Heroic firefighter had deep ties to South Haven Department

Posted at 10:31 PM, Aug 21, 2015
and last updated 2015-08-21 22:31:54-04

SOUTH HAVEN, Mich. -- The South Haven community continues to mourn the tragic death of 31-year-old firefighter Richard Wheeler on Wednesday.

While working to battle the ongoing wildfires in several states, Wheeler and two others died when their vehicle crashed and caught fire near Twisp, Washington.

Wheeler, a career firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service, was from South Haven -- and a closer look at his family's past shows deep ties with fighting fires in the area.

The Wheeler Family spanned four generations as part of the South Haven Fire Department, a period of time that adds up to more than 120 years of service to the community.

Richard Wheeler's father, Tim, was a full time South Haven firefighter from 1979-1985.  Richard's grandfather, Evert, served as a volunteer from 1955-1977. Before that, Richard's great-grandfather, Joe Wheeler, served as a full time firefighter from 1926 to 1977, also serving alongside his cousin, Cal Wheeler, who was a volunteer from 1925 to 1960.

The Wheeler lineage at the South Haven Fire Department all began with Frank Wheeler, who served at the station as chief back in 1893. However, his direct connection to the family is unknown.

As the fires continue to rage, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources  announced they will be providing employees with firefighting training to assist the efforts to extinguish them. As of last check, the DNR had sent 20 employees to fight the fires in California, Washington, Idaho, Montana and Oregon.