LOVELOCK - More than 250 friends, relatives and community leaders celebrated the life of Kim Maria Ruiz during Friday's funeral at the Lovelock Volunteer Fire Department. The 48-year-old volunteer firefighter died Dec. 30 in Reno after battling pneumonia and the H1N1 flu virus, according to sources close to Ruiz.

As the memorial service began there was standing-room only in the firehouse engine room. Her fellow firefighters had converted the shop into a sanctuary with flowers, fire trucks, a giant American flag, photos and mementos including the yellow fire gear worn by Ruiz during her 18 years of volunteer service.

The firehouse siren initiated the service and firefighters later marked the end of her volunteer duties with a "last alarm" for Ruiz. Firefighters rang an old fire bell and recited the fireman's prayer.

Lovelock firefighter Marco Ortega explained the ceremony's historical significance.

"Each alarm was sounded by a bell which summoned brave souls to fight fires and place their lives in jeopardy for the good of fellow citizens," he said. "When a firefighter died in the line of duty, there was a mournful toll of the bell that announced the comrade's passing. These traditions are symbols which reflect honor and respect for those who have given so much and served so well. We'll miss you Kim."

After family members stood up to express their grief, members of the crowd shared memories of Ruiz. Many spoke of her selfless community service while others had amusing stories that portrayed her strong, outspoken character. Each of her three sons thanked the audience for its show of support.

EP Minerals safety manager, John Brock, broke down with emotion as he described her constant willingness to assist others including his wife as she underwent chemotherapy treatments.

"She was available anytime you needed her," he said. "She'd do anything and will be greatly missed."

Pershing County District Attorney Jim Shirley read a proclamation of recognition signed by county commissioners. The proclamation honored Ruiz for her dedication to the local Head Start program and her "countless hours of study" required to become a qualified CPR instructor for county employees, mining industry and other private sector workers as well as for her fellow fire department volunteers.

"Kim's service to the community shined when she joined the Lovelock Fire Department on July 11, 1995 and continued to serve as a firefighter until her untimely death," he said. "The board of county commissioners hereby proclaim on behalf of the people of this county heartfelt sympathies to the family of Kim Ruiz and recognize her exemplary life of conscientious service, love, loyalty and duty."

Born in Malta, Mont., on April 2, 1965, Ruiz spent most of her childhood growing up on a farm before joining the U.S. Air Force. During her interment on Friday at Big Meadow Cemetery, the veteran was honored by the War Veterans Memorial Association with a flag ceremony and rifle salute.

Back at the firehouse, County Commissioner and volunteer firefighter Pat Irwin said Ruiz "loved to laugh" and welcomed new members into the fire department and the tight-knit Lovelock community.

"Kim was the one that made everybody laugh," he said. "We love her so much. She would have shared a lot with you but she'd also tell you how she felt and would make you enjoy hearing it."

Ruiz didn't hesitate to respond in unexpected ways when help was needed. Irwin described how she managed to stop a moving car stuck in a ditch by running alongside while talking to the driver.

"We had a call where somebody was off the side of the road," he said. "He was still going but he was stuck in a ditch, wheels spinning like crazy. Kim jumped right off the ambulance, started running right next to the driver and tapped on the window. He rolled down the window, she asked him to slow down then reached in and turned off the keys. She had quick thinking and quick smarts. Kim was the best."

Fire Chief Chuck Rasco said losing Ruiz is huge for the community and the fire department.

"She taught CPR to all of the (county) fire departments and a lot of the local people in town and different organizations," he said on Sunday. "She will be missed greatly."

Donations for the Ruiz family can be made at any branch of Wells Fargo Bank. The donation account, "In memory of Kim Ruiz" number is 8218022864.