On Aug. 23, a Catholic firefighter died as he battled a wildfire southeast of Eugene.

Frumencio Ruiz Carapia, a 20-year member of Sacred Heart Parish in Medford, was stationed on the Gales Fire, part of the Middle Fork Complex of wildfires in the Willamette National Forest. The 56-year-old was killed when a tree unexpectedly snapped and fell to the ground. Despite immediate efforts by those around him, Ruiz Carapia died at the scene, according to a news release from Lane County. He is the first Oregon wildland firefighter killed this year.

Ruiz Carapia is survived by his wife, Alejandra González, four children, a 7-year-old grandson and an unborn granddaughter.

“His departure so early hurts us a lot,” said Yadi Acevedo, a Sacred Heart parishioner. Her husband, Tomás Gómez, recently worked with Ruiz Carapia fighting Oregon's Bootleg Fire, at one point the largest blaze in the nation.

Gómez expressed admiration for Ruiz Carapia's hard work and expertise as a firefighter.

“Frumencio had retired from doing this job, but his former bosses convinced him to go back to fighting fires because of his great knowledge, experience and ability,” said Gómez. “He lost his life working as a hero.”

Esteban Gonzalez, owner of GE Forestry, a private firefighting company and Ruiz Carapia’s employer, issued a statement following his death. “We’re heartbroken for the family and friends,” said Gonzalez. “Frumencio has been with our company from day one and was indeed like part of the family.”

Arnold Sicairos was a neighbor of Ruiz Carapia and established a GoFundMe page to help the family with death-related expenses. Ruiz Carapia was “the first person to greet me when I moved into the neighborhood and even lent me tools when I was still waiting for my household goods to arrive,” said Sicairos on the fundraising page. “He was an honest, humble gentleman who cared for those around him.”

On Aug. 26, Ruiz Carapia’s body was recovered, and a caravan of vehicles accompanied it to Perl Funeral Home & Siskiyou Memorial Park in Medford.

A funeral Mass is scheduled for 10 a.m., Wednesday, Sept. 1, at Sacred Heart Church. His body then will be sent to Querétaro, Mexico, where his mother and brothers live.

The National Wildfire Suppression Association will hold a ceremony in his honor at noon Thursday, Sept. 9, at the Jackson County Expo Center in Central Point.