Incident Name: Dry Fire on the Sequoia National Forest
Date: incident date: July 13, 1959; death date: July 17, 1959
Personnel: James Edward Bastady
Agency/Organization: US Forest Service
Summary: Jim Bastady, a seasonal firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service in 1959, and fighting a large wildland fire in the Sequoia National Forest on July 13 when he and another firefighter, Bob Knudsen -- both of Kernville, CA -- were entrapped and burned over. Bob Knudson was transported to a hospital in Bakersville and apparently survived his burns. Jim Bastady was flown to the U.S. Public Health Hospital in San Francisco where he died on July 17, 1959, of complications from his burns.
Dry Fire, Sequoia NF
- NWCG: Historical Wildland Fire Fatalities 1910-1996 (408 K pdf), see page 7
- Year: 1959
- Incident / Location: Dry Fire, Sequoia NF, CA
- Number of Fataities: 1
- Agency: USFS
- Fire Behavior: Unexpected downslope afternoon wind on east facing slope.
- Notes: Two firefighters were returning after going downhill for water. Fire came down hill and trapped them there.
- Pi Sigma Chi - James Edward Bastady charter member, Facebook
[Ab Note: If you have a Facebook account, please go there, read, and "like" this page. We greatly appreciate the information shared about the loss of Jim Bastady's life. His life and the circumstances of his death have been a puzzle for quite a while. The following is taken from the Pi Sigma Chi Facebook page.]
James Edward Bastady
Pi Sigma Chi
For most members of Pi Sigma Chi over the years, little has been known about charter member Jim Bastady or his death just two years after the Poly Service Club (Pi Sigma Chi) was organized.
James Edward Bastady was born March 24, 1940 to Mary Helen and Ernest Emanuel Bastady. After living in Buena Park, California for a number of years, the family moved to Exeter, in Tulare County, California where they ran an orange ranch with Ernest’s brother.
After graduation from Exeter Union High School, Jim Bastady entered Cal Poly where he was a fruit production major.
It appears that Jim Bastady was a seasonal firefighter with the U.S. Forest Service in 1959, and fighting a large wildland fire in the Sequoia National Forest that year, reportedly the worst wildland fire in that area since 1955. Jim Bastady’s name is listed on the California Firefighters Memorial as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter, although he is not listed on the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial or the National Wildland Firefighter Memorial. It was reported that there were more than 600 fighting the fire that summer, including 200 specially trained and experienced Zuni Indian firefighters.
On July 13, 1959, Jim Bastady and Bob Knudsen, of Kernville, California, were burned over when a section of the 4,100-acre fire flared up. They were evacuated from the fireline immediately after the burnover, their clothes still burning, and were transported to Kernville Community Hospital for treatment. Bob Knudson was later transported to a hospital in Bakersfield, California where on July 14, 1959, he was reported in good condition and apparently survived his injuries.
Jim Bastady was flown to the U.S. Public Health Hospital in San Francisco where he died on July 17, 1959, of complications from burns received on the fire. He is buried in the Exeter District Cemetery in Exeter, California. He was survived by his parents and a brother, Donald E. Bastady, a retired high school teacher, reportedly currently living in Porterville, California.
“The late Jim Bastady,” has been remembered by every Pi Sigma Chi pledge class since, as pledges individually and in group recited the names of the charter members.
- California Birth Index: James Edward Bastady birthdate was March 24, 1940; he was 19 when he died.
- California Death Index: James Edward Bastady
- Find a Grave: James E Bastady : Buried in Exeter District Cametary, Exeter, Tulare County, CA
- California Fallen Firefighters Wall in Sacramento, CA: List of Fallen Firefighters by wall order. (84 K pdf) See page 9 or search on JAMES E. BASTADY
- US Forest Service Heroes Memorial page: James Bastady
Contributors to this article: John Miller and whoever compiled the info on the Pi Sigma Chi Facebook page. Thank you!
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