Saving Hwy 36


Pickett Mountain on Friday, July 31 [Photo by Dick Assam]

After Thursday’s lightning storms, fires rushed through remote areas and towards tiny hamlets. The area around Ruth Lake was particularly hard hit. Neighbors fought side by side to rescue homes and save property. One such story was brought to our attention by Dick Assam. The story was confirmed by Jackie, who describes herself as a 60 plus year-old woman, but preferred not to use her last name.

Jackie says she has “lived out here for 40 years and fought every fire that came along.” Keep that in mind when you read Assam’s story.

He wrote,

A few hours after that photo was snapped on Friday, a small group of local landowners on South Fork Mountain assembled and noticed the complete lack of fire resources. They got any tool they could, water tanks in the back of trucks, pumps and hoses and manned [Hwy] 36.

They back-burned armed with nothing more than Bic lighters along the road all night to stop the approaching onslaught and checked blowing embers. They caught every spot fire that got across the road for 12 hours. Those 9 people held 6 miles of road against that inferno.

The next morning when the first fire captain found them, he couldn’t believe what he saw or what was done with so few volunteers was even possible.

If that fire skipped the road, we would be looking at a vastly worse situation out here and [Hwy] 36 would be cut in half for who knows how long. It would affect many lives and the economy.

I see a lot of [press releases talking about] 0% containment flying around. That is bullshit because I know of 6 miles of very valuable real estate that is contained. Thank you Ben, Kara, Robert, Esteban, Jackie, Boris, Brittany, Creek and Owen. You guys are the heroes of the day!

What Jackie later told us was that Assam also helped fight the fire after he “got his wife and kid out.” Assam insisted the others fought much longer than he did and deserve the credit.

Tonight, Jackie is packing her bags. She might have to evacuate.


Photos from the Ruth side of the fire were taken Friday about 5:30 p.m. by Tiffany Simpson Thomson
IMG_122185930419914IMG_122230722351067 IMG_122224467498772 IMG_122220663116448 IMG_122269090393058 IMG_122182629211418IMG_122169073791497


The red marker is on Pickett Peak to the right of Ruth Lake and south of Hwy 36.

To help place the incident further, here’s another map showing the boundaries of the fire as of August 2.




Note: Small changes to grammar were made to the story.



  • Thank you for this uplifting story in this time of fire.

  • This is what fire fighting looked like in Trinity pines yesterday

  • Community standing together, this is why I love rural living! Great job, great story!

  • I think this is an incredible accomplishment, I might know Jackie and this is what makes it very special to say thank you all. Anyone who fights fire has my respect.

  • I’m life and death grateful but I’m too busy blubbering to express it completely.

  • You brave “9”rock.great neighbors and friends coming together wow what heros.bless all of you

  • To my nephew Ben who was one of those ragtag firefighters and all of that 9 person crew… You are truly heroes. I’ve always known Ben’s strength of character. His determination doesn’t surprise me a bit. I’m so PROUD and relieved that all are safe.

  • What a feel good story!! Nice to know good people band together when an emergency hits. Brought tears to my eyes. The nine that saved “36”. Great job. Good photos too. Thanks

  • Wow u folks are amazing. I love how quickly folks can come together and get on the problem rather than waiting for some agency to show up. Truly inspiring and pray you all are safe and your homes spared from fire.

  • Fantastic photos! And to anyone who organized and fought the fire before the pro firefighters showed up you all have true grit. The first year I was able to get a piece of property a fire broke out on the prop boundary ( official explanation was spontaneous combustion ) It was 112 degrees on the heel of two straight weeks of 104 0r higher weather. When your own ass is on the line it adds to bravery, at least for me. There had earlier been a gigantic fire in Mendo called Cow Mountain. We worked and worked and I started wondering where the real fire department was. Turns out they were all at Cow Mountain. After about three hours we got one group of smokejumpers. I was so relieved to find somebody as I was the only person desperately trying to cut line in a heavily forested area with trees slowly exploding overhead. I think they thought I was nuts. The other half of the fire is where about 20 or so people went to fight it as there was a large meadow that gave them an actual shot at stopping it. They actually pulled it off and made a successful line that worked. I was working alone at the other end because hey, my land is on fire and was not going to give up without a fight. Loved this story of the residents out 36.

  • Thank you for this heartwarming report. The heroes are the neighbors and community that band together. Awesome!

  • There are others who fought tirelessly whose names are not mentioned in this article. Thank you Doug for working for hours along side your neighbors, in a very dangerous situation.

  • Gaw…. I’m still blubbering.

  • I do know Jackie and her enormous strength of character! We are keeping you in our thoughts. Didn’t realize the fire was that close to you. You know you have a place to stay and Conie and Erik’s if you need it. Love you, be safe……

  • Neighborhood crew put out a 5 or 10 acre fire on top of 8 mile ridge

  • Renee Rosenburg

    Jackie your my hero. Woot Woot Creek and Owen and all of you
    others who helps save the land North of the area you were working. It was breaking our hearts to think of our cabins burning and that beautiful forest going up in flames. You all deserve a massage! And many thanks. Love and blessings.

  • kym,thank you for sharing Dick Assam’s story and observation,I feel way to much attention was given to me,as the others,including Doug( don’t think Dick knew him) worked their buns off..I also think these type of scenarios at this time are happening all over the place with so many fires…Pray for rain !!!!

    • I’d wash my truck if I’d thought it would bring rain…and I never wash my truck.

    • Jackie and crew, thank you so much for all your efforts! Our cabin at the bottom of Hidden Valley Ranch has been in our family since the early 60’s and I can’t imagine losing it. I was with my family at the cabin and contacted Jackie to get information and to let her know that there were 15 of us down at the bottom. Her efforts as well as the efforts of all those that helped will not go unappreciated! I am so glad that you are all safe! Thank you Jackie and all those that fought so hard. Our prayers and thoughts are with all of you!! Deepest regards-all the Somerville generations!

  • So who is responsible ? What started it? Can we point the finger in a direction yet?
    If these folks would have water stored they might have been able to put the damn Fire out but the county is a biotch when it comes to water storage, I blame them! All the way!

  • Loved the story. Especially the bond between neighbors and their love of their land! Great job.

  • My kids have houses up there. One is a firefighter and he has not had rest in days. He has been up fighting the fires. And my other SIL works for PG&E and he has a house up there on Van Duzen. The evacuation is still in place and they don’t know if the two houses are still standing. Both continue to work to fight fire and restore the power up there. They appreciate all the help they get saving property and life. Stay safe- all of you and thank you all. Hugs-

  • Thank you, my South Fork Mtn neighbors!
    I wish i had been out there to help.

  • Nancy & Glenn Town

    Thank You, Thank You, Thank You. Our family has property below hidden valley ranch. We know some of the brave local fire fighters, many we don’t. We are indebted.
    I know we are not out of the woods yet, but what an incredible group individuals responding heroically in a tough and dangerous situation. The Town Family

  • Wow~ I clearly remember fighting fire in 1987, while living with my children at Hidden Valley~ alongside of Jackie and a few others. The forest and our homes depend on all of us to help protect it from fire. THIS story really caught my eye, and I am so thankful I caught it on Facebook via Michael Bien! Blessings go out to ALL of you.

  • Most of us know and love ::) Jackie who has been through more fire and ice in her years here that most folks will see in a lifetime.

    • Jackie is a very hardworking woman. I had the pleasure of working with her for a few years and an mot at all surprised by this story, its who she is.

  • There was quite the battle taking place across the road from Ruth rec camp ground.. The battle went on four four days . The care takers of this property had a bunch of fire fighters fromSF .Ben knew his place well as well as the land surrounding it . Ben and Barb jump right in . Ben showed them whare to go . Barb began cooking for several firefighters . She made them lunch and dinner . The firefighters were in their front yard .With the fire raging. .Ben and Barb moved out of their place . Across the road from their tiny cabin. Sleeping out on the ground for 3 night and fixing meals for their hot shot team . The SF firefighters saved everyone’s home in those 4 days . Barb and Ben so greatful . Along with everyone else around them . Spent their own money . That they really didnt have . But being old school . You feed your workers . The fire crew did aback burn today there . I wonder how it went . Good I guess . no news is good news . THANK YOU FIREFIGHTERS ………YOUR OUR HEROS

  • Pingback: A Hero’s Truck Stolen! Please Help – Redheaded Blackbelt

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *