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Monday, September 26, 2016

Earlist Tassajara area fire history

Reading about Church Creek Ranch history at the Ventana Wild site the other day came upon this bit of fire history and added it to the Tassajara Fire History page :

In June of 1902 The Caves ranch house was destroyed by fire. The following report about the particulars of the event is from Eleanor Chew's "Jamesburg Gleanings" column in the June 19th edition of the Salinas Weekly Index:

The home of Andrew Church at the Caves was totally destroyed by fire last Thursday morning about four o'clock. Mr. Church arose early, built a fire in the kitchen stove and without awakening the other inmate of the house, went to the dairy to skim milk; in a few minutes he observed smoke and rushed to the house calling to his family to get up; the flames spread so rapidly that they could not dress themselves but were obliged to run out in their night clothes to save themselves. It was impossible to save anything from the burning building and their entire supply of provisions, clothing and household goods was destroyed. There was no insurance. Mrs. Church, who has a young babe only two weeks old, was compelled to ride on horseback to the home of her brother Frank Bruce. The fire is supposed to have caught from the stove-pipe.

In the same edition of the Index there was another account of the fire, which differed in some of the particulars of the event. According to this report (which was in error its statement that the ranch was located in Miller Canyon):
Church had retired early and was awakened about midnight by the smell of smoke. He arose and discovered that the whole upper portion of the residence was aflame and that the fire was spreading rapidly. He called his wife and children, who rushed forth, clad only in their night garments, just in time to prevent being cremated. The fire fortunately spread no further. It is supposed the cause of the conflagration was a defective flue. The loss will be about $1200, on which there was no insurance.

In any case, the Church family lived in a tent while the house was being rebuilt (Chew v/d). In the following year (1903) the Church homestead was again threatened with destruction, this time by a forest fire. According to Sterling (1904), the fire started in July in the vicinity of Chew's Ridge and burned for three months, consuming an area about a township (6 miles) wide that extended about 15 to 16 miles to the coast, where it widened out. There may have been more than one fire, for on July 21st Eleanor Chew reported that "a fire has been raging on the Carmel for some time past and the air is filled with smoke…," while on September 22nd she reported that "the mountain fire which has given the people of this vicinity so much trouble for the past month has again broke out... The coast fire has also come over the divide and crossed the Carmel river and threatens Andrew Church's place with destruction."

There's some good early Tassajara history also at the Ventana Wild  site.