Incident Name: Elizabeth Fire, Angeles National Forest
Date: July 15, 1981
Personnel: Gilbert Lopez
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Position: Engine Foreman
Summary: Engine Foreman Gilbert Lopez and his inexperienced four-person engine crew responded to the Elizabeth Fire through a burned area, positioned the engine facing the black, and attacked one of two spotfires. As they began to attack a second spotfire, they lost direct visual contact with the fire on the other side of the ridge. The fire got worse, The crew and the foreman lost communication. All retreated. The crew escaped west toward a local volunteer fire department position, not using the same escape route to the east that the foreman and the engine took. Crewmembers were safe but injured, and subsequently left the fireground unknown to Lopez. After getting to safety in the burned over area, Gilbert Lopez returned to look for his departed crew. He was overtaken by fire and died.
Near a microwave tower, along a ridgetop truck trail (sketched map with report, but exact location is unclear)
- REPORT & Communication (365 K pdf): To all fire crew supervisors from the Regional Forester Zane A Smith and Ten Standard Firefighting Orders and Their Apparent Application in Connection with the July 15 Fatality -- Elizabeth Fire -- Angeles National Forest
- California Death Index for his age: Gilbert Lopez
- USFS: USFS Heroes Memorial List
- USFA Memorial Database: Gilbert Lopez
- Wildland Firefighters' Monuments and Memorial Sites
- They Said It: 2010/7/15: Memorial poem
Gilbert Lopez falls in fear.
"Did I kill my crew?"
"Let's get out of here!" But where?
Abandoned? They ran.
A tunnel of fire.
Voices shouting "Safety here!"
He went to find them.
Two breaths, six steps, destiny
Can he see us now?
-- no name please
Memorial Plaque ANF reads: Gilbert Lopez Memorial Grove: Engine Foreman for the US Forest Service gave his life protecting the national forest on the Elizabeth Fire, July 15, 1981. (The photo was taken in Sept 2005. If you're the photographer, thanks, and please let us know who you are.)
Contributors to this article: John E. Hunter who worked with Gilbert's son on Chantry Helitack (ANF) in 1982; Carol Hensen, William Pierce, John Miller, Rene Vanderhooft
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