The Fountain Fire flickered into life at 12:50 p.m. August 20, 1992. It was to grow into one of the six most destructive fires in California history, in both acres and structures lost. An unidentified arsonist touched off the blaze in dry grass along Buzzard Roost Road approximately 9.5 miles southwest of Moose Camp. The area had endured six years of drought and temperatures near 100 degrees for 22 days in a row.
The blaze devoured more that 50 acres in less than 90 minutes despite attacks by ground fire-fighters and aerial tankers. By 3:30 that afternoon it erupted into a roaring monster that arriving fire crews had little or no hope of controlling. By morning of the second day, the fire had blackened more that 10,000 acres and by sundown a total of 48,000 acres were gone. The community of Burney, 11 miles to the east of here, was evacuated before the fire was stopped at the edge of town.
The fire occurred in a bone dry forest of mixed-age growth. Once it began burning in the crowns of the trees, the wind-whipped fire raced through the brush and digger pine at the lower elevations. The heat was so intense that needles on the trees several hundred yards ahead of the fire burst into flames. The fire killed essentially all the vegetation in its path. Enough standing timber burned to build more than 52,000 homes. About $200 million worth of timber was burned, but about 50 percent of this value was salvaged.
While the ashes still smoldered, timber companies began to re-grow this forest. Seeds that had been collected and stored years earlier were rushed to nurseries. Tree climbers harvested more seeds from those few trees that survived the fire. Immediate erosion control measures were also instituted to minimize damage to major streams in the area. In March, 1993, Roseburg Resources Co. planted the first seedlings near Hatchet Creek. Within five years approximately 17 million seedlings had been planted. Reforestation costs are expected to be about $15 million not including the cost for 60 years of continuing protection while the trees mature.