Santa Clarita Valley History In Pictures

3,500-acre Blaze in Bouquet Canyon Destroys
World's Largest Live Oak Tree; Arson Suspected

Click image to enlarge

September 11, 1964 — Original UPI wirephoto from the San Francisco Examiner newspaper archive, 7½x8½ inches (torn). Cutline, as published Sept. 12, 1964, reads: "Some 450 firemen joined on the 3,000 acre blaze / Dirt was used to quench flames in Bouquet Canyon north of Newhall. / United Press International Photo." Rubber-stamped on back: "Received Exmainer Reference Library / Sep. 12, 1964."

Below (Courtesy of Stan Walker): Miscellaneous Publication No. 295, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington D.C., Issued June 1938, Slightly revised August 1939, p. 69:

Fire Scars May Claim Great Oak.

Click to enlarge.

Newhall (Los Angeles County) — (AP) — Two rangers, three forestry experts, four helicopters the U.S. Forest Service and the County Fire Department fought yesterday to save the life of a tree.

It's a 75-foot-tall specimen burned by the Bouquet Canyon brush fire. It's listed by the American Forestry Association as the biggest canyon live oak tree in the world.

The experts said the tree is still smoldering and its chances of survival are slim.


The fire, which started Thursday morning just below Bouquet Canyon reservoir and charred 3,500 acres, was contained at 8 a.m. yesterday by 550 fire fighters.

They expected to control it during the night.

The tree — 36 feet, 3 inches in circumference at the base — had a spread of 130 feet until the fire ravaged an estimated 75 per cent of it Thursday.

Helicopters dropped water on the tree's smoldering branches yesterday, and firemen laid hose lines to soak it with water.

On the ground, two rangers with fire-fighting tools tried to extinguish the still burning trunk.

Three experts hiked into Angeles National Forest to see if there was a chance of saving the tree, a tourist attraction a mile and a half from the nearest road.

The Experts.

They are Clem Crouch, deputy supervisor of the forest; Ralph Van Wagner, Los Angeles County forester; and Dr. Glenn Hiatt, assistant director of the Los Angeles County and State Arboretum.

There are two other species of oak — the California live oak and the interior live oak.

A nearby sign proclaiming the tree's dimensions and distinctions was destroyed in the fire along with a redwood fence around its base.

News story courtesy of Carol Stephens.

Click to enlarge.

Fire Fighters Control Blaze; Start Cleanup.

Newhall — Cleanup operations continue today as 550 fire fighters, aided by favorable weather conditions, have controlled a huge fire which charred some 3,500 acres in the Bouquet Canyon region here, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman said.

No major damage or injuries were reported as a result of the fire which broke out Thursday at 11 a.m., 12 miles northeast of here. However, a major landmark — a giant canyon live oak tree believed to be the largest in the world — was reported nearly totally destroyed by flames.

Tour Fire Scene

In an effort to save the tall tree, one of the most popular landmarks in the Angeles National Forest, a team led by Dr. Glenn Hiatt, assistant director of the county Arboreta and Botanic Gardens in Arcadia, was sent to the scene upon request of Supervisor Warren M. Dorn on Friday afternoon.

Dr. Hiatt was accompanied by Clem Crouch, deputy forest supervisor for Angeles National Forest, and Ralph Van Wagner, chief deputy of forests for Los Angeles County after Dorn flew to the scene via helicopter shortly after noon Friday. He asked County Fire Chief Keith Klinger and County Counsel Harold W. Kennedy to draft legislation seeking stiffer penalties against arson.

Investigate Fire

Dorn said that fire fighters in the area believe that arson was the cause of the blaze. However, investigators at the scene have not listed any specific cause for the fire.

Forestry officials also pointed out that the laws involving the malicious and willful setting of such a fire are pretty stiff already.

Officials said that because the two summer cabins were destroyed, arson would be the charge if the investigation bore out that the blaze had been deliberately set.

Section 447A of the California Penal Code fixes the penalty upon conviction of arson at not less than two or more than 20 years in the state prison.

For burning the property of another, California Penal Code Section 600.5 says the punishment is a state prison term of not less than one year or more than 10 years.

Drop Water

Because the Newhall fire was on federal land, a third felony can be considered. Title 18 of the United States code says that willfully setting fire to public lands can result in a $5,000 fine, five years in prison, or both, upon conviction.

The tree, according to Don Porter, Forest Service information officer, was being doused with water from four helicopters which were ordered on the scene after the fire was declared contained at 8 a.m. Friday.

Retreat From Scene

Several fire fighters also were stationed at the base of the tree putting out hot spots in the trunk and branches of the giant live oak. Latest reports indicate that approximately 75 percent of the tree was burned.

A metal and wood Forest Service information sign located at the base of the tree, which stands 75 feet tall and has a 130-foot spread, was in twisted and charred ruins, according to reports, indicating the intense heat of the brush blaze which blackened the surrounding area.

A heroic effort was made Thursday by a crew of firemen who attempted to stand off the flames from the landmark, but were forced to retreat the scene due to flames and heat.

Release Water

The 550 fire fighters, who were brought to the fire scene soon after it was spotted Thursday morning on the east side of the canyon, were from the U.S. Forest Service, Los Angeles County and State Division of Forestry.

Thirty-five engines, eight bulldozers, at least four helicopters and five air tankers were used in fighting the blaze which was spiced by 100 degree-plus weather and low humidity.

The Los Angeles Dept. of Water & Power helped firemen by releasing water from the Bouquet Reservoir into the usually dry canyon creek, where pumps were stationed to halt the advancing flames.

Limited Damage

Heat created by the fire was intensified by chaparral, an oily ground cover dubbed by firemen "gasoline bush" because of its explosive qualities, which covered much of the area.

Although no major property damage was reported, latest reports indicate that some scattered cabins in canyons other than Bouquet Canyon also may have been damaged by the fire which had a front seven miles in length and was about one mile long [sic]. Patrols were still checking the area yesterday.

Soon after the fire was spotted, officials began an investigation to determine whether or not the fire was purposely started. Another fire was put out only minutes before, located about three miles from the starting point of the Bouquet Canyon blaze.

Control Operation

The blaze was centered in rough, but not altogether inaccessible terrain of both sides of Bouquet Canyon.

Fire fighting operations were directed by U.S. District Ranger Ben Lyons, Ranger Jack Horton and County Division Chief George Brunton at various stages of the blaze.

LW2670: 19200 dpi jpeg from original photograph purchased 2014 by Leon Worden.
Ignition 9-10-1964


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