USA — The Riverside County Board of Supervisors agreed today to use $15,000 in county funds to support construction of a memorial near Lake Elsinore to honor California wildland firefighting personnel who have lost their lives on the fire lines.
Supervisors Bob Buster, Marion Ashley and Roy Wilson allocated $5,000 apiece in community improvement designation funds — of which each supervisor receives an allotted amount each year to use at his or her discretion — to benefit the “California Wildland Firefighter Memorial.”
About $150,000 is needed to finish the tribute, which will include a statue and plaques bearing the names of firefighters, dozer operators, pilots and others who have perished battling brushfires up and down the state.
“This will be a fine monument to those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice,” Riverside County Fire Chief John Hawkins told the board. “It’s very important to our area.”
He said California Wildland Firefighter Memorial Inc., the group working on the project, has raised roughly $25,000, though the county’s contribution brings the total closer to $50,000.
The memorial site is located at 32353 Ortega Highway, which runs between Riverside and Orange counties. A portion of the state route in 1998 was dedicated as the “California Wildland Memorial Highway.”
According to Riverside County Fire Department spokeswoman Cheri Patterson, only a small part of the memorial itself has been built.
“There’s a little bit of cement, a retaining wall and a dirt area,” Patterson said. “They have a great vision for it … They want to put the plaques on the wall, and there’s talk about erecting essentially a statue.”
The location’s significance goes back to August 1959, when a car fire touched off a blaze along the highway that quickly spread to surrounding hills, killing seven firefighters who were trying to contain it, according to Hawkins.