Sunday, February 15, 2009

Time to pay up! I need help.

I'm looking for stories about the Finley Creek fire. Niel Logans son, Andrew recently wrote me looking for information about the Finley Creek fire. Correspondence as follows:

I found your web site researching the Finley Creek Fire. My father was on that fire and having taken many classes and the newer CALFIRE instructors do not have much info on that fire.

I am looking for other events that caused the wind reversal, it is mentioned that a volcano eruption caused the wind reversal. I am looking for time of the fire, days burning, weather, any notes or diagrams, or other info. I will be in the greater SoHum area in the next two weeks. I would be willing if the creek don't rise to meet with you for lunch to cover any information you have to give.

Andrew Logan

I replied:

Good to hear from you. I was not at that fire, in fact I was in San Francisco at the time. But, I have a lot of friends that know a lot about the fire. Some of the stories about surviving the fire are incredible.
I was just looking for something to put on my blog and it looks like this is it. Your father, who you probably already know, is one of the most respected firefighters that we ever had here in Garberville.
Please call me when you get to town. I'll be a lot smarter then!


He is looking for any Scientific details that might pertain to the fire. As all of us know that were here at the time, the hills were completely covered with brush, and the wind that night was one of the strongest winds that we've ever had on a north coast fire. I don't remember the exact date of the fire , but I believe it was in the Summer of 1972. I remember that it burned ten thousand acres in one night. The wind was a land breeze, Like what they call a "Santa Anna Wind" in Southern California.

The fire started at the bottom of the Wolf Ranch on telegraph ridge. I knew Old Fred wolf pretty good at the time. We used to help him round up his sheep. I asked him what happened. He said he didn't start it and he would say so even if he had. I really don't think that he had anything to do with it, but it was quite common in the early days for a rancher to burn the brush off of their ranches. I thought that maybe he was trying to burn brush and the wind went the wrong way. I guess we will never know for sure.

I know that I lot of people have written on this blog about that fire, but if you will write one more time I'd appreciate it. Andrew is looking for fire details and I'm just looking for anything that anybody remembers about the fire. We are getting fairly close to the same brush conditions as we had then. It's really kind of spooky to remember that fire. It might be time to start making a fire plan.

Thank-you to Kym Kemp for the following Times-Standard stories. Click on article for readable enlargement.


Kym said...

Ernie, I emailed you two articles from the Times standard Sept 8 and 9, 1973 on the fire. I used your Branscomb center email.

Pretty interesting stuff. Thanks for doing this.

Kym said...

By the way, a quick search shows that a Volcano did erupt on the 9th in Japan. I don't see any other evidence of one.

Kym said...

There was one in Mexico that year at the end of August though. Maybe that is what he was talking about.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank-you Kym!

Eel River Ernie said...

Ernie, Harry Pritchard was pretty knowledgeable about the Finley fire but unfortunately he passed away last year. Jim Moranda would be a good bet to have some info on weather conditions as I think he was a dispatcher out of Fortuna at the time. Anyway, I am sure Andrew knows Jim and he might want to give him a call. I will check with some of my old buddies to see if there was a formal review ever done of the fire.

Ernie Branscomb said...

ERE, thanks.

Actually I need to find out from somebody that knows how to do weather research myself. I'd like to know how to find weather records. I guess that might be Jim Moranda also.

I've had several people not believe me about how much rain we had before the '64 flood.

Just yesterday I told somebody that we've already had more rain than we had one year in the early seventies, and I also told them that we have had right at one-hundred inches of rain one year in Garberville. It sure would be nice to find those records. They are pretty incredible.

Sometimes I get the feeeling that they don't believe me.

Anonymous said...

I remember that fire. Ernie and I stood standby at the forks in the road between Whitethorn and Shelter cove. I belonged to the Redway Fire Department at the time. All I really remember is watching all the bumber to bumper Volkswagons headed out of the area.


Ernie Branscomb said...

Oregon, That was after I got back from San Francisco. I remember coming through laytonville that afternoon and the smoke was so thick that you almost couldn't see to drive.

It was amazing that nobody died. I remember going out there and seeing all of the dead animals that must not have been able to out-run it. I've never seen that many dead animals in a fire before or since.

Indie said...

Scary. Thank you to all firefighting heroes, past and present. Firefighters rule!

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank-you Indie

We don't have time for my standard "I'm not a hero" speech, but I will tell you that I walk among them, and being a firefighter is one of the most rewarding things that a person could ever do with their lives.

Eel River Ernie said...

Ernie, Sorry I can't help much further, none of my buddies recall the Finley Creek fire as they were working in various other parts of the state at the time. Myself, I was a battalion chief with the Orange County Fire Department in 1973 in municipal protection. One place to look for weather data is: they may have archived data for that date but I couldn't find anything online - ERE

Eel River Ernie said...

URGENT!!! In my daily rounds I just checked EKO's site and the following message was displayed: "Sorry, the blog at has been removed."

Ernie, WTF tell me it ain't so - ERE

Ernie Branscomb said...

I also noticed that 299 Opine has been deleted. I hope that Eko didn't do something foolish and delete his blog without backing it up.

I noticed that he has been in a slump lately but I still refer to some of his old stuff for info. If he did delete it, it would be like book burning.

If your out there Eko, Tell us "Not So".

Ernie Branscomb said...

Phew, Busy day! I wanted to get Kym's stories posted, but didn't have the time to do it right all day. Finally, I got it done close to right.

Kym said...

Good God, Eko is gone. I just thought he wasn't posting for a bit. He has some of the best stories about here. Maybe he's transferring to another blogging platform like Eric did?

Fred said...

Eko gone. This is horrible.

Ernie Branscomb said...

Kym just confirmed that Ekovox's "299 Opine" is gone... deleted.

Whatever Eko's intention are, I will honor them and respect his decisions. I take the loss of his blog as a great personal loss.

Kym, thank you for asking him, I considered asking him myself, but I guess that feared that he would say, that he canned his blog and I just wouldn't know what to say.

His blog was a great inspiration to me. One of the things that I liked best about Eko's blog is he was never mean or hurtful like so many bloggers can be. I just hope that it wasn't something that one of us said or did, and I hope that we are all still friends.

Eel River Ernie said...

Ernie, I received the following from Jim Moranda in regard to the Finley Creek fire: "I don't recall any actual formal review by CDF, however there was extensive review done by the Fire Weather Office in Eureka on the weather patterns that lead up to the fire and weather patterns during the fire that (as I recall) included not only the weather but fire history, etc. Mel Hull (who I recently read passed away) was the chief fire weather meteorologist and the assistant (name escapes me) wrote a lengthy paper on the incident. It compared the conditions and patterns to the Santa Ana conditions in So Cal, made a number of conclusions and similarities. Not sure if that report still exists in Fortuna.

John Barbour (I have John's email address - ERE) might have additional info as I recall he did some work on it and I think, had that paper."

Ernie Branscomb said...

Thank-you Eel River Ernie.

We got sidetracked a little bit there, but I think that we are headed in some good directions now. The Santa Anna wind condition are what actually saved us, because it blew the fire in the direction of the ocean. If it had started further inland, or if it had blown down the coast, it could not have been stopped.

If you could give John Barbour my E-mail address, or me his, I’d appreciate it. John and I also belonged to the same Rotary club. My address is up there in the upper left corner of my blog front page. It’s not posted as a link to keep the spam scum away.

John was the one that brought all of Sohum Fire Departments together under Mutual-aid agreements. As you may know, most of Southern Humboldt works together as one big Fire department on Sohum fires. The cooperation that we have was mostly brought about by John. We found that we could get just about anything from him as long as we kept him in ice-cream cones.

Sadly, we have recently lost many of the people that were involved in that fire, including Harry Pritchad and Vern Bonham.

Anonymous said...

Ernie, 10-4 on all accounts - ERE