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Aerial firefighting pioneer Joe Ely dies in Chico at age 94

by John Walden |

Posted to on March 21, 2006 by Greg Welter

The man credited with giving birth to modern aerial firefighting died Monday in Chico. Joseph B. Ely was 94.

As a forest control officer working in the Mendocino National Forest in the 1950s, Ely was interested in making wildfires safer to fight by attacking them from the air.

Others had tried with very limited results. But Ely, who saw 15 firefighters die in 1953 while fighting a Mendocino National Forest blaze from the ground, had a special incentive.