EUGENE, ORE. (CN) – A 33-year veteran smokejumper sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for age discrimination, claiming it fired him unfairly for being 3 seconds too slow in a 1½ mile run, just before he received a heroism award for dragging two people to safety after a plane crash.
Ronnie Rucker, who served all 33 years of his smokejumping at the Forest Service’s hot shot crew at Redmond, Ore., is 54. He says he ran the 1½ miles in 11:03.
Ruecker says, he was removed from his position just before he was presented with the USFS Chief’s Heroism and Emergency Response Award, in September 2006. He got the award for dragging a fellow smokejumper and the pilot of a small plane to safety after they crashed on the way to a wildfire in July 2005.
Ruecker is represented in Federal Court by W. Craig James with Mauk & Burgoyne of Boise.