Fountain Fire

Today marks the 25th anniversary of the start of a firestorm like the Round Mountain communities had never seen before.

On August 20, 1992, a fire spotter at Hogback Lookout saw a spire of smoke at 12:50 p.m., near the “drinking fountain” on Highway 299 E, a couple of curves before the road reaches Round Mountain and giving its name—the Fountain Fire.

The fire actually started about two-miles from the historic stonework fountain used throughout the years to quench the thirst of parched draft horses and then hot car radiators. The fountain became a monument to Cal Trans who built it in the 1930’s as a service to the motoring public.

Before it was extinguished, the fire burned on both sides of Highway 299 E—from Round Mountain through Montgomery Creek to the outlying of Burney, and from near Oak Run to north of Hill Crest forcing the displacement of almost 8,000 people. California Department of Forestry and Fire Prevention (Cal Fire), reported the cause of the fire was “suspected arson” and determined to have started in the grassy areas on Buzzard Roost Road, several miles northeast of the fountain.

At the end of its fiery, almost 64,000 acres and numerous communities were burned to the ground. While firefighters were able to save 228 homes and 554 structures from the inferno, an estimated 307 homes and 489 miscellaneous buildings were destroyed. It ended a week after it began.

Residents Matt and Darlene Rumboltz sent an email to their Mountain Community members of a reminder of the tragic event. “Many of us lost everything. I remember coming up here and seeing the devastation. The trees were all burnt to the ground and the house and other structures were no more. There was a donkey wandering around lost and we left a note downtown to let them know.The deer were wandering around listlessly.  Grey squirrels were freeze dried on the ground. It was something you could not imagine. But, we replanted the forest and cleaned up our land, and rebuilt our houses, and now we are moving forward. It is just a reminder to enjoy what you have!!”