- Associated Press - Friday, August 21, 2015

CUSTER, S.D. (AP) - A 31-year-old wildland firefighter killed while battling a blaze in Washington state spent five seasons working in South Dakota’s Black Hills.

Richard Wheeler and two colleagues were killed Wednesday after their vehicle crashed and was overtaken by flames driven by shifting winds.

Jason Virtue in the U.S. Forest Service’s Custer office told KEVN-TV (https://bit.ly/1EajFEV ) that Wheeler began with the Tatanka Hotshots in 2008. He had been working in Washington state the past two years.

Virtue says Wheeler was upbeat and motivated, and he would always volunteer to do the non-glamorous jobs such as hauling water.

More than 800 firefighters are fighting the complex of blazes in north-central Washington state, which has grown to just over 252 square miles.

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Information from: KEVN-TV, https://www.kevn.com

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