On a beautiful day that would feature the San Rafael St. Raphael's Mission parade on May 21, 1950, a spark from a worker using a paint sander ignited a pool of solvent, creating what San Rafael Fire Commissioner Walter Castro later described as a "roaring hell." Two firefighters died in the line of duty fighting the fire inside the Mar Vista Motors shop at 812 Fourth St. The roof collapsed in a very hot fire, and both Aubrey Miller and William Bottini were trapped and fatally injured.
Later this week we'll be publishing the story of another large commercial fire in San Rafael two months earlier in 1950, where a roof also collapsed and two firefighters were injured. Thankfully their injuries were not serious. A photo from that fire was published across the nation through the Associated Press release. This fire has been forgotten, like so many in the history of Marin County, but thanks to the Marin Fire History project sponsored by the Marin County Fire Chiefs Association, it will now be remembered. Each month we are discovering and indexing more major fires in Marin history.
Please join us this week in remembering William Bottini and Aubrey Miller, and may they rest in peace. Click below to go to the page with the stories, photos, and video of the fatal fire that includes footage of the roof collapsing.
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