HISTORY AND GENEALOGY RESEARCH
following article was
written by Betty Bryant. Betty and her husband Rob
are from Southern California, arriving in Mariposa in 1966. They
met on the porch of the old Lodge in Yosemite and have been married for
57 years. They have two sons, both of whom graduated from
Mariposa High, 5
grandchildren, 3 great-grandchildren. Betty retired from teaching
at Mariposa High in 1991, and Rob retired on disability from Mt Bullion
CYA Camp in 1976. They have lived for more than 40 years in the
same house, on Telegraph Road, perhaps 3 miles from the fire's
(it was July 25, 2008,
3:15 pm, when the first report was made of a fire in the area of
Mosher Rd/Telegraph Rd.)
"PAY DAY WA
by Betty Bryant
The phone rang that Friday, and it was our nearest neighbor, 2 miles
away on a hill.
“Is there a fire down your way? I
These are words that immediately put a nervous
system on TILT when you live where we live. “Forest fire country”
is the most descriptive term I can use for the property we have lived
on for more than 40 years. We’ve always worried about fire, and
each year have cleared a little farther from the house and have made
sure that there was no way a grass fire could climb up into the oaks
around the house. This is called breaking the fuel ladder.
So we didn’t worry, particularly, when we saw the smoke coming up out
of what looked like Whiskey Flat. It was probably on the other side of
the river and we had had fire experiences before, with the trucks of
Cal Fire and their crews camping out in our meadow, just in case.
They always told us, “We’ll help you defend your house because you’ve
done your part.” But it had never come to that.
So we went on with our usual Friday life, and even though we had seen
headlights of bulldozers up on the ridge during the night, we awakened
Saturday morning with no special alarm. And even that mild alarm
was allayed when we saw very little smoke. Is this the time to
say, “Little did we know?”
As the day progressed and warmed, so did the fire and we were soon able
to see it, crawling along the top of the ridge toward Telegraph
Hill. And then it came DOWN the hill, not creeping slowly as
fires are supposed to do going downhill, but in leaps of hundreds of
feet, as the chemise, white thorn, knob cone pine, manzanita and live
oak, exploded and threw embers downhill, which then burned their way
back uphill to rejoin the main event.
The road which winds up Telegraph
Hill and its shoulder was of no use as a firebreak, because the fire
treated it as it had treated the river -- just something to cross.
Then, in addition to seeing and smelling the smoke, we began to taste
it on our lips, and little gray fluffy fireflakes began falling.
We weren’t worried, because of our preparations. The only
vulnerable area was our wooden deck, and we soaked it, putting away
seat cushions. We had already cleared leaves from under the deck
and removed all leaves leading to it. There were trees
overhanging the deck, but they were BIG oaks, and it would take more
than a little grassfire to get THEM going.
We looked around and saw a few more things to do, and Rob and Rick
Riddle, our long-time handyman, took care of them.
We had had lots of company. CDF, County Fire, Fish & Game had
all come down to look things over and they all said the same thing “You
might want to think about leaving”. We said no, but just in case
I shut the cat up, where I could find her if needed. No worry
about the dog; she was where she always was, under our feet.
Finally, the fire’s roar and the heat on our faces sent a clear message
that even we could understand, and Rob turned to Rick and said, “Let’s
We had had almost 24 hours to prepare for the pullout, so what did we
do? Grabbed the dog and cat and left. No wallet, no
clothes, no money, no cherished photos, no important papers. We
were, as Rick said, “Stuck on stupid.”
He followed us to town and then went to his house to get a cat
carrier. We sneaked the animals into a motel, whose manager
kindly looked the other way, and Rick loaned us some money and brought
us some clothes, some pet food & dishes and a litter box.
We had no idea of what was happening, but Rob met some friends in the
motel lobby who gave him news. He came back to the room and
asked, “Do you want the good news or the bad? There isn’t any bad
news --we still have a house.” And we did, but I didn’t see it
again until 8 days later. We lost nothing except several old cars
which had been parked out in the meadow, very conveniently and neatly
next to a fence and a stand of live oak. They were all Isuzus and
Rob had been saving them, hoping to put them together and create the
Isuzu of all time.
The next morning, Sunday, we moved to Ponderosa Basin to stay with a
friend, who had a travel trailer. He had other fire-guests, too,
refugees from Colorado Road, complete with their dogs and cats.
If Rob were asked to summarize the Telegraph Fire as it impacted us, he
“We worked for 40 years and payday was Saturday.”
READ ABOUT OTHER MARIPOSA COUNTY FIRES