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Ortega Highway Honors Firefighters

April 08, 1998|THAO HUA

The winding Ortega Highway is now the winding California Wildland Firefighters Memorial Highway.

The 29-mile stretch of road between Lake Elsinore in Riverside County and San Juan Capistrano was dedicated Tuesday to the scores of state firefighters who have died in wildfires, said Joanne Evans, Riverside County fire spokeswoman.

The idea to rename the highway came from the California Wildland Firefighters Memorial Committee, which was started by survivors of the 1959 Decker Canyon blaze, which killed six firefighters.

On Tuesday, several survivors from that fire and state Sen. Raymond N. Haynes, R-Riverside, who initiated the resolution to designate the new name, gathered near the corner of Killen Truck Trail for the dedication ceremony.

"I was very happy to see it happen," said John Ferguson, the committee's chairman.

A memorial with the names of everyone who has died fighting wildfires in California since the early 1900s also is planned for the site, Ferguson said.

The project, with an estimated cost of $200,000, is to be completed in 1999, the 40-year anniversary of the Decker Canyon fire.

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