HUNGRY FLAMES DEVASTATE VALLEY

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Posted by Drew Mashburn on September 9, 2016

These two articles were published on the front page of THE OJAI on Friday, June 15, 1917. THE OJAI is now the Ojai Valley News. The articles are reprinted here with their permission. The authors are unknown.

HUNGRY FLAMES DEVASTATE VALLEY

The devastating torch of carelessness was applied by campers in the Matilija Canyon, near the ancient Berry cabin, Saturday morning, causing a spread of flame that swept the near hills for miles, the lurid tongues of fire reaching to the beautiful Ojai, lapping up 60 or more buildings, with a toll of three lives from heat, shock and fright, with enormous property loss.

When the first alarm was sounded, The Ojai had gone to press, being late, owing to lack of help and too much heat, and with the menace of the flames growing greater every moment as the line of fire crept this way, with the Sheldon, Farnum, Lopez and other homes apparently in its path, the village awoke to the grave danger—not of the Ojai, but of the Matilija, of Lyon’s, of Wheeler’s, and concern and excitement grew until the climax was reached when all believed that Ojai was doomed, and the flight to safety began early Saturday evening.

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Property Loss is Great, Number of Families Homeless

Details of the appalling calamity, and the many distressing incidents associated therewith during the hours of intense battling with the seething mass of stubborn, hungry flames, will form a later story, as at this time a brief reference to the sad fatalities, together with an unofficial summary of property loss, with the telegram of sympathy and cheer from Ojai’s greatest benefactor appended, must suffice.

THE TELEGRAM:

Toledo, O., Apr. 17 H. WILSON—Am greatly shocked by calamity visiting Ojai, which I know must be a great loss to many. Please express to every citizen in Ojai Valley my sympathy.

From such devastation and ruin will spring renewed energy and courage. If I can be of any assistance, command.

Kind regards,
E. D. LIBBEY.

THE FATALITIES

Miss Sawyer, of Ventura, formerly employed at the Bard hospital, of late attending Mrs. Herb Lamb, to whom a son was born last Thursday, died suddenly at the Farnum place, soon after the home was destroyed, death resulting from shock.

As the result of fear and exhaustion, after a fruitless battle to save the family home, Miss Theresa Maroquin dropped dead at 5 o’clock Sunday afternoon. Eight hours later, Y. Valenzuella, a relative of Miss Maroquin, and aged father of Mrs. Frank Lopez, died suddenly, as the result of the intense heat.

John Travino, while fighting fire near his home close to the Van Patten residence (burned down) by Foothills Hotel, was struck by an automobile and suffered a fractured skull, injured eye and compound fracture of one limb. He is in the county hospital. His family knew nothing of the accident which occurred Saturday night, till today (Monday). He is unconscious.

The Loss

Foothills Hotel and three cottages; residences of H. T. Sinclair, Loring Farnum, Miss Draper, Miss Scott, Fannie Johnson, O. W. Robertson, F. H. Osgood, Dr. Van Patten, Pres. manse, Bristol school, W. W. Bristol, H. S. Manual Arts bldg., A. Van Curen, A. W. Helm, Chas. Gibson, Morris Cota, Bates cottages (3) Mallory & Dennison (3) Mrs. B.S. Stewart, F. A. Crampton, S. L. Smith (2), Mrs. W. L. McKee, Clarence McKee, Mrs. T. G. Gabbert, Geo. Foreman, Jim Fraser, Jno. King, John Timms, Mrs. A. I. Wermuth, D. D. Schurman, Mrs. Ella Miller, P. K, Miller, Frak Kelley, O. Klein, R. Menefee, Ed. Haas, Fred Hawes, G. B. Turner, Mr. Rudolph, Mrs. Rich, Jack Edwards, Meiners (small house), Frank Wolfe (2), Dave Warner, J. Maroquin.

Baptist and Catholic churches, Linder’s unoccupied plumbing shop, besides barns of G. H. Hickey, Hugh Clark, J. C. Leslie and Hobs, and a number of garages.

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