ADV Journey to Understand our Past
By Don Amador
May 20, 2018
ADV to our Past to Guide our Future
Adventure (ADV) riding is not just a recreation activity where outdoor enthusiasts can enjoy spectacular views, natural wonders, and good times with family and friends. On occasion, it can be a solemn journey to better understand how important historical and tragic events have shaped - or continue to shape - management of public lands.
Rattlesnake Fire Info Board Directs View to Fallen Heroes
Recently while helping support the 2018 SheetIron Dual Sport Ride, hosted by the Oakland Motorcycle Club, I took an ADV ride on Forest Highway 7 that bisects the Mendocino National Forest. The purpose of the trip was to pay respect to the wildland firefighters who lost their lives battling the 1953 Rattlesnake Fire.
Crosses Mark Spots where Fire Overran Firefighters
According to the Forest Service, on July 9, 1953, a brush fire was reported in Grindstone Canyon several miles northwest of Elk Creek on the Mendocino National Forest. As the fire raged out of control, the Forest Service requested volunteers from the New Tribes Mission that was located about 25 miles south of the fire to help.
Tribute to Fallen Firefighters
That evening, the main fire was contained and 24 men were sent down into the canyon to put out a spot fire. After this was accomplished, the crew sat down to eat their supper. They had just begun to eat when the wind shifted direction and the original fire jumped its line and started down the canyon.
One of the firefighters from above ran down to warn the crew to get out of the canyon. Nine of the men scrambled up the hill to the firefighter who was warning them and made it to safety. The other 15 men tried to run down the canyon to a road below, but were overtaken by the rapidly moving fire.
Bell at Rattlesnake Fire Overlook
Fourteen firefighters from the New Tribes Mission and one Forest Service employee from the Mendocino National Forest lost their lives making it one of the deadliest in Forest Service history. The brush fire burned over 1300 acres before being brought under control on July 11, 1953.
Response to the tragedy led to changes in wildland fire training, firefighter safety standards, firefighter knowledge and awareness of fire weather and fire behavior. The Rattlesnake Fire is reviewed every year by wildland firefighters across the nation in basic firefighting training and fire refresher training as part of "Lessons Learned".
LINK TO FOREST SERVICE RATTLESNAKE FIRE OVERVIEW
Sitting on the bench at the Rattlesnake Fire Overlook where the information board directs your vision across the canyon to the white crosses that mark where the fire overran our fallen heroes is a somber experience.
Rattlesnake Fire Overlook
It also gave meaning to, and strong motivation for, the ongoing efforts of collaborative forest health efforts where diverse interest groups seek to enhance programs that reduce the number of Megafires by increasing fuel reduction projects on private and public lands.