Remembering 1961 Harlow Fire

Letters to the Editor - 9/12/13 edition

September 10, 2013 

Dear Editor,

Following the progress of firefighters on the Yosemite Rim Fire, It caused me think back to the Harlow Fire of 1961.

I was 14 years old then and still vividly remember our family's involvement to save our home and the homes of others in the Ahwahnee/Oakhurst area.

We could see the glow of the flames in the distance as they came closer to Oakhurst. And then almost immediately Deadwood Mountain began to burn. We were on our back porch on the east side of the Fresno River as the fire roared up the mountain, consuming everything.

The flames were a huge fireball nearly a 100 feet high rolling up the mountain as they caused pine trees to explode, sending huge showers of sparks in all directions. The firestorm was like a tornado of flames, creating it's own wind conditions.

We could feel the intense heat of that fire from our house just three fourths of a mile from town. As the sparks were carried on the wind towards us, we watered down the roof and the wood pile with garden hoses. A few glowing embers landed in the field just to the south of us where there were no trees, just some dry grass. Luckily there were several horses in the field and they had kept most of the grass stomped down and no spot fires resulted.

In the end we had dodged the bullet and headed up to Yosemite Forks to help save Lew Wilson's home, where the flames were about 30 feet away from the structure. Several U.S. Forestry trucks and crews were already there and together with all the volunteers that showed up we were able to save the Wilson house.

Certainly it was a serious time for all, as it is again now with the devastating Rim Fire.

Dennis Hartfield, Garfield, Arkansas

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