Claycord Online Museum – A Look Back at the 6,000 Acre Blaze on Mt. Diablo in 1977

October 12, 2017 19:00 pm · 22 comments

40-years ago, on Aug.2, 1977, after two years of drought and a day of horrible lightning, a fire started on Mt. Diablo that would end with devastating results.

Over 6,000 acres burned in a matter of days, and the entire North side of the mountain was blackened. 700 firefighters battled the blaze, along with a dozen cargo planes.

The first lightning strikes hit above the quarries on Mt. Zion, then the second bolt hit Twin Peaks, according to Bob Doyle, one of the founders of Save Mt. Diablo.

His group also had this to say in 2002, during a special write-up on the fire….

Altogether, the ‘77 fire burned to the summit, North Peak, Russelmann, into Perkins Canyon, into Ginochio above Walnut Creek, and was stopped at Juniper Camp. The real core was Mitchell, Back and Donner Canyons.

The year after, we had the most amazing display of flowers I had ever seen—it sterilized the soil in places and nothing grew, but pockets of fire poppy and golden eardrops were great. Some slopes were covered with millions of them. All the annual flowers were incredible, but as you went upslope, a lot of the east face of Eagle and Twin Peaks had nothing for several years.

There have been more than a hundred fires on Diablo since 1891, when record keeping began. 1977’s fire was the second largest, after a five day fire July 3-7, 1931 which began in Blackhawk and eventually charred 25,000 acres. That fire burned the mountain’s south side. Three weeks later the north side burned.

ABOUT THE CLAYCORD ONLINE MUSEUM: The Claycord Online Museum is made up of historical photos, documents & anything else that has to do with the history of our area.

If you have any old photos or items that you’d like to place in the Claycord Online Museum, just scan or take a photo of them, and send them to the following address: news@claycord.com. It doesn’t matter what it is, even if it’s just an old photo of your house, a scan of an old advertisement or an artifact that you’d like us to see, send it in and we’ll put it online!

Click on the tag below titled “Claycord Online Museum” to view other items!

photo credit: Save Mount Diablo

The hobo October 12, 2017 at 7:42 PM

If I remember correctly Bing Crosby sang at the Pavillion with the fire in the background. He flew to Spain and died a few days later on October 14, 1977.

The hobo October 12, 2017 at 7:46 PM

I stand corrected he sang at the Pavilion in August and died a few months later in October.

Scoob October 12, 2017 at 8:12 PM

I saw the lightning strike that lit the fire. I was a kid playing in my grandparents back yard on Olive Drive and happened to be facing the mountain when the strike hit. It was a daytime lightning storm. We spent the night on our neighbor’s roof watching the fire burn. The whole town watched. I don’t remember much more than that.

Perspective October 12, 2017 at 8:16 PM

I remember seeing it from the freeway as we arrived in Lafayette and also from the schoolyard at Lafayette school. Not having the perspective of the distance, i thought it was coming for us.

ClayDen October 12, 2017 at 8:16 PM

I remember it well. We signed the loan papers for our new (almost finished) house in Clayton. As we walked out of the loan office, we saw lightning strike the mountain. We were afraid that our new house would burn before we ever got to move in. We had to be out of our current house and had nowhere else to go. Fortunately, our new house wasn’t damaged and we’re still happily in it.

Concord 1970 October 12, 2017 at 8:55 PM

Remember it well
I was just a youngster but remember all
Of the cars parked on kirker pass that had pulled
Over to watch Mt. D burn..

Skyscraper October 12, 2017 at 8:59 PM

I remember sitting at the top of Chianti Place in Pleasant Hill watching that fire consume the summit. I certainly won’t forget.

Be gentle October 12, 2017 at 9:25 PM

I remember that 🔥 Fire! It seemed the entire mountain was burning!

TPC October 12, 2017 at 9:50 PM

Watched it from my bedroom window at Wilson/Bailey. Was about 14.

Dalinian October 12, 2017 at 10:22 PM

My brother’s a firefighter in Butte county…He said another blaze started yesterday, they arrived when it was at 25 acres…two and a half hours later it was at 3500 acres….These wind-driven wildfires are a different, and more dangerous animal than the average grass fires we’ve been used too…And climatologists are saying they’re going to get much worse…

Ancient Mariner October 12, 2017 at 10:26 PM

I thought this was composed because of the fire, but someone on Claycord posted that it written before. However, it’s appropriate:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAhEi7W1ib0

Kevin October 12, 2017 at 11:32 PM

I was eating dinner when we saw the lightning strike the mountain. I lived on Mt. Dell Dr. in Dana Ridge right in front of the state park. I was 6 years old and remember my dad on the roof hosing it down. People brought foldout chairs and sat on the green area to watch the fire. I was terrified!

jose October 13, 2017 at 3:25 AM

I was driving on Hwy 37 from Santa Rosa area and saw two or three strikes of lightning hit Mt Diablo, then a couple more minutes down the highway I see small plumes of smoke rising. The rest is history.

AnonZ October 13, 2017 at 5:28 AM

I remember sitting outside watching the flames.

No Thanks October 13, 2017 at 5:55 AM

I remember this too. We went up to Dinosaur Hill and watched it burn.

Chester Kitty October 13, 2017 at 7:29 AM

My brother saw the lightning strike. I was 16 then … I remember seeing the fire from his balcony.

RockOn October 13, 2017 at 7:59 AM

I watched the fire burn from Concord Pavilion. Kris Kristofferson and Rita Coolidge were playing.

Silva October 13, 2017 at 9:53 AM

My mom and I happened to see a lightning strike, then not long after we saw the smoke. I do not remember where we were when we saw it. Somewhere driving in the car, I believe. When it was all done, Ihe iconic view of the mountain was and still is different. Wherever it’s golden grassy flanks had been blackened, the next spring they began to be covered in a different kind of growth, I don’t know what it is, but from a distance it looks like scrubby, very dark green bushes or small trees. It still looks like that wherever it burned.

Cowellian October 13, 2017 at 11:14 AM

I was stationed on a boat at Mare Island, and we could see the smoke. I didn’t know about the Kris and Rita concert, or I might have seen the fire itself.

Uh huh October 13, 2017 at 11:34 AM

My dad was a firefighter/paramedic with the navel weapons station and they assisted in the fighting of that fire. He was up there for days.

FRANKY October 13, 2017 at 12:59 PM

This fire started when Diablo was struck by lightning near 5 p.m. on August 1st, 1977. I was on the phone, wishing my Grandmother a happy 84th birthday when the chaos began. The fire raged for six days & nights. August 1st 1977.

George October 13, 2017 at 1:02 PM

I remember the fire very well because we lost many racing pigeons that weekend coming home from a Nevada race. The fire wasn’t the issue but the smoke blowing to the north east was… We believe the smoke interfered with their homing instinct, to come home and they got lost.

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