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Incident Name:  Sierra Madre Fire, Angeles National Forest
Date: incident 10/30/1961; died 12/8/1961
Personnel:  Mike Rushworth
Age:  18 years
Agency/Organization:  US Forest Service, Dalton Hotshots
Position: firefighter

Summary: Mike Rushworth, a member of the Dalton Interagency Hotshot Crew, was entrapped while fighting the Sierra Madre Fire on the Angeles National Forest on October 30, 1961. Extreme fire behavior was caused by strong Santa Ana winds and fuels hadn't burned since 1911. Mike was critically burned and died about five weeks later on December 8, 1961.

Mike Rushworth Mike Rushworth
Mike Rushworth Memorial, 2011 Anniversary Mike Rushworth Memorial, 2011 Anniversary

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

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Media Articles and Reports.

  • Flames in Foothills Rage Out of Control: 700 flee; 50 homes menaced

    Oct 31, 1961 | excerpt from LA Times

    A brush fire exploded out of control Monday in the dry foothills north of Sierra Madre, routing 700 persons from their homes and destroying 675 acres of "the most valuable watershed in the United States... Mike Rushworth, 19, of 1137 Watson St, Whittier, a member of the Dalton "hotshot" crew of the US Forest Service, was in serious condition from burns ...

  • Fallen Firefighter Honored 45 Years After His Death

    2006-05-11 / People: Online Article

    The late Mike Rushworth was among those honored recently when over 2,000 people from all over California attended the dedication of a Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Sacramento. The names of 855 "guests of honor," who were present in memory, are inscribed on the polished limestone surface of the monument.

    Rushworth, who grew up on a farm in Chelsea, the son of Janice and Sam Rushworth, graduated from Chelsea High School in 1961. He and a cousin drove cross country to California that summer, looking for work, and volunteered to be members of the Dalton Canyon Hot Shots fire-fighting squad.

    On October 30, 1961, Rushworth was badly injured and burned over 60% of his body fighting a fire above Sierra Madre in the San Gabriel Mountains. He eventually died of his injuries, at the age of 18, on December 8, 1961.

    His widowed mother now makes her home in Montpelier.

    Dan Terry, President of the California Professional Firefighters, gave the opening speech at the dedication in Sacramento, noting, "There are 855 different stories about the people whose names are written here, and every one of them is unique and important. This memorial is a monument to the commitment and self-sacrifice of our profession."

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Letter from Walt Disney to Mike's family in Vermont in January, 1962, honoring his courage, dedication and service: Walt Disney's letter to Mike's folks Walt Disney's letter to Mike's folks
  • Mike Rushworth Memorial Dedication May 22, 2011, almost 50 years after his death:
    • Memorial Memorial to Mike Rushworth Memorial to Mike Rushworth
    • Plaque    Memorial Plaque Memorial Plaque

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Contributors to this article: Scott Gorman, Dalton Hotshots, The Wildland Firefighter Foundation

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