Department History, Los Angeles county Fire Department, presented by Los Angeles county Fire Museum


Eight Die in 18,000 Acre Canyon Inn Fire

August 23, 1968

More favorable weather gave an assist to the fire fighters who battled a brush and timber fire that has killed eight persons and blackened 21 square miles of national forest.

Most of the 65% contained area, which firemen described as “relatively cold and stable” was in the south and southwest portions of the fire.

Crews set backfires along the West Fork of the San Gabriel Canyon, hoping to keep flames away from the new San Gabriel Wilderness Area.

Making their stand at a riverbed, they feared that if the flames crossed the anyone, they would have to drop back eight miles to a highway before trying to hold the fire.

A drop I temperatures, which have ranged in the 90s, and an increase in humidity were today’s assets. Winds remained about the same, with gusts of about 10 miles per hour.

Firemen still could not predict when they might fully contain the fie which began Friday.

“The weather today will play a big part in determining that.” A Forest Service spokesman said.

By midnight Sunday, the flames had burned over 18,000 acres inside a 32-mile perimeter, destroyed about a dozen cabins in the Fish Canyon area of Angeles National Forest and burned an abandoned lookout tower on Pine Mountain.

More than 1,500 men remained on the line today. They were backed up by 100 trucks, 19 bulldozers, eight helicopters and four air tankers which dropped fire retardant solution on the flames.

The blaze, named the Canyon Inn Fire, is centered about 25 miles north of downtown Los Angeles and freeway motorists can see the pall of smoke hanging over the mountains in the distance.

All juvenile crews were ordered off the lines at midday Sunday in the wake of Saturday’s tragedy when seven teen-agers and a foreman were burned to death when flames raced up a “funnel” canyon.

Authorities sad the probation camp crews were withdrawn “for rest purposes” and would not be returned to the fire lines.

The boys, all juvenile delinquents on probation to the Los Angeles County Fire Department, and their foreman, George Thomas, 36, were running a hose up the side of the canyon only 200 yards from the Azusa College of the Pacific football field.

John Sanford, 16, one of the five boys who escaped, described what happened from is hospital bed.

“We were cutting a line around it when suddenly the fire came over the hill behind us. I heard the foreman (Thomas) yell ‘run, run, run’. But, those fires go like that.” He snapped his fingers.

“I ran in a different direction, but I could hear the screams of the other guys. I never saw them after that.”

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