A battalion chief from Santa Lucia died in a car crash on the way home from working on the Railroad Fire, Los Padres National Forest officials announced Thursday night.
Gary Helming, who was stationed in Santa Maria, began working for the U.S. Forest Service as a seasonal firefighter 22 years ago, officials said in a release.
He worked for the Bureau of Land Management and for the National Park Service before returning to the forest service in 2013.
“Our hearts go out to Gary’s family, the Forest Service and the wildland fire community. He exemplified the highest standards of honor and professionalism,” Ken Heffner, Los Padres deputy forest supervisor, said in the release. “Gary was a tremendous leader, partner, and thoughtful person who engaged with everyone. He will be greatly missed.”
Helming is survived by his wife and three children.