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.
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.