Modjeska and Silverado Canyons and the 2007 Santiago Fire


Canyon resident and Inter-Canyon League president

Deborah Johnson


OH 4148  
Narrator Deborah Johnson
Interviewer Volker Janssen
Date May 31, 2008
Language English
Location Silverado Canyon, Orange County, California
Project 2007 Santiago Fire
Format(s) Audio; Video; Final Transcript (32 pp.)
Other Field Notes
Abstract An oral history with Inter-Canyon League President Deborah Johnson, a widely travelled relief work expert and long-time Orange County resident. This interview was conducted for the Center for Oral and Public History and Tucker Wildlife Sanctuary about the Santiago Fire in Modjeska Canyon in October 2007. The purpose of this interview was to gather information about her life prior to her move to the canyon, her work experiences in relief abroad and in the canyon, and her experiences during the Santiago fire and its aftermath. The interview pays particular attention to her childhood in a gated community in Gary, Indiana, in the 1960s, her college years at Swarthmore, work at the Senate's Veterans Affairs Committee, graduate school work as a television producer and journalist; her relief work in Nairobi, Ethiopia during the famine, other parts of Africa, El Salvador, Afghanistan, first response to the Tsunami December 2006 and other countries over the past 25 years; her concern with poverty and global issues; her move from Sierra Madre, California, to Silverado in 1987, her graduate work at Stanford University; the monotony of suburbs; becoming part of the Canyon community, her introduction to the Inter-Canyon League; the canyon's lack of political connection; Ms. Johnson's professional skills in grant applications and organization; dealing with local "characters;" work and stress on the park board; lessons from relief work; balancing property rights and individual freedom with safety standards; life with nature and natural disasters; the threats of suburban sprawl to the character of the canyon; Santiago fire: news of the fire; the formation of the evacuee camp and the decision to become involved ; the frustration of community self-help in a system of organized emergency response; beginning collections for relief; the arrival of a $1,000,000 gift; the work of administering financial aid; the job that won't end: disagreements over financial aid; wounded soul: fire, mud, and the vulnerability of the canyon community; the fallacy of 100% preparation; reflections on Ms. Johnson's own non-profit organization and her book.
Video Parts 1-3 (watch online - coming soon!)
Audio Part 1 (download.mp3)
Part 2 (download.mp3)
Transcript Text (download.pdfPDF File)