Modjeska and Silverado Canyons and the 2007 Santiago Fire


Canyon resident

Chalynn Peterson


OH 4154  
Narrator Chalynn Peterson
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 (31 pp.)
Other  Field Notes
Abstract An oral history with volunteer community activist Chay Peterson, a live-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 community activism in Silverado, and her experiences during the Santiago fire and its aftermath. The interview pays particular attention to her upbringing in Santa Ana and Orange, California, her mother's influence on Chay Peterson's environmentalism, love of the beach and "boonies;" her and her husband's and son's life in a beach house in Mexico; turning a hunting lodge into a home in Silverado in 1987; starting Silverado's mountain bike club; her and her husband's cycling trip through the country and through Europe to the border of Russia in the 1980s; her business ventures in domestic services and mountain bike artwork; fauna and flora in the canyon; coordinating the local country fair, the tree hugger's ball, and the canyon's environmentalist opposition to development on Holtz Ranch; NIMBY-ism with Southern California as backyard; defensible space versus erosion control, and the limits of fire safety measures; Santiago Fire: becoming part of the Inter-Canyon League's emergency communication network; the escalation of the fire; evading overbearing Orange County Deputy Sheriffs to save animals at the Children's Center; filming the fire; the lack of air support; packing belongings; evacuating the children, staying behind herself; the intimidation of mandatory evacuation orders; serving as volunteer aids in the ghost town Silverado underground; the exceptional benefit of cell phone service through Verizon's emergency tower; becoming unofficial fire scouts; the fire fight in Pine Canyon; welcoming the returning community; organizing charity and volunteer workers after the fire; past experiences in relief work in New Orleans in 2005 and Biloxi 2006; fighting the floods in May 2008; her commitment to future activism and opposition to development.
Video Parts 1-3 (watch online - coming soon!)
Audio Part 1 (download.mp3)
Part 2 (download.mp3)
Transcript Text (download.pdfPDF File)

This project is made possible, in part, by a grant from the California Council for the Humanities. The Council is an independent non-profit organization and a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities. For more information on the Council, visit www.calhum.org.