Santa Maria-based U.S. Forest Service Battalion Chief Gary Helming, 47, died August 31st in a collision south of Highway 33.

Chief Helming was assigned to the Santa Lucia Ranger District in northern Santa Barbara and southern San Luis Obispo counties. Helming was on his way home from an assignment on the 1,900-acre Railroad Fire burning along Highway 41.

The collision occurred about 8:25 a.m., when Antonio Avalos, 25, of Santa Maria was driving northbound in a 2000 Ford F-350, according to Officer Steve Schuh of the CHP’s Coalinga office.

A tire on Avalos’ truck went flat suddenly, causing the vehicle to swerve into the southbound lanes and hit Helming’s 2014 Ford F-350. Helming was pinned inside his vehicle during the collision and died at the scene.

Avalos was airlifted to Community Regional Medical Center in Fresno with major injuries, Schuh said.

Helming began working for the Forest Service 22 years ago as a seasonal firefighter. He worked for the BLM and the National Park Service before returning to the Forest Service again in 2013.

Helming is survived by his wife and 3 children.