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Looking Back: Fires Take Huge Tolls In Rural Areas 

Looking Back Paso Robles

Click here to read the full front page of the July 21, 1936, Paso Robles Times

Excerpt from the July 21, 1936, Paso Robles Times

Many Acres of Grass and Stubble Burned at Estrella Ranch Saturday

Weekend fires in the rural area surrounding Paso Robles, marked the greatest activity so far this season, for the local trucks of the State Forestry Department, and the county crews stationed here, reports Ramon Barba, state fire warden.

The largest single blaze in this immediate vicinity broke out on Estrella Ranch, at approximately 2:30 p.m. Saturday. Fanned by stiff winds, and aided by the low humidity and intense heat, the fire raged out of control for some time before paid crews and volunteer workers were able to stop it.

According to reports, the blaze started in a freshly cut wheat field, when a truck, loaded with sacked grain backfired. The driver, employed by George Iversen, had gone some distance when he looked back, saw the whole center of the field in flames. An alarm was sent in at once, in addition to the state and county crews who responded, workers on the Kester and Smiley harvesters also aided.

Grain Saved

Before the fire was brought under control, 90 acres of grass and about 60 acres of stubble were burned off. Much of the effort of the firefighters was directed towards saving the newly cut grain, which was stacked in the field. The area, a part of the Hillman ranch, has been farmed this year by George Iversen.

Blaze at Henry Ranch

On July 16, the state truck was called to the E.G. Register ranch, four miles north, where a 3-acre grass fire was brought under control. A similar fire was reported about 9 a.m. Saturday, at the K. Henry ranch, south of Paso Robles, and stopped after it had burned about 3 acres.

Grain, Barn and Hay Burned

About 3:30 p.m. Monday, Barba was called to the Brill and Carlson ranch, east of Atascadero on Creston road. Here, ten acres of grass, about six acres of standing grain, and a barn stocked with 140 tons of hay were destroyed before the blaze could be brought under control. Damage was estimated a $1,600. The origin of the fire was unknown.

Hay Barn Destroyed at Estrella

Also started from unknown causes, was the fire which destroyed a large hay barn on the Reg Freeman property, Estrealla, early Tuesday morning. The blaze was reported in Paso Robles at 1 a.m., and had progressed beyond control by the time equipment could be rushed to the scene. Damage was estimated at $1,000.


This “Looking Back” view at Paso Robles history comes from one of the hundreds of local newspapers in the Paso Robles Area Historical Society collection. Several local newspapers, dating from the 1800s, have reported on local, national and world events, providing priceless historical views of our community that are not available from any other source. The Historical Society is seeking community support for the multi-phased Newspaper Preservation Project to help fund the transfer of these aged and fragile pages to microfilm and digital images. See the society website for more information about becoming a member or donating to any phase of this project.

The Paso Robles Daily News is pleased to support this important project. Watch this space for future “Looking Back” articles.

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.