Modjeska and Silverado Canyons and the 2007 Santiago Fire


Canyon resident

John Mitchell


OH 4151  
Narrator John L. Mitchell
Interviewer Volker Janssen
Date May 24, 2008
Language English
Location Silverado Canyon, Orange County, California
Project 2007 Santiago Fire
Format(s) Audio; Final Transcript (46 pp.)
Other Field Notes; Photographs
Abstract An oral history with John L. Mitchell, a life-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 his life prior to the Santiago fire and his and his family's experiences during the blaze. The interview focuses on John Mitchell's childhood in Texas and Boy Scouting; his father's work as airplane surveyor; hunting and fishing experiences in the Eastern Sierras of California; comparisons of Dallas-Ft. Worth with Silverado Canyon, life in Orange County before Silverado; Lake Forest, California, and federal land leases near Orange, California; his professional life; graduate school in marine biology, transition to race car and aerospace engineering; work with airplanes in his youth; success with own business as manufacturing engineer in Santa Ana, downsizing to home workshop; caring for his ill mother; volunteering as docent for the Irvine Ranch; the ecology of the canyon; the danger of falling boulders; comparisons of canyon with suburbia; canyon, government, and characters; the difficulty of complying with safety regulations; the role of global warming in the fire season; fire ecology, the risks from foreign flash fuels, and the survival of mule deer; Irvine Company and The Nature Conservancy; Santiago fire: topography and wind directions of early fire; the surprise of upwind fire; firefighters on Santiago Canyon Road; preparing for the fire storm; securing workshop and animals; his decision not to evacuate; living underground in the evacuated canyon; helping firefighters; Orange County Sheriff Department and mandatory evacuation; the community's frustration with evacuation orders; media attention; Mitchell's opinion on the priorities in county fire resource distribution; lessons learned about autonomy, community, and government.
Audio Part 1 (download.mp3)
Part 2 (download.mp3)
Part 3 (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.