Funeral Planned for Inmate Firefighter

A funeral is planned for Tuesday for an inmate who died while battling Ventura County's largest blaze of the season, authorities said.

Ventura County Fire Chief Bob Roper and Assistant Chief Darrell Ralston will attend a graveside service for 40-year-old Martin Michael Stiles, who died July 18 in a Piru fire, authorities said.

"The fact that he was an inmate is inconsequential," said Joe Luna, a county fire spokesman. "He was a firefighter and we attend as a show of support and solidarity among firefighters."

The service will be held at noon at El Camino Memorial Park in San Diego, and inmate fire crews and firefighters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department will also attend. Stiles was a native of the San Diego area.

Stiles, a California Department of Corrections inmate assigned to a Los Angeles County fire camp in Azusa, lost his footing and fell 150 feet to the base of a canyon in Piru where he was clearing brush, authorities said.

He was working with a crew of 14 inmates who were sent to construct a fire line by hand at the Holser Canyon brush fire, which burned three days and blackened more than 2,500 acres.

The fire was ignited by a ricocheting bullet from a shooting range, authorities said.

Stiles was the sixth inmate from a state prison fire crew to die in the line of duty in the past 10 years, said Jeanie Esajian, a state prison spokeswoman.

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