July 30, 2015, 38-year-old Black Hills National Forest Engine Captain David “Dave” Ruhl was entrapped and killed while scouting on foot during initial attack of the Frog Fire on the Modoc National Forest (Region 5, California). A Coordinated Response Team was convened with a delegation of authority from the USDA Forest Service, Washington Office. The team included a diverse cadre of members, who were asked to understand the circumstances that led to this fatality and produce a report. This report tells the story of events surrounding Dave Ruhl’s death based upon information collected through site visits, interviews, and materials, including photos, videos, maps, dispatch logs, incident documentation, weather data, and other resources. Focus group sessions and an academic review were conducted with subject-matter experts to consider the conditions and sensemaking associated with these events. Five contextual themes that directly or indirectly shaped the actions of the firefighters on the ground were developed, including cultural acceptance and normalization of risk; fundamentals of effective training; understanding the risk of scouting fireline; reaffirmation that communication challenges continue to influence tragic events; and finally, ambiguity in standards around key positions and definitions.

Online Link(s):
Link to this document (9.1 MB; pdf)
Dudley, Mike; Draeger, Randy; Harris, Joe; Heaton, Curtis; Pfister, Kevin; Spradling, Ruth; Boursier, Don; Cooper, Shoshana; Petrilli, Anthony; Duran, Joe. 2016. Frog Fire fatality learning review report. USDA Forest Service. 62 p.