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Big Burn

In 1995, the largest fire in Marin's history ravaged Point Reyes National Seashore.



SIMILAR TO RECENT wildfires in Sonoma and Napa counties, a major conflagration befell Marin County 22 years ago, almost to the day. “All reports indicated the Mount Vision Fire started just after midnight on Tuesday, October 3, 1995,” West Marin journalist Dave Mitchell recalls. “And due to winds and dry conditions, it burned fiercely for five days.” Fortunately, no lives were lost, but 45 homes were destroyed and 12,534 acres of the 71,000-acre Point Reyes National Seashore were scorched. In comparison, the smallest of the four fires that recently struck Napa and Sonoma counties, the Pocket Fire, burned 17,357 acres. Yet unlike with fires to the north, the cause of 1995’s Mount Vision fire was quickly known. “Four teenage boys had illegally camped on the mountaintop,” Mitchell notes, “and although they carefully buried their campfire’s ashes under dirt and rocks, two days later smoldering embers burned through the forest floor and a gust of wind sent sparks into nearby bishop pines.” According to Mitchell, the boys turned themselves in and faced many hours of community service, but not prosecution. “It’s impossible to calculate the misery of those who lost their homes, their belongings and sometimes their pets,” Mitchell adds. “A few moved away and did not return. Most, however, soon began rebuilding.”

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