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National Fallen Firefighters Foundation

Roll of Honor

Battalion Chief
Year of Death: 1991

James M. Riley Jr.

Submitted by his daughter

Battalion Chief James Riley served twenty-five years and seventeen days as a firefighter in the Oakland‚ CA‚ Fire Department. Driven by an unseen force‚ he became the youngest Battalion Chief in the history of the Oakland Fire Department‚ at the age of just 36 years old. He served as a mentor and roll model to many in the department‚ who refer to him as ‘The Man Who Wrote the Book’ on firefighting.

Chief Riley served as the hill fire coordinator for the City of Oakland. Many of his theories have been‚ incorporated into firefighter training throughout the world. The Alameda County Disaster Center‚ named the Grubensky-Riley Building‚ was built in honor of him‚ and Oakland Police Officer‚ John Grubensky‚ who also died during the great Oakland Hills Firestorm. In addition‚ a state of the art firehouse‚ made entirely of brick‚ was built in the Oakland Hills‚ in his memory.

Twenty-five people died during the Oakland Hills Firestorm‚ and over three-thousand homes were lost. It is marked as one of the biggest residential fires in U.S. history.

Battalion Chief James M. Riley‚ Jr.‚ is survived by his wife Christine of 30 years‚ his son James‚ his daughter Catherine‚ grandsons James and Andrew‚ granddaughters Amanda and Kaitlyn‚ his mother Evelyn‚ his sisters Patricia‚ Alice and Lowana‚ his best friend Neal Smither‚ and his brother and sister firefighters of the Oakland Fire Department.

For an in-depth view into Battalion Chief James Riley’s life‚ please read an excerpt from the autobiographical‚ work-in-progress‚ The Battalion Chief’s Daughter‚ & Grieving a Superhero‚ by author‚ Catherine Jean Riley. Samples of her work can be found by accessing:

Memorial Posts


Memorial Wall

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  1. I’m trying to reach Christine, Cathy or James. Please email me if you receive this.

    – Christina Hurst-Clements

    – james
  3. – Christina Hurst-Clements my email is [email protected] i am the grandson my mother is Catherine

    – andrew