On Nov. 10, the Carpinteria Summerland Fire Protection District (CSFPD) gathered at a quiet spot in Toro Canyon Park to install a memorial plaque that the district donated to honor the victims of the 1971 Romero Fire.
The Romero Fire started on Oct. 6, 1971 near Bella Vista Drive, between Romero Canyon and Ladera Lane. The fire quickly grew in size and spread to the crest of East Camino Cielo and east through Toro Canyon. On the second day of the fire, a team of four bulldozers with eight crew members were assigned to construct a fire line along the edge of Santa Monica Canyon, north of Carpinteria. Towards the end of their shift, severe down canyon winds known as “Sundowners,” began blowing in the area of the firefighters. They were quickly overcome as they attempted to escape the flames. Four firefighters died that night and two others sustained severe burn injuries.
In addition to the existing memorial, which was reconstructed after being damaged by the Thomas Fire, the new plaque will be installed in a public area at the Toro Canyon Park Gazebo. Firefighters designed the plaque to give respect to and memorialize those who died. The plaque lists the names of the men killed in the line of duty: Richard Lee Cumor, James Russell Mineau, Delbert Dale Deloach and Thomas Herbert Klepperich; along with those critically injured in the line of duty: Gerald Fred Hotchkiss and Leoard “Red” Kaiser.