Documentary on the Honda Canyon Fire fatalities

Firestorm Documentary Honda Canyon FireA documentary is being produced for a multi-fatality wildfire that occurred in the 1970s.

On December 20, 1977, three people were entrapped and killed on the Honda Canyon fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California, including the Base Commander Colonel Joseph Turner, Fire Chief Billy Bell, and Assistant Fire Chief Eugene Cooper. Heavy Equipment Operator Clarence McCauley suffered severe burns and later died from the complications.  A book about the fire, “Beyond Tranquillon Ridge”, was written by Joseph N. Valencia.

Mr. Valencia, one of the first firefighters on the fire, is serving as a technical consultant on the documentary, titled “Firestorm”, which is adapted from the book.

Here is how Mr. Valencia described the fire to us in an email:

A combination of hurricane-force winds and the snapping of an electrical pole starts the Honda Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base, California, early in the morning of December 20, 1977. Over a thousand people consisting of professional firemen and military personnel fight the fire. Outlier winds would increase to over a hundred miles per hour, making the firefight almost impossible. Four fatalities and sixty-five injuries resulted. Ten-thousand acres burn, resulting in significant damage to the military installation infrastructure. Ironically and fortuitously, the fire will be out, a little more than 30 hours later, due to a rain storm-front coming in.

Others folks working on the film include producer Dennis R. Ford, and
Christopher Hite, Director of Photography and Cinematographer.

Many interviews have been filmed with people that were on the incident. One of the many reasons for making the documentary is to collect information about the catastrophe that occurred 42 years ago while the witnesses and participants are still available. You can view some of the interviews at the film’s Facebook page.

The trailer for the film is on Vimeo.

They are hoping to complete production by early 2020.

Mr. Valencia also wrote Area Ignition, the story of the 1979 Spanish Ranch Fire near Santa Maria, California.

Vandenberg Hotshots on the chopping block

Vandenberg Hotshots
Vandenberg Hotshots construct fireline on the Waldo Canyon Fire near Colorado Springs, June 28, 2012. (U.S. Air Force Photo by: Master Sgt. Jeremy Lock)

(Originally published at 2:31 p.m. MT, June 10, 2013; revised June 11 to clarify the fate of the remaining seven firefighters.)

The only military Hotshot crew in the United States will be history by the end of September. The Vandenberg Hotshots were created after the disastrous Honda Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force in southern California in 1977.

Due to the cuts required by the “sequestration” legislation passed by Congress, the budget has been reduced for the crew. Combined with attrition and some crew members leaving for other jobs when they saw this coming, only nine are left on the crew.

Mike Provencio of the Vandenberg Professional Firefighters told Wildfire Today that the firefighters have received notice that their positions will cease to exist at the end of the fiscal year which ends September 30, 2013. It is likely that two of the nine left will receive promotions into the regular civilian fire department on the base. The other seven will most likely retain their jobs but be configured as a fire suppression module, Mr. Provencio said.

Three people were entrapped and killed on the Honda Canyon fire, including the Base Commander Colonel Joseph Turner, Fire Chief Billy Bell and Assistant Fire Chief Eugene Cooper. Additionally, severe burns were experienced by Heavy Equipment Operator Clarence McCauley. He later died due to complications from the burns. A book about this fire, “Beyond Tranquillon Ridge”, was written by Joseph N. Valencia.

 

Thanks go out to Keith

Honda Canyon fire, 32 years ago

On December 20, 1977, three people were entrapped and killed on the Honda Canyon fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base in southern California, including the Base Commander Colonel Joseph Turner, Fire Chief Billy Bell and Assistant Fire Chief Eugene Cooper. Additionally, severe burns were experienced by Heavy Equipment Operator Clarence McCauley.  He later died due to complications from the burns. A book about this fire, “Beyond Tranquillon Ridge”, was written by Joseph N. Valencia.

Live discussion now with author of "Area Ignition"

This discussion will begin right here at 10 pm ET, and 7 pm PT.

We will have the honor of chatting with Joe Valencia, a former firefighter and the author of Beyond Tranquillon Ridge and the recently released Area Ignition. Mr. Valencia was a firefighter working on the Honda Canyon fire which is the subject of Beyond Tranquillon Ridge.

You can replay the discussion by clicking HERE.