Section of Hwy 41 designated as the Gary Helming Memorial Highway

Gary Helming Memorial Highway
On November 13 a section of Highway 41 in California was designated as the Gary Helming Memorial Highway. USFS photo.

On November 13 a section of Highway 41 in California was designated as the Gary Helming Memorial Highway. The Santa Barbara County Fire Department, CAL FIRE, and Los Padres National Forest Service were among those who attended the dedication Sunday along with a group of family, friends, and co-workers.

The Battalion Chief with the Los Padres National Forest was killed August 31, 2017 in a vehicle accident on the highway. He was returning from a wildfire on the Sierra National Forest.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration a Ford F-350 traveling in the opposite direction suffered a tire failure, crossed the middle of the road and struck Chief Helming’s vehicle head-on.

The accident occurred on Highway 41 just south of state Route 33 in Kings County, California.

In the video below, a CAL FIRE OV-10 lead plane honors Battalion Chief Gary Helming as the section of Highway 41 was renamed November 13, 2022. Video by Joel Lane.

After the accident an unofficial memorial appeared at the site.

Roadside memorial Chief Gary Helming
Roadside memorial for Chief Gary Helming who was killed in a vehicle accident at this location August 31, 2017. Photo by John Szalay, September 17, 2017.
Roadside memorial Chief Gary Helming
Roadside memorial for Chief Gary Helming who was killed in a vehicle accident at this location August 31, 2017. Photo by John Szalay, September 17, 2017.

Chief Helming started out as a seasonal firefighter and spent 22 years with the U.S. Forest Service. During his career, he also worked with the Bureau of Land Management and the National Park Service but returned to the USFS in 2013. He was stationed in Santa Maria as Battalion Chief with the Los Padres National Forest. His wife, Andrea, has served as Air Tanker Base Manager for the agency at Santa Maria. They have three children.

On January 21, 2015 Chief Helming was honored by the Santa Maria Elks Lodge as Outstanding Firefighter of the Year for Los Padres National Forest’s Santa Lucia Ranger District.

Gary Helming

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

4 thoughts on “Section of Hwy 41 designated as the Gary Helming Memorial Highway”

  1. Rest In Peace Brother, never forget you Gary. Still missing you! Glad to see that the state of CA doesn’t want to forget you either bro!

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  2. A finer person and better professional was never born. He was one of the best. I had the pleasure of working closely with him on many occasions.
    I’m glad to see this.

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  3. I had the privilege to meet and briefly work w/ BC Helming at the Fresno Air Attack Base in 2015. I was bummed when I read of his passing here on Wildfiretoday.com. Glad to see this tribute! RIP Gary!

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  4. Like many i wish this memorial was not needed however it is a respectfully fitting reminder of Chief Helming’s honorable service to our country. I’d have been there yesterday if i had known. Now i’ll visit the road/site again on my own. Thank you Cnty Fire, Cal-Fire & LPF. As a Santa Maria/Orcutt born kid this helps show respect specifically to our local fallen heroes from the Central Coast…

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