Gary was welcomed into the family on April 14, 1970, by parents Gary and Elizabeth and his sisters, Leslie, Pam, and Deanna. Born and raised in El Cajon, California,he graduated from Valhalla High School in 1988. Gary learned to ski and ice skate at Yosemite National Park, where he returned many times. He honed his swimming and diving skills on family trips to Hawaii and absorbed the Aloha spirit with the importance of “Ohana” (Family). At a young age, he developed a keen lifelong interest in U.S. military history and understood what it meant to protect and serve. This passion led him into what would become a 22-year career with the fire service.
In 1995, Gary volunteered with the Pine Valley Fire Department and then as a seasonal firefighter on the Cleveland National Forest. He served on engines and crews with the BLM in Colorado, Yosemite National Park, and BLM in Ridgecrest, California, before accepting the opportunity to have his own engine with the BLM in Grand Junction, Colorado, in 2001. Over the next eleven years, Gary split his duties between fire suppression and training.
In February 2005, he and fellow firefighter, Andrea Mohrhusen, whom he met while in Yosemite, joined forces in a beautiful wedding ceremony in Marin County, California. Gary was a co-owner and off-road racing car driver, racing in many S.C.O.R.E and Baja 1000 events with his teammates as part of the Fire Guys Racing Team.
In 2008, Gary and Andrea’s lives changed forever with the birth of their son, Riley Jackson Helming. Gary continued his training, becoming qualified as an Air Tactical Group Supervisor (Air Attack), as well as having the honor of becoming a member of the BLM National Honor Guard. He was proud to be part of this organization and became a strong advocate for fallen firefighter organizations.
In 2012, the Helming family left Colorado and returned to California as battalion chiefs for the Los Padres National Forest, putting down roots in Pismo Beach. On December 12, 2016, Andrea gave birth to twins Walker Reef and Nalani Christine.
Gary lost his life while returning from the Railroad Fire near Yosemite, after completing an air attack assignment. His professional accolades were numerous. Gary left a large footprint in an extended family within the firefighting community, in addition to his personal “Ohana.” He is greatly missed. If Gary could speak, he would say, “Tell your family you love them.”