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Incident Name:  Beegum, a 150 acre fire in western Shasta County
Date: 8/27/56, around midnight
Personnel: 4 lives lost
Age:
Agency/Organization:  California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (now CAL FIRE)
Position: firefighters

Summary:

Henry A. Rucker, 23, of Redding
Colin L. Haywood, 19, of Central Valley, Shasta County
Francis Hackett, 40, of Redding, driver
Jerome D. O'Leary, 27, of Ironwood, Michigan

The firefighters were returning home to Redding after fighting a fire in western Shasta County. As they neared Redding on the county road, their "truck" (engine) failed to navigate a curve and went off the road down a 40-foot ravine. Hacket was driving and the other three were riding in the back. It struck several trees and the gully bank and broke apart. All four firefighters were killed. A death certificate for one of the deceased showed August 27th as the date of death.


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Maps

12 miles west of Redding California: nearest reference is Redding California

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Reports, Documentation, Lessons Learned

Sources:

  • From CDF research for the submission of the names for the Sacramento memorial
  • Some information is from the Oakland Tribune on August 28th, 1956
  • The fact that the Beegum incident -- location Shasta -- occurred in which 4 CDF firefighter lives were lost is recorded on the Lessons Learned lookup; use the incident name Beegum; no date, names or details are provided.
  • The modern three-point seatbelt used in most passenger vehicles was optional in Ford vehicles in 1955 and introduced as a passenger car standard in 1959 by Volvo. To the best of our knowledge, fire trucks were not equipped with seat belts in 1956. One wonders if the firefighters, especially the three riding in the back might have survived if seat belts had been available and worn at the time of the crash.

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Wildlandfire.com Links:

 

 

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Media Articles and Reports

 

 

 

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Photos, Videos, & Tributes

  • Jerome D. O'Leary is survived by his father Dennis O'Leary of Ironwood, MI and his mother Mrs Ellen O'Leary of Fontana, CA. The other men leave widows in Shasta County, CA.
  • California Memorial Firefighter Wall in Sacramento, CA: California Memorial LODDs by Wall Order. (84 K pdf) --see page 9

 

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Contributors to this article: Brother Cub in memory of the contributions of George Grogan

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