September 1962 —
The wildfire that broke out at the Circle J Ranch in Saugus didn't stop after it devastated Gene Autry's Melody Ranch movie town in Placerita Canyon. It kept going, cresting the ridge and continuing to Sylmar where it hit the Olive View Sanatorium (tuberculosis hospital).
(20) Kodachrome color transparencies (slide film) showing the aftermath of the fire at Olive View and surroundings in Sylmar. Slides donated 2018 by Mark Alkofer of North Hollywood, who found them in a thrift store.
About Olive View
Olive View Sanatorium opened Oct. 27, 1920, as care facility for tuberculosis patients. In 1962 the San Fernando Valley's first successful open-heart surgery was performed there. That same year, on Aug. 28, a brush fire that started at the Circle J Ranch in Saugus was driven south by fierce Santa Ana winds, devastating Gene Autry's Melody Ranch movie town in Placerita Canyon before cresting the ridge and spreading to Sylmar, where it took out Olive View's infirmary-surgery building and two garages. Eight hundred patients were evacuated.
As medical science conquered tuberculosis and Olive View was no longer needed for that purpose, it aligned with the UCLA School of Medicine and became Olive View Medical Center, an 888-bed teaching hospital that opened in December 1970. Six weeks later, the 6.6-magnitude San Fernando-Sylmar Earthquake of Feb. 9, 1971 (which epicenter was in the Iron Canyon section of Sand Canyon in Santa Clarita) felled the hospital's four stairwell wings and its parking structure. The rest of the facility was damaged beyond repair; it was demolished in 1973.
Part of the county-funded healthcare system for medically indigent and low-income patients in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita valleys, the hospital's staff delivered care at a site in Van Nuys until May 8, 1987, when Olive View reopened as a 377-bed hospital. It became Olive View-UCLA Medical Center in 1992 and is the principal intake facility for North County patients experiencing a psychiatric emergency.
About the Fire(s)
The first blaze broke out just after noon in Hasley Canyon, north of Castaic Junction. The second broke out an hour later near the Circle J Ranch between
Newhall and Saugus. High winds whipped the flames into the most intense inferno anyone had ever seen.
When the smoke cleared three days later, 17,200 acres had been scorched and 15 structures and numerous out-buildings were lost.
No one was killed, but the Western street at Melody Ranch was gone.
"I had always planned to erect a Western museum there," Autry remembered in 1995, "but priceless Indian relics and a collection of rare guns,
including a set used by Billy the Kid, went up in smoke. Thank God, the ranch hands and all 14 of our horses were uninjured."
800 TB Patients Flee Fire; Homes, Autry Ranch Razed (AP 8-29-1962)
My Memories Of Melody Ranch by Gene Autry, 1995
Melody Ranch: Movie Magic in Placerita Canyon
HB6201: Download original images here