FireStorm tells of heroes, selfless duty and it's cost

We want to bring awareness to the 1977 Honda Canyon Fire


On December 20, 1977 at 7:06 AM, gale winds blow down a power line into a deep canyon, on the southern portion of a United States Air Force Strategic Air Command installation on the Central Coast of California. Santa Ana winds, sometimes in excess of a 100 miles per hour, take a small resulting spark, ignite it and transform it into a conflagration. The fire begins its race westward to the end of Honda Canyon, eventually spreading outward towards the Pacific Ocean.

Air Force Fire personnel call in other municipal fire agencies, their own Fire Department staff (who were not trained in wild land firefighting techniques) and military personnel known as Augmentees, to the front of the fire. Within hours, the fire claims the life of the Base Commander and two senior Air Force Fire Department personnel. As a result of their early deaths, the entire Emergency Response system breaks down and chaos ensues. Front line personnel are left to their own device to fight a fire that cannot be put out.

The next morning, the fire is drenched by rain from an incoming storm front. Soon, it is a smoldering mess. The Air Force quickly declares it a victory, a battle won by its brave Airmen. However, those who were on the front lines of the fire will tell you a different story. You see, one never forgets sheer terror.

Our documentary tells the stories of those front-line people, now four decades later. It tells of untrained Air Force personnel fighting 90 foot walls of fire with flat-head shovels, of fire entrapment’s where there simply wasn’t enough time to contemplate one’s mortality, of bravery, fear and the desire to remain alive in the worst of conditions.

Two of the three partners were on the front-lines of the 1977 Honda Canyon Fire. Our Producer was a twenty-year old military Augmentee and our Director/Technical Consultant was a nineteen-year old Santa Barbara County Reserve Firefighter. Each experienced the terror of facing their premature death, each had to come to terms with what they saw, smelled and experienced. Each has had carry the imagery of the fire in their heart, soul and mind for remainder of their life. Its important to note that this was not limited to the two partners; our interviewers also carried similar burdens. Here is a comment from one of the interviewers:  I have lost many of my friends on the job. I spent 30+ years fighting brush fire. I have been overrun more times than I’d like. But the one fire that I can’t shake from my dreams was Vandenberg. Ask my wife, a couple times a year it gets me usually in my sleep or sometimes something heard or said will trigger a reaction.

 

 

Information about the crew:

Christopher Hite  Director of Photography, Cinematographer and Editor: Hite is an Associate Professor of Film & Video at Allan Hancock College. He started as a cinematographer and editor in 1996 and has since worked on hundreds of industrials, documentaries and commercials. His last documentary, Ghosts in the Mountains, won the Gold Medal in the International Competition at the Wasaga Beach Film Festival Canada, the Best Appalachian Short at the Queen City Film Fest, Maryland, and Best Camera at the Star Doc Film Fest in Los Angeles.

Dennis R. Ford  Executive Producer: Ford retires from the Environmental Compliance field in 2015, after four decades. First on his list, he reads Beyond Tranquillon Ridge, the book brings back personal memories of his involvement the Honda Canyon Fire. He meets with other firefighters from the 77 conflagaration, he soon realizes the story must be told before those who were boots – on the ground pass away. Ford writes a screenplay called: Augmentee, he then gathers partners together to create FireStorm.

Joseph N. Valencia  Director/Technical Consultant: Valencia, a nineteen year old Santa Barbara County Reserve Fireman, is one of the first firemen on the scene of the Honda Canyon Fire. Significantly impacted by what he saw and witnessed, Valencia writes: Beyond Tranquillon Ridge – December 20-21,1977 – The Climatic Ending to a California Fire Season in 2004. Joseph defers a career in firefighting for the Aerospace industry. In 2016, he retires. Currently, he is a part-time seasonal Fire Dispatcher for the United States Forest Service.

Production Credits:
For a $100 donation, you will receive thanks in our production credits for helping to bring the documentary to life. Example: “This film made possible through the generosity of…”.
For $500 plus – we will place your name in the production credits with the honorary title of Contributing Producer.
For $1000 plus – we will place your name in the production credits with the honorary title of Associate Producer.

Thank you for donating to FireStorm ’77!