SANTA ANA, Calif.—Orange County plans to set aside 10 acres of land to build a cemetery for veteran firefighters and police officers, which Supervisor Don Wagner said he believes to be the first of its kind in the nation.
“The men and women who have served us as first responders in a public law enforcement capacity … or in our fire services, in the fire departments of this county. They put their lives on the line every day for us,” Wagner said at the March 8 board of supervisors meeting. “The idea here is to say thank you.”
Police officers and firefighters who spent more than 10 years risking their lives or served Orange County residents for more than 50 percent of their career would qualify for being buried there, according to the proposal, though the exact entrance criteria are still being discussed.
The program, proposed by Wagner, aims to honor the sacrifices sworn police officers and firefighters made for Orange County. The proposed cemetery would use a small portion of Anaheim’s Gypsum Canyon site, where a state veterans cemetery is currently planned to be built.
First responders offered “enormous” support for the idea, Wagner said, including the Orange County Fire Chief’s Association, the Association of Orange County Sheriff’s Deputies, and a number of local city police departments including Tustin and Newport Beach.
The Orange County Cemetery District, whose approval will be required for this project to progress, was also supportive, Wagner said.
Supervisors unanimously approved sending a request to the county’s Cemetery District on the first responder cemetery, though it is unclear when the project will move forward, as a state study of the proposed veterans’ side of the cemetery still has not occurred, which will be required before moving forward.
Orange County Executive Officer Frank Kim said the next step will be the Cemetery District discussing the item in their own board meeting, before designing how everything could be laid out in the space.
“The Cemetery District is in the early stages of the planning and design of that space,” Kim said. “So pending the discussion with their board, my assumption would be that as they do their design, they would identify the space and allocate that as part of the build-out.”
Supervisors noted they will be looking into possible funding opportunities to help construct the first responder portion of the cemetery, though interment fees—for grave opening and closing services—will allow the Cemetery District to not incur any extra fees with the project.