Albert William” Andy” Anderson was born September 18, 1911 at Pullman, Washington. Albert died November 25, 1956 on the Inaja Fire, within the Palomar Ranger District, Cleveland National Forest, about 10 miles southwest of Julian, San Diego County, California.
Albert W. was one of the many Andersons who were always known as Andy – many of his workmates probably did not know that his name was actually Albert W. So, for the remainder of this document he will be referred to as Andy.
Andy was one of three sons born to his parents. This Anderson family moved to Mt. Shasta, Siskiyou County, California in 1921, when Andy was ten years old. He attended elementary and high school in Mt. Shasta and was well known and respected throughout the community.
Andy went to work for the Shasta National Forest at Mt. Shasta in 1932 and spent almost his entire career until his death working in various aspects of the timber management program, mostly on the Shasta National Forest but occasionally on short details to other units. Although he was not a graduate forester, he was thoroughly skilled in all aspects of timber management in the inland Northern California ecosystems. Andy was so knowledgeable in timber management that he repeatedly served as a mentor to many young graduate foresters who had not yet become skilled in forestry. Aside from Andy’s very considerable technical skills he was both well known and well liked and highly respected both within the community and by loggers, foresters, and others he worked with.
During the years of Andy’s Forest Service career all able-bodied employees were required to serve as needed on forest and brush fires. Although Andy’s primary duty was timber management, Andy served willingly on many, many fires and often said that he had more fire time than many of the so-called firemen. With his timber background he was often assigned as tractor boss, supervising the bulldozer construction of fire lines. At the time of his death he was serving as night sector boss supervising hand crews (one of which was a San Diego County Viejas Honor Camp prison crew) on the northeast comer of the Inaja Fire, which was a Santa Ana wind-driven fire that eventually burned about 43,000 acres mostly within the Cleveland National Forest in San Diego County.
About 8 pm Sunday November 25, 1956 Andy’s prison crew was building hand fire line downhill through brush cover westerly toward the dry San Diego River bed. The fire overran the crew and eleven men were burned to death. In addition to Andy, two other Forest Service employees, a prison correctional officer, and seven prison inmates died.
The Chief of the Forest Service, Richard E. McArdle, immediately assigned an investigative team, which thoroughly investigated this tragedy. The findings of this investigative team led to several follow on study teams, who in turn made specific recommendations for improvements. Thus, it might be said that considerable good eventually came from this tragedy, including the Ten Standard Firefighting Orders, greatly improved fire training, protective equipment including the fire shelter, fire-resistant clothing, and several other safety developments, which in turn saved other lives later.
His wife Frances in Mt. Shasta, his daughter Mrs. Carol Austin of South Carolina, and a granddaughter survived Andy. Andy’s brother Elvin was killed in World War II and his other brother Avery died of a heart attack while hunting a few years before Andy’s death. Andy’s funeral was held Saturday December 1, 1956 at Noble’s funeral home in Mt. Shasta, jointly with the funeral of Forrest B. Maxwell, another of the Forest Service employees who died with Andy.
This firefighter line of duty fatality occurred before the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial was built in Emmitsburg, Maryland. While this firefighter has not been officially honored at the Memorial site, there are plans to do so when resources are available.