The 1961 Harlow Fire burned from July 10 – July 15, 1961
The video above has the recollections of various folks and emergency personnel involved in the Harlow Fire in 1961.
The Harlow Fire is infamous for setting records for fire behavior speed. The major take away is to be prepared to leave early with a planned way out, and to leave behind fire wise and fire safe property and homes to minimize potential losses and to protect emergency personnel as much as possible. The conditions that existed then are arguably worse now unbelievably enough.
According to MariposaCounty.org “undoubtedly the most disastrous wildfire to strike the Madera and Mariposa Counties was the Harlow Fire of July 1961. The Harlow burned 43,329 acres in Madera and Mariposa Counties, destroyed 104 structures and claimed two lives. What was truly remarkable about the Harlow was how fast it spread. In two hours it burned 20,000 acres making it one of the fastest burning fires ever recorded in the United States.”
According to MariposaResearch.net “the Harlow Fire burned 20,000 acres in two hours, destroying 105 structures and claiming two lives.
This is one of the fastest spreading wildfires ever recorded.”
The site continues that according to the Fresno Bee – July 23, 1961 the Harlow Fire started in “a foothill area in Mariposa County known as Usona. By 4 PM the next day, this wisp had developed into a raging inferno which killed two people, destroyed more than 90 homes and eventually was to spread over 43,000 acres of grass, brush and timber. This was the Harlow Fire, one of the worst in foothill history. In a two hour period on July 11, the Harlow inferno flashed over 18,800 acres, taking with it the towns of Nipinnawasee and Ahwahnee. It sent flaming fingers dangerously close to the towns of Coarsegold and Oakhurst before it roared on northeast toward the Yosemite Forks on Highway 41.”
According to the Sierra Star of Oakhurst California “The Harlow fire of 1961, the fastest burning fire in California history, created a firestorm that burned as much as 175 acres per minute, sweeping more than 18,000 acres in two hours destroying Ahwahnee and Nipinnawasee in some 15 minutes as it raged from around Stumpfield Mountain in Mariposa County to the very edge of Oakhurst in two days.”