Fires are driven by hot dry winds that are funneled through our hilly terrain.

These dangerous winds return time and again. As a physical form of our hills is fixed, fire sometimes burn the same area more than once.

Native American Era, 8000 BCE to 1836

Native Americans purposely burned most of northern California everyone to 5 years until Vallejo prohibited he practice in 1836. Throughout California, 5 to 13 million acres were burned each year. In 1818, Captain Golovnin of the Russian Navy observed an Indigenous-set fire racing across grasslands towards the Russian River. Lightening-initiated fires are estimated to have occurred once every 50 years.

1900 Occidental Fire, September 20th

This fire began on Franceschi Ranch on Coleman Valley Road when fall burning of vineyard waste ignited a fir tree root and the wind came up. The fire, then jumped the road, burned through the Joy woods all around Occidental, south along both side of the Bohemian highway, continue to the west side of freestone and in to pasturelands behind Bodega, hitting over 30 ranches, dairies and a winery. Alert townspeople set back fires that saved the town of Occidental. Firefighters also saved Brown’s Canyon Trestle. Although not burned down, the town of Freestone became so hot from the fire that it had to be abandoned. The outline of the fire was inferred by combining a 1900 map naming landowners with contemporary newspaper accounts of which residents were most affected.

Weather: Humidity, unknown, Temperature: unknown, Winds: northeast

1961 Robertson Fire, September 3rd

Began on Marshall Hendron Ranch off Highway 1, six miles north of Bodega Bay and burned southwest jumping Coleman Valley road, reaching along Western slopes of Fay Creek, and a long Tannery and Coleman Creeks down almost to Salmon Creek. Burned 2,208 acres. One of 12 fires burning that day in the North Bay.

Weather: Humidity near zero, Temperature: in high 90s, Winds: 80 mph from the Northeast

1964 Willow Creek Fire, September

This fire began south of Willow Creek road, ran along the valley north of Coleman Valley road, along Wright Hill Road, and reached the east end of Furlong Gulch, burning 2,603 acres. That September there were 94 wildfires in the North Bay within 2 weeks, including the Hanley fire in Santa Rosa.

Weather during that September: Humidity, down to 15%, Temperature, up to 100s, Winds peaking at 50 mph

1965. The Coleman Valley Fire, also called PG&E #7, September 17th

Began south of West Occidental, continue to along the western slopes of Fay Creek and along the ridge between Coleman valley and Fay Creeks, moving southwest almost to Salmon Creek to burn about 2,000 acres. One of the 12 simultaneous fires in the county, one of 94 fires in the North Bay within 2 weeks.

Weather: humidity: 15% temperature: and hi-90s wins: 278 to 100 miles per hour from Northeast

Data Source: Cal Fire Fire Perimeters by Emily Zentner and Chris Hagen

Collated by Noel Bouck and Diana Masura withMmap by Bob fink for the Salmon Creek Watershed Council October 2021, Transcribed March 2024 by C Monahon. Access original poster here.