Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Highway 41 Fire Student Documentary

On August 14, 2019, I had lunch in San Luis Obispo with my 7th grade history teacher Mike Burrell. He was my favorite teacher at Atascadero Junior High School (now Atascadero Middle School) when I was there 1983-1985. En route there from my home in Paso Robles it felt odd to me driving southbound on Highway 101 through the former Highway 41 Fire burn area. It was 25 years to the day after it started and that area would burn the next day. My drive included the area adjacent to Santa Margarita Ranch where the fire jumped the highway as a massive 100 foot wide fire tornado. It also included the entrance to Tassajara Canyon which experienced area ignition conditions when the fire roared through. And lastly, it included Cuesta Grade which was charred entirely, top to bottom, north and south sides of Cuesta Summit.

During lunch I brought this up with Mike and he informed me that in 1995, the year following the Highway 41 Fire, at which point he was then working at Oak Hills High School in Atascadero, he had his students put together a student documentary about the fire. After creating it they burned it on to blank VHS cassettes and sold them for $10 each for a fundraising drive.  After lunch I visited his home in SLO for the first time as we were reconnecting after all these years. Heretofore we merely briefly chatted on Facebook from time to time. Mike gave me the grand tour of his library/museum/arboretum/home which was a lot of fun. Before I left he handed me the only extant version of the documentary on disk. I asked him if I could burn some copies and donate them as well as upload the documentary to Youtube to which Mike generously accented.

Back in Paso Robles I took this disk to The Blueprinter and they directed me to Gallagher Video Services in town. I made an appointment and met with Ron Gallagher and told him my expectations. I wanted several copies of this documentary burned and I wanted nice graphic design for them that was apropos in labeling the product and I wanted an mp4 copy of it burned onto a flash drive so I could upload it to Youtube. I did this last week and today it was ready and here you go. At top is the documentary on Youtube. In the middle is the old disk and directly above is a copy of the new disk version produced by Ron Gallagher. Nicely done I think.

Mike also handed me a photocopy of an old SLO Tribune article from 1995 which recounts the story of this documentary. Read it above and if need be zoom in closer so the print is legible.

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