08 November 2012

Carbon Canyon Fire History: The Sleepy Hollow Blaze of 1958

Tonight, a light rain is falling and it would be nice to think that enough moisture will fall to hold off another dangerous brush fire in Carbon Canyon this Fall.  We shall see.

Following the last post about the near-disastrous Olinda fire of 1929 is one that was, by any standard, not near, but fully disastrous.  This was a conflagration that swept through Sleepy Hollow on the San Bernardino side of the Canyon in mid-October 1958.

As headlined in the Los Angeles Times:  "Carbon Canyon Blaze Checked; 32 Homes Lost."  And the subhead: "Fire Burns Over 260 Acres Before Being Controlled; Patrols in Area to Continue."
On a Friday morning, the fire erupted somewhere under conditions not evidently known.  While 260 acres seems quite small, compared to the many thousands that have been consumed in other incidents, this fire happened to roar through "the fringes of Sleepy Hollow" and destroyed those nearly three-dozen "homes and small cabins" noted in the headline.

Notably, the biggest damage was on the northeastern section of that community and then further out, including "at least 15 of 32 small cabins on the grounds of Workman's Circle [sic], a rest camp."  What this refers to, actually, is Camp Kinder Ring, the children's camp of the Workmen's Circle, a Jewish community association based in Los Angeles, which bought the land and built the camp in 1928 and afterward. 

Ironically, the article went on to report, "the camp was sold recently to a Los Angeles group for a reported $250,000."  This camp, located at the northeast corner of Carbon Canyon Road and Canyon Hills Road, is a horse and cattle ranch facility and some of the original surviving structures from the Jewish youth camp days are still on site.

The fire also caused injuries to several fire personnel who responded, including "four firemen hospitalized for heat exhaustion and excessive smoke" and a bulldozer operator, Ray Smith, "who was overcome by the heat and smoke" and remained longer in hospitalization than the others.

There was more to Smith's story, however, as revealed by San Bernardino County's State Forest Ranger, W. W. Skinner.  It turned out Smith "had suffered minor burns battling a fire in Santa Ana Canyon Thursday and collapsed during the height of the Carbon Canyon fire Friday."  Talk about dedication to duty and heroism among firefighters!

After a couple of days, the fire was finally contained and then extinguished, with a hundred or more firefighters from the State Division of Foresty and the Chino Fire Protection District, forerunner to the Chino Valley Independent Fire District, at work with patrol work continuing beyond that to check for flare-ups.

Future posts will cover later major conflagrations in Carbon Canyon.

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