Friday, March 21, 2008

News: Battalion chief Eugene Martin - FCFD - RIP

Rest in Peace and thank you for your service to your community and country Sir
Amazing Grace - Irish bagpipes

Battalion chief Eugene Martin fought wildland, structure, oil field and cotton fires with the Westside Fire District, now part of Fresno County Fire.

He answered emergency calls over 50 square miles, including Coalinga, Huron, Harris Ranch and along the Interstate 5 corridor.

Mr. Martin, 85, who had suffered heart disease, died Friday.

He fought major oil field fires that ignited when lightning struck large petroleum tank farms, and worked to keep burning tanks from igniting others.

On three occasions, he worked as fires heated water into "boilovers," sending violent eruptions thousands of feet high, said his son, Mike Martin.

Mr. Martin was born in Willets, and graduated from Willets High School in Northern California. He entered the Navy in 1942 during World War II and was assigned to clear bombed-out islands in the South Pacific.

"Our people went in and cleared the islands out so we could put troops on," said Mr. Martin's wife, Barbara. "Our Navy used to bomb an island flat."

Mr. Martin saw action in the Caroline Islands, and answered calls to damaged landing craft. He didn't like to speak later about what he had seen.

He and Barbara Martin married in 1948, and Mr. Martin applied Navy firefighting to civilian life. The Martins were married 59 years.

Mike Martin said his father underwent most of his firefighting career before medical science determined the heart and other health threats posed by the stress of firefighting.

Mr. Martin retired at 57 and enjoyed his long retirement.

The Martins loved to hunt and fish. They retired to Trinity County in Northern California and traveled northwest, then returned to Fresno to live nearer their family.

Daughter Jan Lemley remembered weekends spent water-skiing with her father at Pine Flat Dam and salmon fishing off Eureka on California's North Coast.

"We spent summers up north," Lemley said. "We went out fishing trout on Trinity Lake."

Her father also enjoyed deer hunting and camping. He was, Lemley said, "a man's man."

Zack Lemley remembered Mr. Martin as the model grandfather who became a most enthusiastic great-great-grandfather.

"He loved those girls," Lemley said. "You saw it in his face -- when he'd see them come through the door."

A private service will be held.

Eugene Martin

Born: Aug. 25, 1922

Died: March 14

Occupation: firefighter

Survivors: wife, Barbara; son, Mike Martin; daughter, Jan Lemley


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