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Fire Rushes through Etna, Calif., in 1896

“The cry of fire was sounded at about 1:30 o’clock this morning,” the Scott Valley County Reporter newspaper wrote on March 16, 1896.  “It aroused the slumbering people of the town (of Etna, Calif.), who, half awake and half clad, rushed from all directions on to Main Street to find that Mrs. Mani’s hotel and saloon building was in flames and past all hope of being saved.”

Quickly the flames consumed more wooden buildings, including Emmel Miller’s brick store and the Odd Fellows Hall.

The newspaper said “no hopes were entertained of saving any of them … as the flames spread … from the Mani Hotel to James Bryan’s variety store and post office, then to Schmitt’s hotel … and … the building owned by David Jones and occupied by L.A. Moxley, where the flames stopped.”

Townspeople confined the fire to the doomed district by passing buckets of water to men standing outside the blacksmith shop of R.J. Wallace, throwing bucket after bucket over the front of the building and over themselves.
Fire remains a threat to small towns today, striking Weed, Calif., only last month.

Sources: Jenner, Gail L. and Monica J. Hall. Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams. Mt. Pleasant: Arcadia Publishing, 2002. 79-81. Print.

Gail Fiorini-Jenner is a writer and teacher. Her first novel "Across the Sweet Grass Hills", won the 2002 WILLA Literary Award. She co-authored four histories with Arcadia Publishing: Western Siskiyou County: Gold & Dreams, Images of the State of Jefferson, The State of Jefferson: Then & Now, which placed in the 2008 Next Generation Awards for Nonfiction and Postcards from the State of Jefferson.