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Home arrow News arrow Local News arrow MONUMENT, CEREMONY TO HONOR FIREFIGHTERS

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MONUMENT, CEREMONY TO HONOR FIREFIGHTERS

By Alice Perry Linker

Observer Staff Writer

A monument to the wildland firefighters who died a year ago in an automobile accident in Colorado will be placed next to the La Grande Fire Department.

The monument, ordered by Grayback Forestry, will be unveiled during a memorial service June 21, one year following the fatal accident. It will become part of a proposed memorial park on the grass next to the fire station on Cove Avenue.

The five firefighters who died in the accident were Bartholomew Bailey of Corvallis and Baker City, Daniel Rama of Baker City, Retha Shirley of La Grande, Jacob Martindale of Boise and Zach Zigich of Twin Falls, Idaho. They were working for private firefighting contractor Grayback and were en route to the Hayman fire near Denver when the accident occurred.

The memorial park is being planned by Grayback and a committee that includes La Grande Fire Chief Bruce Wiemer and La Grande District Ranger Kurt Wiedenmann.

"We've barely gotten started, although we've been meeting for several months," Wiemer said. "We have to go through the planning process."

Weimer said no tax money will go toward the construction of the memorial park, which, he said, could cost between $50,000 and $100,000. Grayback is expected to present a donation during the June 21 ceremony.

According to Wiemer and Wiedenmann, the park will honor structure firefighters, wildland firefighters and law enforcement officers.

"We want to create a space that will be a nice, restful place," Wiemer said. "It will be nice; artistic. We don't want it to be a graveyard. We don't want to keep score of who has been killed."

Wiedenmann agreed that the park would be a restful place, and he said there will be some sort of water feature, although details have not been finished.

Preliminary designs for the memorial park were drawn by students in an art class at Eastern Oregon University.

The memorial service will take place from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Blue Mountain Conference Center in La Grande and will feature music by a bagpipe and drummer group from Tualatin. The service is open to the public.

John Schuyler, deputy supervisor for the Wallowa-Whitman National Forest, will speak, as will Michael Wheelock of Grayback and several members from the families of those killed. Among the speakers will be Carla Bailey, Tiara Rama, Anthony Kyle and Tyson Schoenmoser.

Last June's accident occurred when a 15-passenger van went off the road near Parachute, Colo., and rolled several times.

The driver of the van, Megan Helm, who was from La Grande at the time of the accident, pleaded guilty in February in a Colorado court to one count of careless driving. She was fined $200 and sentenced to 50 hours of community service.

Some family members and others who were involved in the accident have said that they considered the 15-passenger Ford van unsafe.

Grayback Forestry stop- ped using the vans after the accident.

Following a Forest Service investigation report indicating that the driver may have been fatigued, the Oregon Department of Forestry adopted rules limiting one driver to 10 hours during a 15-hour shift day followed by eight hours off-duty.

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