Remembering the Gorda-Rat Creek Fire or how the South Coast extension of the BSVFB got started

First the backstory: Soaring contacted me about gathering local stories to include with her stories of her look-out days up on Cone Peak, specifically the Gorda-Rat Creek Fire, her first as a look-out. I forwarded her inquiry on to Redtail, as she had requested, but also on to Chicago Kid, whom I knew had been involved.

And Chicago Kid sent this:

I couldn’t find my notes so I’ll just have to wing it.—–We must have partied the night before as I found myself nursing a long neck Budweiser at Pacific Valley bar late morning of July 6th, 1985 when someone came in to report a lightning strike above Gorda. I finished my beer and went South to the Willow Springs Maintenance yard just North of Gorda. I was told Don Harlan had just recently taken off with a dozer and was up on the grassy meadows above Gorda and the Cal Trans yard.  I went and got my motorcycle and came back to the yard and borrowed two radios, two canteens and two large cotton bath towels and drove up to find Don. I knew the road above pretty well as I was mining some Jade up that way at a place we called “Mudbone”. I found Don cutting a line between the fire and the town of Gorda and the Cal-Trans yard. I gave him a radio, some water and a towel and he thanked me. I went up around the flank of the fire to see if I could cut it off before it got into a drainage we locally call Spruce but it is labeled South fork of Willow Creek on the map. With just a wet towel to beat down the flames, I soon lost the battle.

I went back down and got the slip on unit that Pat Chamberlain had loaned to the South Coast, into my 1970 GMC 3/4 ton pick up truck. Weeks earlier a vehicle had gone off Highway One to the West at a place we call Broken Truck. The driver was killed but his vehicle caught on fire. The fire raced up the hillside and although there were several people there, the fire was able to jump the highway to the East and begin its way uphill. It looked pretty darn serious when suddenly a large Borate bomber showed up and dropped its load on the fire East of the highway and knocked it down so it could be mopped up by those who were there. This close call spurred Erik Jensen (a local who had been a fireman in Carmel) and Sandy Sanderson to contact Pat Chamberlain about starting a South Coast branch of Big Sur Fire. Pat liked the idea and sent the slip on unit down for first response and Erik and Sandy got me on board to store it at Gorda where I had a Jade Shop above the gas station.  (To be continued next Saturday, unless…)




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