USA — A memorial honoring more than 200 firefighters, bulldozer operators, pilots and others who died battling wildfires in California will be formally dedicated Saturday in Lake Elsinore.
Riverside County Supervisors Bob Buster and Jeff Stone will join county fire Chief John Hawkins and family members of fire personnel killed in the line of duty for the ceremony marking completion of the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial.
The dedication is set for 10 a.m. in front of the monument, on South Main Divide Road, just west of the Ortega (74) Highway.
Construction of the $150,000 memorial wrapped up earlier this year after more than a decade of work. Private donations largely paid for the project, though some public money was allocated, including discretionary funds disbursed by the county Board of Supervisors.
The memorial was conceived in 1995, with a groundbreaking the following year. However, fundraising efforts progressed slowly. In the meantime, the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial Committee succeeded in getting a 30-mile stretch of the Ortega dedicated as the Wildland Firefighters Memorial Highway.
The memorial site is located adjacent to the state route, in the general location of a 1959 blaze the Decker Fire which claimed the lives of seven firemen. A small shrine was erected in their honor, but later destroyed by vandals.
The new memorial consists of a red brick Maltese cross, shielded by a rock wall bearing descriptions of deadly wildfires in the state. The ground in front of the monument is covered in red bricks engraved with the names of fallen firefighters.
Native plants and picnic benches surround the site, promoting the tranquility that inspires the memorial and its purpose, according to the California Wildland Firefighter Memorial Committee website.