California Professional Firefighters

Local 522 Mourns Passing of Burn Institute Founder

Sacramento Area Firefighters Local 522 is remembering the legacy of one of its own, whose profound impact extended well beyond his profession and his community.

Retired Local 522 member Cliff Haskell, who died at home in Sacramento Feb. 11, was the driving force behind the creation of the Firefighters Burn Institute. The Institute – co-founded by Haskell and Local 522 – has raised millions of dollars regionally to build up the Sacramento area’s burn treatment response, help train burn unit staffing and support fire survivors.

“He made a difference, not just locally but regionally and nationally,” said Brian Rice, president of Sacramento Area Firefighters Local 522. “Without Cliff Haskell, we would not have definitive burn care in this area.”

Haskell worked as a Sacramento firefighter for more than two decades before retiring as a captain in the mid-1990s. In 1972, he was working for Sacramento City Fire Dept. when a jet taking off from nearby Executive Airport crashed into a Farrell’s ice cream parlor, killing 22 people – including 12 children – and injuring another 25. Many of the injured suffered severe burns.

“Sacramento didn't have reasonable burn care. … no one did in that day,” noted Sacramento Metro Battalion Chief Michael Daw in a message to SMFD personnel. “Cliff, Local 522 and area firefighters recognized the need. They organized and did what firefighters do. (In December, 1973, the) Burn Institute was formed.”

Over three decades, the charity has had a profound impact on burn care, not just in Sacramento but throughout the nation. The Institute raised more than $1 million dollars to help create the UC Davis Medical Center’s Firefighters Burn Institute Regional Burn Center. The 12-bed state-of-the-art unit is considered one of the top such facilities in the nation.

Haskell was also actively involved in making life better and safer for firefighters on the front lines. He served on IAFF Health and Safety committees and represented front line firefighters on early NFPA safety committees and helped develop the NFPA standards for structural firefighter protective clothing.

“He was passionate about firefighter safety,” said Rice. “The turnouts our members wear and much of the other safety equipment is a result of the work Cliff did through NFPA.”

Haskell’s work earned him a national reputation in the burn support community. He has received numerous awards from the American Burn Association, the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, and the International Association of Fire Fighters for his work and life-long dedication to improving burn care.

“Cliff’s commitment to burn survivors and firefighters was second to none,” said Jim Doucette, executive director of the Firefighters Burn Institute. “He leaves behind a huge legacy, and we’re honored to continue his work.”

Brother Haskell is survived by his wife, Tillie. He will be remembered in a Celebration of Life on Feb. 19th at 1:00pm at the Elk’s Lodge, 6446 Riverside Blvd., Sacramento.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests donations to the Firefighters Burn Institute, 3101 Stockton Blvd. Sacramento 95819;

Click HERE to read about the Farrell’s Crash and the founding of the Firefighters Burn Institute.