Category Archives: Fire Calls + Misc FD

A Reminder of Why I Take the Pics I do

Some of my public pics this year…

I wish I could share all of the others – but some of the shoots I do are for those souls only – but still beautiful in so many ways. Just felt like sharing what I have left in this life that gives something to the area I live within…so much of my film work is cataloged at the firehouse…I hope should any of you wish to see those pics that you can go to the BCFD office and ask to be able to look through the albums in there..anything from the early 1990s through 2005 was typically taken by me…Leo Kuhnlein before that time frame…

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Two Generations of Fire Service (of the four that exist in our family)

I have no reminisce of anniversary or cause of date for this post – other than to share with others what two people tried to give to others here in our valley…my dad gave so eloquently upon the taxpayers of BCFPD thru financial skill and eloquent leadership – me to the people that called for help and needed a hand to pull them from their temporary moments of hell…

Four Generations: (My great-grandfather served in Michigan as a firefighter in Wolverine, my grandfather in Lake Havasu City as a founding member and leader – and then Dad from the 1960s up to the 2010s)…and then I thru various years)

We both left that department we loved unwillingly – his thru death and mine thru the narrow-minded actions of others…but somehow we will talk again someday of this department and town…like we did thru the years that so many could never understand or know about because of internal or external conflict that could affect the betterment of others…

Moments lost in time…

Some Lesser Known Pics of SLV Fires

Circa 1956 and a few years later..like finding the shots that show a different angle not always shared…

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Obviously the IOOF side of Boulder Creek circa 1950s.

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What I absolutely love about this shot is the other 500 pictures of this day face the infamous Burl Theater fire of 1956…yet this is the only one I know of that shows the crowd and main intersection of town that day…I have written chapters about this year in SLV fire history…someday to post.

And the only one I know of that captures Felton’s most famous fire until the Community Hall fire in the 1990s…of which I have a video but need to find ways to screen capture and share…

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This pic shows Boulder Creek’s main engine showing up to help attack the Castella’s fire in Felton…the exact date is argued but I will just say it happened shortly after WWII.

Two Decades in the Life of Downtown Boulder Creek (north end)

Some decent representations of the changes downtown went through in less than 15 years. I know only a couple of the pics as being taken by Leo Kuhnlein…unknown credit on the others. Leo was the fire department photographer prior to me taking on most of those duties from somewhere in 1990/1991…

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A pancake breakfast line in the old days…(still in my lifetime though I believe)

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Between these two pics you can see the buildings on the Liberty Bank side, then the empty lot that became the BCFD tree sale location for years…

Pep Rocca’s green/white pickup parked on the street there..

Facing south. The Chevron/Standard station (long since torn down).

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And finally a pic from 1961 showing what the rec district yard and building used to look like.

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And finally the new construction can be seen for what would become Liberty Bank…

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More Pics from my Flyover 27 Years Ago

Had a few requests to add more pics from my flight and history post earlier… so these are picscan quality, and maybe someday when I am feeling frisky I will hi-res scan the negatives and see what I can get out of them.

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Some tidbits for historians:
– The Hudson Rockery barn still standing behind Johnnies.
– The Olympic gas station and residence next to it (Bertetta’s property)
– Peach Cottage still standing (before the last big fire – another prior history post on the blog here)
– Easier to see the addition to Johnnie’s where the other gas station used to be…(will post those pics later)
– Post Office had not been built yet…(empty lot by Johnnies)

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Tidbit for my fire department friends:
– Todd’s beautiful 1969 Camaro parked in front of the firehouse.
– That yellow blazer was Mike Lord’s rig. He was the one that got BCFD into computers before any of the other fire department’s in the county…
– Ricky Gehrmann’s rig in front of the FD (an awesome Captain from back-in-the-day)
– You can see the old 2151 being stripped and the new one being fitted in back of the station

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Peach Cottage fire – part 2.

Being as I previously stated I would follow-up my original post about the Peach Cottage fire and resulting fatality – I thought I better get on it.

The carcass of said restaurant sat alongside the next-door market and other nearby businesses (all of which have changed names and hands since then – save one). Not much was left from that conflagration except for a small remnant of the bottom floor and an even smaller amount of the attic/top floor.

As with most building fires, the resulting mess of food products and other spoilable issues began their aromatic decay. I typically spent my days that summer sitting on the bumper of a fire engine after work – watching the world transpire along Central Avenue. Over the course of that June month and into July, townsfolk would regularly complain to us at the station about the bad smell emanating from the old Cottage and would ask when it might be razed. Unfortunately, that whole mess was a mix of responsibility and finances – of which I will skip here as no part of that story is positive or worthy.

On one memorable day, though, some weeks later – a gentleman walked up to myself and one other senior firefighter at the station complaining of the issues transpiring from said incident – except he trailed his issue with a statement we had not heard prior; “I think I found my brother”.

He then stated he had been looking for his missing brother since the prior month – and that quite possibly he was in the attic of the burned out cottage. Our shock was palpable. But we immediately took a fire engine to the scene and had him point out what he thought were the remains of his brother in the attic. His steadfastness of showing us a white palate against the charred black of timber and such – was in fact the skull of his lost relative.

Within short order, law enforcement, our fire administrative staff, the media and plenty of on-lookers began to converge. As with scenes like this, the inevitable work of body removal falls upon the fire department staff in assisting the coroner. Even more specifically – to me. I got to be the one actually prying the remains from their sarcophagus into the body bag. Watching and hearing the gasps and tuned-away cameras upon that moment of transference is way beyond forgettable for me. After it was all said and done – I washed my clothes twice – and the smell was still there. I threw them out that night amidst of failure.

Since the possible whims of murder and related circumstances have no statute of limitations – I can only summarize those events with my own thoughts and not of any organization; that the unfortunate timing of a shuttered restaurant burning down and a homeless individual within the same family dying in a tragic fire – has unfortunately long been forgotten by most – but not my me. No charges were filed – and any search of the incident appears to show no recording of it ever happening…

Visiting a BCFD Old Timer – and also an old friend…

A passion project of mine for more than a few years while involved with the BCFD, was keeping track of the guys who had served that great organization. One such in particular was a former Rescue Captain (and Lockheed fireman) – Art Evans. Many moons ago he decided to pick up sticks and move to Mendocino with his wife. They had just purchased a small cafe/deli in the downtown area of the picturesque little town; coincidentally he had just received his layoff notice at Lockheed the same day his offer was accepted for the business (Lockheed laid off the entire fire department that particular day).

On an unplanned road trip and walkabout this season, I ventured through Mendocino and surprised my old friend as he was preparing the shop for a busy Friday. At first I didn’t recognize him with his long beard, but that famous gait I saw so many times running from his home at Evans Rest to the station for EVERY call started a flood of memories. After a hug and some laughs, we went outside and talked for what seemed like hours about events transpired. He mentioned the only names to stop by all these 20+ years were some of the Lockheed guys (Gene Meschi and Ed Butler).
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Art keeps a wall in his restaurant with some treasures of fire department history. In this Lockheed pic we see the names we all know of Ricky Gehrmann, Steve Sanders, Ed Butler, Art and even one I knew from my CDF days with Chris Liebenthal (that’s why I tagged you Mr. Culp).

The nearby pic from the 1982 year shows a BCFD that became famous nationwide for the events they partook in that storm year. We reminisced of the 10 or so names shown there that have since passed away. We caught up from what I knew of everyone else.
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Typically I am the one that recalls the old adventures of my tenure, but Art actually reminded me of an entire storyline I had forgotten – but had apparently participated in: the wedding debacle in Monterey from more than a couple decades past…Where the likes of certain parties (unnamed here but named in our talk) destroyed an entire hotel room and nearby facilities in celebration of his marriage. One event he recalled, was a particular young gentleman in a tux, that while holding a champagne bottle decided he wanted to meet the ladies in the pool – two stories below, so he jumped from the balcony to introduce himself. I do recall most of the furniture ending up elsewhere…fuzzy memories of those two days slowly swirled back. Art mentioned he was permanently banned from that hotel – even though he had stayed elsewhere. We can laugh about it now though…
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Art spent some years with the Mendocino Fire Department, instituting hazardous materials training and programs like he was always known for. He hopes that maybe some of those names we mentioned will pass through town and visit him someday. As I walked away the timing was so ironic: a fire call had just gone off for the small volunteer department. A business owner nearby ran out the door with his fire coat, hopped into his truck and drove to the station as a siren sounded from one of their responding vehicles across town (the man’s wife smiled as she conveyed to me “another fire call”)…if only I could tell her how I understood.
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Art doesn’t touch computers so he won’t see this, but if anyone wants to get a hold of him – look for the Cultured Affair off one of the side streets in downtown Mendocino. I told him I would be tagging a few names in my FB post as a way of him saying hello to his long lost friends.

SLV Steve

SLV Steve.

Got some fun galleries up today…

BCFD Audio History, Part 1

While doing the research for writing the BCFD history book over 20 years ago, I recorded interviews with local fire department legends such as Hoot Cress, Pep Piccioni and Johnny Holm. I have been sifting through a plethora of wav files, and decided on a couple to get the archive started here…the first one reminds all of us how the stories we heard a hundred times never get old – these guys created a fire department from scratch – and at a time when it was truly a volunteer organization. This clip is Hoot talking about the main fire station in town – and how it used to look a little different than it does today…

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Meadowood Fire: June 9, 1986

I have been asked many times why I chose the path I did of the fire service when I had reached the age to drive. Including on a winter evening in 1987 at my interview to get on the Boulder Creek Fire Department (the infamous panel that included Dan Kuhnlein and Pep Rocca). My answer follows in a short story version, but this time I get to share the pictures of that day few people get to see outside the family.

This is the home I grew up in that my dad built, and (as most of you know and visit) has been called Meadowood since inception c. 1973, for our now 5th generation family ranch (1st:great grandma Lyon, 2nd:Grandparents Robechaud, 3rd:mom & dad, 4th:me, 5th:my kids).
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Top pic was winter 1985, bottom pic is June 1986.

We had a large family reunion on Saturday June 7th, held in part to honor the matriarch of my mom’s family who also lived on Meadowood. Some of you have heard my story of not being able to sleep the night of June 8th and into the morning of the 9th (which I had never experienced that issue really). That Monday was finals day at SLV High School, and without divulging too much into how miserable my freshman year already was – I tried to convince my dad I wanted nothing to do with school that day. I was tired and something had kept me up all night. He said no way. The parents were building another home at our subdivision at the Boulder Creek Golf Course so I could not be home alone and sick, especially during finals. We will never know how things might have been different had I stayed home and slept, but we all left to be about our busy days by 8 AM. At approximately 10:34 AM, this was the scene that had come to change our lives indefinitely (taken by a relative staying at the other Meadowood house above ours).
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The smoke was seen all the way to Scotts Valley. Now, I had heard the smoke rumor ever since that day, but it never really sunk in until 20 years later; A gentleman walked into my video store in Ben Lomond and handed me a picture he took from the Safeway shopping center on that June 9th, and sure enough there was the column of smoke (was a strange trigger for me to see a version of something you thought you had seen from every possible angle). It was already a hot summer morning so the fire was spreading around the nearby grasslands. People were stopping on the highway and a bleacher-style row of gawkers filled the hill above our burning home.

Pictured here was part of the first wave of firemen from Boulder Creek to arrive, and unfortunately within short order a fireman was injured and had to be taken to Dominican (I have always thought this picture shows him being helped away from where he was overcome).
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The alarms were sent through most of north SC county for help, and there were so many actions taken that day and afterwards by the firemen and officers that could be a book all in themselves. The only one I will mention here at the moment is Ricky Gehrmann. I thank you for everything you did that day, not sure if I ever conveyed that enough (that is why you have always had my support for everything in our time shared at BCFD). Having been on the other side for the next 20 years, I know things go wrong on big fires, one of those always have/always will kind of things. People got hurt, there never seemed to be enough water, quite a few animals died both in and around the house, and in the end – the entire home, barn and surrounding outbuildings were destroyed.
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This was taken some time later as the fire worked its way around the buildings, this is the barn and stalls.

To keep this from prolonging into a mesh of fire, personal and Meadowood histories, sufficed to say my path was made clear to me on that day. It took 18 months to figure out how to get on BCFD, followed by 18 years of doing something I loved every day. Meadowood was rebuilt, grandma passed away 6 months later, and life as they say continued.

I often think I should find another way to help those affected by fire, just not sure how yet. I eavesdropped on a conversation between two dads at my daughter’s soccer game this fall, one of the guys was talking about losing their home in a firestorm in Southern California a few years back. The other guy was asking the worst questions you could to someone who has lost so much. When I interjected with questions only those that have gone through it would understand – they were taken aback. He opened up into a flood of things he apparently has never been able to share with someone. Hmmmm…anyway – this picture represents the next 30 days of salvaging and receiving help from those that stepped up when they didn’t have to…Todd Hitchman is crouched down digging next to me. He also got on the same fire department just before me.
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Thanks for reading…guess it helps to share sometimes. Plenty of stories from that day I have been privy to, including ones from Sam, Bud, Scott Lipperd, Randy Robison, Ricky Gehrmann, Chris Harper, Carl Kustin, Tim West and a few others. I thank everyone that was there, even the engine that would become my secret love in life – 2110; your first big fire, and if it is any solace I was one of the most vocal proponents for YEARS to get your hosebeds changed to a modern distribution so days like my home burning would see you at the fire, not at a hydrant..*wink wink*.