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Fallen firefighter honored in Chico

Community members joins the department to remember Ray Walter Head, who died helping others in the Silver Room fire in downtown Chico, 1970.

Posted: Feb 14, 2018 5:21 PM

"It not only took out the Silver Room, but the whole block, I think 22 businesses were lost because of the common attic. We couldn't stop it," said retired Volunteer Chico Firefighter Larry Van Blaricom.

In 1970, a popular bar in downtown Chico went up in flames in the early morning hours.

"A hotel behind it, it burned too, I was out there for part of the night than transferred up here," said Van Blaricom.

As the fire burned, the fire marshall noticed one of the walls was unsound. He helped other to escape, but couldn't get himself out of the way in time.

"Quite a night. And it was really sad when we found out that Ray was killed," said Van Blaricom.

Nearly half a century later, the community comes together to remember and honor Ray Walter Head, who lost his life that Valentine's Day.

"He cared very much for the guys, you know he cared because he got everybody out, and didn't make it himself," said Van Blaricom.

"Everybody that ever knew him spoke nothing but highly of him," said Terry irion, the now-retired Fire Marshall who came onto the job after Head passed away.

The third generation firefighter, Head served the department for nearly 40 years. And he knew the risks.

"It's your job, you sign on and take the good with the bad. Most of these guys here are willing to lay their life on the line. It's just one of those jobs," said Irion.

"it's important for us to always recognize and honor those who fell I the line of duty, giving their greatest sacrifice to their bothers and sisters, and so for me it's always a constant reminder of how dangerous this job can be and that we should always be vigilant in how we approach it" said Chico Fire Chief Steve Standridge.

And though it's been decades since the Silver Room fire tragedy, the historic downtown area is still just as vulnerable.

"Many of these buildings aren't sprinklered, they don't have modern fire protection, they have shared attic space, so once a fire is started here they can be very difficult to put out" said Standridge.

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Another very windy day for northern California as an area of low pressure continues its southward trek over our state. Thankfully we'll have much quieter weather on Wednesday, with more rain and snow chances coming.
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