CARPINTERIA, Calif. — The Carpinteria Summerland Fire Department hosted a memorial Saturday afternoon to honor those who lost their lives battling the Romero Fire of 1971.
On one deadly day in October of 1971, four firefighters lost their lives to the blaze.
Today, the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Department helped family members hike the hills to honor their relatives.
"This is the first time where family members and other colleagues of the deceased and badly burned can come pay homage to their family members that fell," said Brian Lombardi, Carpinteria-Summerland Fire District firefighter.
Christopher Cumor came with his family from Spokane, Washington, to see the spot where his father Richard laid down his life.
"I'm just honored to be here and so thankful for the other firefighters that spent their time and dedication to this," said Cumor.
Former USDA Forest Service Superintendent Tim McMullen witnessed their terrible tragedy firsthand and was one of the few survivors.
"I never thought I'd come back here, never wanted to come back again after that night but when I heard about this and saw photos of this, I knew I had to make the journey," said McMullen. "We knew we were in trouble, but nobody was panicking or yelling or screaming and we talked it over and said we needed to get out, get out now."
Back in 2017, the Thomas Fire destroyed the Romero Fire memorial, but now it's been rebuilt with four pillars to honor those who lost their lives.
"Jeff Stork, the owner here, was gracious enough to put a plot of his land and donate the actual stones and the memorial site for it, and Santa Barbara County hand crew was there for the day of the install," explained Lombardi.
"So for those of you who got up close to it, you're going to understand it's there for the next 500 years, it's not going anywhere," said Stork, a Carpinteria resident who owns a large ranch on Romero Canyon Road.
Bringing tears to everyone's eyes, the ceremony focused on sharing memories of the fallen firefighters while taking away valuable lessons.
"The sacrifice and his efforts weren't forgotten in that there's some better things coming of this, hopefully it'll save a lot of other firefighters' lives," said Cumor.
The leftover funds from this event will be donated to the Wildland Firefighter Foundation, a nonprofit that provides assistance to fallen firefighters' families. To learn more or make a donation, visit wffoundation.org.