When I first started as a firefighter on the El Cariso Hot Shots in 1970 we were shown a lot of training films. One of them was about the 1955 Refugio Canyon Fire, titled “Watershed Wildfire”. It describes how firefighters fought the fire near Santa Barbara, California, which was 77,000 or 85,000 acres depending on the report, and how an early version of a Burned Area Emergency Response (BAER) team worked quickly after the fire was out to stabilize slopes and reduce the chances of flooding and damage to reservoirs.
Even in 1970 it had the air of an old, classic film with a dramatic custom-written musical sound track, antique trucks, and firefighters with no personal protective equipment. A packset “HandiTalky” radio weighing several pounds with a remote telephone-like handset was shown as the narrator said, “The firefighters’ arsenal was equipped with the latest weapons”. Later he says “It takes trained men to fight fire”, a statement that perhaps needed to be said in 1955. Marines are seen using military flame throwers to ignite a backfire or burnout and later biplanes reseed the barren slopes.
The Santa Barbara Independent has an interesting article about the fire.
Now you can have the pleasure of viewing this classic film. The sound is pretty bad at first, but it improves 90 seconds in.
If the video will not play on your device click HERE to see it on YouTube.
Thanks go out to Jim