I grew up in Big Tujunga Canyon in the Angeles National Forest down in Los Angeles. When I was a kid I remember a massive wild fire came through the canyon in 1975. It scorched our property, but my dad saved the house by staying behind to fight the fire with my grandfather who was a Los Angeles County firefighter.
It had been 34 years since that fire when the Station Fire swept through Big Tujunga Canyon earlier this Fall. Once again my dad chose to ignore the evacuation orders and stayed behind to defend the property.
The fire scorched most of the property that my parents still live on today. They lost a few vehicles, a trailer and an old storage shed, but my dad fought the fire all by himself with a garden hose and saved the house itself as well as other structures on the property.
The palm tree in front of the house caught on fire several times and my dad kept putting it out. The Christmas tree that we planted in the front yard when we were kids (which had grown to about 50 feet tall) was engulfed in flames at one point and could have easily burned the house down as well.
For a while my dad had some firefighters there helping him. Five firefighters or so from Santa Barbara County. When the fire got too strong though they abandoned my dad’s property doing everything they could to get him to leave and evacuate with them, but he stayed and fought.
My grandfather, who is now a retired fire fighter was angry when he heard that the fire fighters had abandoned the property. He thought that they should have stayed and fought the fire with my dad. He told my dad that he should make up a sign that Santa Barbara fire fighters are cowards and put it up on the road above our house. I’m not sure that would go over very well though.
My grandfather helped save the house back in 75 by lighting a bunch of back fires that burned up the hills around our property before the massive blaze actually got there, so when the fire arrived there wasn’t much left around the property to burn.
About 40 homes were destroyed all in by the fire up in Big Tujunga Canyon — mostly all within a few miles of my parents home.
This photo above is of my parent’s neighbors house. Their house was burned completely to the ground and this is all that was left of their property, a burnt out shell of a car. That was their house and chimney for their fireplace behind the car.
Further up the canyon in Vogel flats was even worse.
Walking around the mountains of Big Tujunga Canyon it feels like you’re walking on the moon. All of the brush completely gone, all of the wildlife gone, nothing but skeletal remains of trees and bushes, yuccas which have started to resprout, and thick undisturbed ash which blows everywhere still.
I spent most of my Thanksgiving visit at my parents photographing the damage of the Station Fire. I shot hundreds of photos of the damage and will upload a lot of them in the weeks and months ahead.