Rattlesnake Firefighter Overlook - Picnic


Area Status: Open
[Photograph]: Rattlesnake Firefighter Memorial With Crosses in Background.

Interpretive area with one picnic table.

[Photograph]: Photographs and memorial for the fallen firefighters of the Rattlesnake Fire. [Photograph]: New Tribes Mission Bell at the Rattlesnake Fire Interpretive Site [Photograph]: Ruth (Rowe) and brother, Herb Whitehouse, by fire bell at New Tribes Mission. [Photograph]: Family in front of fire bell at New Tribes Mission, July 1953. [Photograph]: Whitehouse family photo at New Tribes Mission.

At a Glance

Current Conditions: This area has burned in a recent fire. Downed trees, dropped limbs, stump holes and unstable terrain may be present. Trails may not be cleared. Avoid parking under dead standing trees.
Reservations: None
Area Amenities: Interpretive Site,Picnic tables,Toilets,Parking
Fees: None
Closest Towns: Elk Creek, CA
Water: None
Restroom: Vault
Operated By: Forest Service
Information Center: Stonyford Work Center - closed

General Information

General Notes:

On July 9, 1953, a brush fire was reported in Grindstone Canyon several miles northwest of Elk Creek on the Mendocino National Forest. As the fire raged out of control, the Forest Service requested volunteers from the New Tribes Mission that was located about 25 miles south of the fire to help.

That evening, the main fire was contained and 24 men were sent down into the canyon to put out a spot fire. After this was accomplished, the crew sat down to eat their supper. They had just begun to eat when the wind shifted direction and the original fire jumped its line and started down the canyon.

One of the firefighters from above ran down to warn the crew to get out of the canyon. Nine of the men scrambled up the hill to the firefighter who was warning them and made it to safety. The other 15 men tried to run down the canyon to a road below, but were overtaken by the rapidly moving fire.

Fourteen firefighters from the New Tribes Mission and one Forest Service employee from the Mendocino National Forest lost their lives making it one of the deadliest in Forest Service history. The brush fire burned over 1300 acres before being brought under control on July 11, 1953.

Response to the tragedy led to changes in wildland fire training, firefighter safety standards, firefighter knowledge and awareness of fire weather and fire behavior. The Rattlesnake Fire is reviewed every year by wildland firefighters across the nation in basic firefighting training and fire refresher training as part of "Lessons Learned".

In 1993 the Mendocino National Forest commemorated the 40th anniversary of the Fire with a memorial service at the Grindstone Overlook on Forest Highway 7. A large boulder bearing a plaque with the names of the fallen firefighters was dedicated. A kiosk there states that the tragic loss on the Rattlesnake Fire spurred the Forest Service to increase firefighter training and research on fire hazard management.

A ceremony, held July 9, 2005, dedicated a new interpretive and training site that overlooks the location of the fire in Grindstone Canyon, along the old Alder Springs Road. The Rattlesnake Fire Overlook features exhibits describing the events of the fire and lessons learned from the tragedy. Nearby there is a new parking area leading to a trail that travels the routes taken by the firefighters who died and those who survived.

For additional information please contact the Mendocino National Forest in Willows at (530) 934-3316, TTY (530) 934-7724.


Recreation Map

Map showing recreational areas. Map Information

Activities

Interpretive Areas

The Rattlesnake Fire Overlook, a new interpretive and training site that overlooks the location of the fire in Grindstone Canyon, features exhibits describing the events of the fire and lessons learned from the tragedy. Nearby is a new parking area leading to a trail that travels the routes taken by the firefighters who died and those who survived.

Status: Open
Difficulty Level: Easy to Intermediate

Picnicking

Picnic site located at the Overlook of the Rattlesnake Fire.

Nearby is a new parking area leading to a trail that travels the routes taken by the firefighters who died and those who survived.

No. of Sites 1
Reservation Info None
No. of Accessible Sites 1
Status: Open
Difficulty Level: Easy

Amenities

Interpretive Site: fire history
Picnic tables: 1
Parking: limited
Toilets: vault

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities

Location

 
  Latitude : 
39.657637

  Longitude : 
-122.601156

  Elevation : 
2,800 feet