Tuesday, August 25, 2009


(Photo by Shmuel Thale: Santa Cruz Sentinel: http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ )
IVANO SAYS: The recent Bonny Doon Fire conjures up memories of other Davenport/Coast Road Fires. Nancy Jacobs writes of one such fire that occurred in 1949.
(BTW: Nancy wrote this for the Davenport/Coast Road Event. She has graciously agreed to give our "Blaggatori" an advanced look-see. Thanks, Nancy.)

It was 1949 and our family was living on the Foothill Ranch at the mouth of Scotts Creek.
One day we saw a thick smoke coming from the Swanton valley. We saw the smoke through the window facing the ranch on the other side of Scotts Creek.
I was really afraid that the fire would reach us.
So there we were discussing how to evacuate. No easy task because we had horses, a dog, ducks, chickens, a cow, a farmall, tractor flat bed truck, a car and a pick-up. All our possessions were in the farmhouse plus our food.
We decided to listen to the radio and watch the fire. My brother and I went to the top level of the ranch. There we could see the thick smoke slowly moving towards us. My brother said that it looked like a war zone.
Something went past us quickly in a blink of an eye. It was, in fact, a deer running from the fire. All kinds of wildlife kept running past us. The various animals were jumping the fences going under in some cases but all running for their lives from the threatening fire that was slowly advancing. I wondered how many birds, rabbits and other wild animals including snakes had actually died.
You could hear the siren of the fire trucks as they went back and forth on Swanton road to Highway One.
I was so stressed that I ate even more food, which, of course, did not solve any problem.
No one knew whether it was night or day. I remember hearing a Doris Day song, a song from the 1930's and other entertaining music of the day including the drummer Gene Kruppa. It was kind of surreal, although, I was not familiar with that word at the time. The radio played the news hourly.
And as suddenly as the fire came, the fire after raging for days was contained by the firefighters of 1949.
For decades one could see the fire damaged stumps that were left over from the fire of 1949 in Swanton. A deadly reminder of the power of nature and fire.


Ivano Franco Comelli said...

Historically, Davenport/Coast Road Fires have been a common occurrance. Those of us who lived right on the Coast Road (well, maybe really close next to it)often would get early alerts as to an igniting inferno. Fire engines with their sirens blasting would rush past our houses on their way to the fires. Of course, the forest fires caused the biggest worries, but other fires caused a lot of damage and destroyed major (future)historical buildings, such as the Hotel D'Italia in 1945,the Ocean View Hotel and the Cash Store in the 1960's, and the "Old Cookahousa" on the Gulch Ranch in 2002. (Well, maybe the "Old Cookahousa" wasn't a major historical building, but as I write in "La Nostra Costa" it sure held a lot of memories for many us who lived 'su per la costa'.)

Hope to see you all at Harvey West Park this Sunday were the only smoke arising (hopefully) will be from the fires in BBQ Pits.
Sempre Avanti. ivn

Anonymous said...

In the 1960's the entire Foothill Ranch was deliberately burned because it was feared that the then hippie trend would entice hippies to move into the abandoned Foothill Ranch Farmhouse. This was unfortunate because the Farmhouse was well built and was built from first generation redwood. As one can see from photographs in my archives the roof was straight which means that the house was better built than some built much later. It was not out of plumb or damaged by earthquakes. The barn, unfortunately was too close to the estuary and would flood from time to time.
The memories are still alive with me and the photographs bring the ranch alive for others.