CARLSBAD, Calif. — Bill Clayton, a firefighter who helped rescue hundreds of people and twice received California’s highest honor, has died.

The San Diego Union-Tribune says Clayton was 77 when he died Sunday of natural causes in Carlsbad.

His friend, retired state fire Battalion Chief Ray Chaney, tells the paper that Clayton was “a legend.”

Clayton spent five decades with the U.S. Forest Service and the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

He received the state’s Medal of Valor for a 1997 rescue in which he and others drove through a 50-foot wall of flame to rescue three people in Escondido.

He received a second medal for saving a man in 2003 and coordinating help for some 200 people trapped inside a casino during a San Diego County wildfire.

Author photo
The AP is one of the largest and most trusted sources of independent newsgathering. AP is neither privately owned nor government-funded; instead, as a not-for-profit news cooperative owned by its American newspaper and broadcast members, it can maintain its single-minded focus on newsgathering and its commitment to the highest standards of objective, accurate journalism.