California aflame! September 22 - October 4, 1970
State of California, Resources Agency, Department of Conservation, Division of Forestry
From September 22 to October 4, 1970, fire raged through more than half a million acres of brush and forest in California's wildlands. Thirteen days of uncontrolled flames - flames which killed people - consumed hundreds of homes built in or adjacent to the wildlands - damaged thousands of other structures. Thirteen days of disaster. California Aflamel Destructive forest, brush, and grass fires occur every year in California. Although such fires can and do happen in every month of the year, the most crucial part of the fire season is generally from May through November. During a relatively few days of that season, fuel and weather conditions are often so critical that small fires escape to become large, destructive conflagrations. The 1970 fire disaster was unique in modern times, primarily in terms of geographical area involved, total acreage burned, the wildland-urban nature of the fires, and the large number of agencies, people, and equipment involved. Not since the Bar Harbor Fires in Maine in 1947, perhaps, has such a widespread disaster of similar nature occurred. Control of California's 1970 catastrophe depended upon the nationwide depth of the United States Forest Service, the statewide depth of the California Division of Forestry, and execution of the State Fire Disaster Plan under which men and equipment from many communities converged upon the various fires, providing assistance to local firefighting forces. This story describes the disaster and the organized mutual effort necessary to combat it.