A section of Interstate 5 in North County was renamed Monday after local firefighting legend William “Bill” Clayton.
Officials gathered on what would have been Clayton’s 83rd birthday for a dedication and sign unveiling ceremony in honor of one of the most decorated firefighters in Cal Fire history.
The “CAL FIRE Chief William R Clayton Memorial Highway” stretches from La Costa Avenue in Encinitas to Cannon Road in Carlsbad.
Clayton’s 50-year firefighting career began with the U.S. Forest Service at the Cleveland National Forest. He also served as a fire captain for the Orange County Fire Department, Assistant Chief at the Rainbow Conservation Camp for Cal Fire, Division Chief for Cal Fire and Sycuan Fire Department chief.
During his career, Clayton was twice awarded the Medal of Valor, the state’s highest award for bravery.
His first Medal of Valor came in 1998 for driving through a 50-foot wall of flames to rescue three people from their home near Lake Wohlford in Escondido.
The second Medal of Valor was awarded in 2006 for his actions during the Paradise and Cedar fires in 2003, during which he was credited with rescuing nearly 200 elderly patrons who were trapped in the Valley View Casino in Valley Center, as well as leading a firefight that saved downtown Julian.
Clayton grew up in San Diego, graduating from Oceanside High School and San Diego State University, and died at his Carlsbad home in 2018 at the age of 77.
City News Service contributed to this article.