Local History
'Working to preserve the rich heritage of the Temecula Valley'
A Day with the Forestry
by Dolores Mayhall
   A day with the forestry is about the most misleading head in the world.

    Because there cannot ever be a day one could spend with this division of our state government and tell all about them.

    I'd see the sign "State of California, Department of Conservation, Division of Forestry, Elsinore Forest Fire Station" hundreds of times as I drive down Graham Avenue in Elsinore and have often wondered exactly what went on behind those doors.

    I recently had an opportunity to see Harvey French, Assistant State Forest Ranger, and to ask him about the duties of himself and the men who work with him.

    Between the telephone ringing, people needing burning permits and a score of interruptions concerning the forestry, I finally pieced together a story.

    The men do not only fight fires, although this is their primary job, they prevent them as well. John Ferguson is the inspector and his job is to check for fire hazards of any type, be it rubbish, weeds or debris of any kind. He in turn sees that the property owner is notified of the hazard and then makes certain something has been done about it.

    The Elsinore Fire District covers 200 square miles and this station answer approximately one hundred calls within the district. They cover all the area outside of the city limits and in rural areas outside of the U. S. Forest Service District's area. But they assist at any and all fires, no matter where. I recalled to Harvey the night of February 16, 1962, when the old Elsinore theater burned and I saw Harvey tugging on the coat of a fireman pulling him out of the burning building and at the same time yelling, "Everybody out!" He pulled the man onto the sidewalk and seconds later the entire second floor of the theater with the projection equipment on it came crashing down, just inches from where the men had stood. Harvey said he did not know what told him to get the men out at that time, but his instinct was accurate, and not one man was injured when that floor came down.

    The station in Elsinore is classed as a resident station and the men live there as if it were their home. In fact, it is their home away from home. They keep the station clean, from floors to windows, and they have their own recreation room with television, a dining room and a well-equipped kitchen run by Angel Beltrum. Angel is the cook and his job is to see that three good meals a day are cooked and that the larder is well stocked.

    His family of firemen consists of five crewmen, three drivers and one foreman. Each man puts in 104 hours per week on duty, whether it is out on a fire, keeping the trucks in order or cleaning the station. The drivers are responsible for their trucks and after each call the trucks are completely serviced, cleaned and made ready for the next time they are needed.

    During a large fire, such as the well-remembered ones like the Stewart, Jameson, Decker or Morrell, not only the units from Elsinore go out to fight it but also units from Temecula, Lakeland Village and other towns join in to put it out.

    At Ryan Field in Hemet two TBM planes are loaded with a fire retardant and give support to putting out fires from the air.

    The communication system at the forestry is one of the finest in use. By the flick of a switch they are either in the Riverside communication ara or sta communication area or state communication area.

    Along with being a forestry station, it is the U. S. Weather Bureau's official station for the area and the maximum and minimum temperatures are recorded and sent on to Burbank for permanent recording.

    During our discussion on fire and the men who fight it I had an opportunity to ask Harvey about himself. He is a modest but very proud man. He began his career with the forestry in 1936 as crewman and from there he advanced to driver, foreman, and October 1, 1946 was given his present title and position. He will celebrate his 25th year with the state on November 13, 1963. The present forestry building and the residence in which Harvey and his wife, Cheryl, live were completed in June of 1951. Harvey is reluctant to talk of himself, but when it came to the forestry, and the men and the job the team has done this was another matter.

La Laguna Revue Volume II No. 12