Inaja fire: 52 years ago today

It was 52 years ago today on November 25, 1956, that 11 firefighters died on the Inaja fire east of San Diego near Santa Ysabel, California.

From the Infamous World Fires:

Eleven firefighters – two Forest Service personnel and nine from Viejas Honor Camp – lost their lives fighting this human-caused fire west of Julian, California. Soon after this fire, the 10 Standard Firefighting Orders were developed. This was one of the first fires where sodium calcium borate was used as a fire retardant dropped from an air tanker. It was quickly discovered that this chemical sterilized the soil, and by 1957 it was no longer used. However, the term “borate bomber” lingered on for decades.

The fire was started by a 16-year old boy who “got a crazy idea” to throw a match into some grass to see what would happen.

The plaque on the memorial off highway 79 east of Santa Ysabel says:

“IN HONOR OF THE MEN WHO LOST THEIR LIVES FIGHTING THE INAJA FOREST FIRE ON NOVEMBER 25, 1956. Joseph A. Anderson-Albert W. Daniels-Miles F. Fallin-William D. Garcia-George R. Hamilton-Virgil Hamilton-Carlton R. Maxwell-Forrest O’Hara-Joseph P. Sheperd-Lonnie L. Tibetts-Leroy (Jack) Wehrung.”

The remains of ten of the firefighters were claimed by their families and buried in their hometowns. The body of Virgil Hamilton was never claimed and was headed to a pauper’s grave. But, grateful area ranchers banded together and claimed his body which was interred in Greenwood Cemetery in San Diego with full honors.

HERE is more information about the Inaja fire.

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