California Burning—A Special Series on Wildfires, Part 3: In Our Own Backyard

  • The Los Padres National Forest went up in flames, and rolled into Lockwood Valley in December 2006, vaporizing the forest [photo of the Day fire by Paula Harvey]

    The Los Padres National Forest went up in flames, and rolled into Lockwood Valley in December 2006, vaporizing the forest [photo of the Day fire by Paula Harvey]

Our ‘California Burning’ series originally ran in Fall 2020. It was awarded First Place for Investigative Reporting by the National Newspaper Association. We are reprinting the series because the threats to our Mountain Communities continue. We will all be safer when more of us understand the urgency of these issues.

By Patric Hedlund, TME

Wildfire has come to our own backyard in these Mountain Communities. It will come here again.

The Day fire ripped through the backcountry of the Los Padres National Forest in 2006, caused by an arson fire to the south, near Pyramid Lake.

As the firestorm bore down on Lockwood Valley, the integrated fire command under the U.S. Forest Service advised Lockwood Valley residents to evacuate their livestock in preparation for possible total evacuation.

Horses from Lockwood Valley were trailered to Pine Mountain Club. Then the fire picked up speed. It burned the chaparral, grasslands and forest in Lockwood Valley, then jumped Lockwood Valley Road. If it had continued to rage further north up the mountaintop on the other side, it would threaten Piñon Pines, Pine Mountain Club and Lake of the Woods.

Hurriedly, animals evacuated to Pine Mountain Club were trailered out again. Pine Mountain horses and Lockwood Valley horses were all taken to the Tejon Ranch Equestrian Center on the east side of Interstate 5 to get them beyond the Day fire’s likely path.

85% Evacuated From Homes

An estimated 85% of the population of these…(please see below to view full stories and photographs)

Photo captions:

Left: While others were evacuating from the 2006 Day fire, Paula Harvey of Lockwood Valley walked out on a ridge to photograph a tsunami of flames and smoke roaring across the landscape toward her home. It jumped across Lockwood Valley Road and roared up Boy Scout Camp Road.

The Thomas fire in 2017 started from sparking electrical lines and burned toward us from the southwest, covering 282,000 acres over four months. Fought by 8,500 firefighters, it cost $204 million.

Day fire Incident Command thoroughly briefed the community before evacuations began. The Day fire finally stopped in Lockwood Valley.

Left: Fires have come very close in recent years. The Best Rest Inn (now Motel 6) and the Flying J in Lebec were saved from a curtain of flames bearing down on them in 2005. Above, right: Frazier Mountain High School’s Falcon Field also narrowly missed being part of the conflagration during the Grand fire in 2013.

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This is part of the November 19, 2021 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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