CAMPBELL (Reprinted in full by permission of the Sierra Star,
May 9, 2001)
-- An irreplaceable piece of history went up in raging flames
during the very early hours of last Thursday morning.
cabin, believed to have been built in 1870, and originally owned
by the Peckinpah family was reduced to charred rubble. An adjoining
structure, once used as a stable, but converted into a tool/shed/workshop,
also burned, rendering the equipment inside into twisted scrap
had been situated very close to Cascadel Creek. In the aftermath
of the blaze, birds continued to chirp and the creek gurgled
peacefully along as if nothing had happened, lending a stark
and eerie contrast to the scene.
noticed the fire and reported it at 12:36 a.m., and soon after
other neighbors rushed to offer assistance, as well as four
Madera County Fire Department engines, one water tanker and
40 firefighters. Also called was a California Youth Authority
handcrew from Mt. Bullion. The fire was contained by 1:28 a.m.,
and under control by 6:32 a.m. Estimated damage to the structures
was determined to be $48,000.
was unoccupied at the time, as the current owners, the Pucci
family, reside elsewhere and used the cabin only occasionally.
The rustic structure had been built with quarter-rounds,
complete with bark still attached, made from logs processed
at the mill in North Fork. It had no foundation, at least by
modern standards, and was held up by posts and rocks.
retired California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
captain, lives just across the creek from the old homestead,
and went into immediate action when he noticed the fire, checking
for areas where drifting embers threatened houses and vegetation.
He used a garden hose to extinguish the embers that had landed
on a porch, and reported that luckily, grass fires went out
on their own, because of natural moisture. "In another
two weeks, it would've done a heck of a job on the whole subdivision,"
says Mr. Buckles.
and Leahman Westrick, also Cascadel residents, worked diligently
to put out burning embers that had, because of the high winds,
landed on the roof of a neighboring house. Ann Kennedy, who
lives in that house, reported that the wind had blown many burning
pieces of the cabin toward her residence. "There were hand-hewn
sugar pine shakes all over the property. There's a path of embers
for at least a quarter-mile," she says, giving testimony
to the extremely dangerous conditions that morning.
resident, Brian Curtis, was first on the scene, and helped save
a dome-shaped house next door to the inferno. Garden hoses provided
protection, with the added plus of the very adequate water system
in the subdivision. It is capable of delivering 1000 gallons
per minute for up to two hours. The water system also boasts
a spring-fed supply of 60 gallons per minute, plus a 200,000
gallon storage tank.
very large ponderosa pines were severely charred at the cabin
site, and it was doubtful that the majestic trees would survive.
Once-magnificent manzanita trees had been reduced to split,
blackened and jagged debris. A small orchard of Golden Delicious
and Arkansas Black apples, although partly scorched, was the
only historical remnant that looked as if it could be salvaged.
estimated to have been part of approximately 360 acres at one
time, dates back to homestead land from the public domain reserve.
It had seen days as a honeymoon cabin, a cow camp, and a dude
ranch, with many tent cabins. As a dude ranch, it had been so
popular it even had a busy restaurant on the premises.
who has suffered the devastation of fire already knows, some
things can't be measured in terms of financial loss alone. The
history and heritage that were part of the old cabin by the
creek are two of those things.