The Oak Grove facility was started as a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, Company 903, Forest Number-133, May 16th., 1933. The land belonged to the city of Pasadena and the Forest Service, Angeles National Forest, entered into a long-term lease agreement with the city for $1, to be extend for 99 years.
Originally, the CCC camp buildings were all constructed of wood. The buildings were used as an office, barracks, and for storage space.
With the deactivation of the CCC and the camps in 1942, the Forest Service no longer had a large, organized, firefighting workforce. The location was transitioned into the Arroyo Seco Ranger District headquarters and fire station. For many years, the facilities were tents that supplied the barracks, and mess hall.
At some point between the years 1950 and 1954, the Forest Service secured seven small military surplus, four person-sleeping quarters. These units were made of plywood, painted military green, and were used for some or all of the crewmembers. These types of structures were often called “flappers” due to a hinged plywood window cover that would “flap” with the wind.
In 1958, there were only four of the seven structures left, and were then being used for storage. The last four military surplus structures were removed sometime around 1960.
The first Hotshot crew on the Angeles National Forest was the Oak Grove Hotshot crew, approve in 1950. Eddie Lundgren, then on the Cleveland N.F., was selected for the position of the first Hotshot Superintendent. In 1950, one of the old wooden CCC barracks was partitioned off and converted into a one bedroom, one bath, residence for Eddie and his wife to live in.
In 1953, the construction of permanent facilities was started. These buildings were made using concrete block instead of plywood and canvas. Nappy Martin, Field Engineer in charge, was using force account personnel for the construction of the buildings. However, sometime during that summer, the local masonry labor union found out that the Forest Service was constructing their own buildings and made a complaint about the Forest Service using force account labor. The union was successful in getting the Forest Service to stop the force account work.
Shortly afterword, construction of the new facilities was resumed with the union workers. Union labor completed construction of the three barracks buildings. All of the structures were constructed using cinder block.
In 1957, the Superintendents house was constructed, there were no additional buildings built during the remaining life of the station. However, there were three trailer sites constructed for Forest Service personnel to rent and live on. Fire crew supervisors used most of these sites.
Following the devastating flood of 1934, the Los Angeles River Flood Prevention Act of 1936 was enacted by the U.S. Congress to build flood control channels and structures throughout the Los Angeles basin and along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains within the L.A. River watershed of the Angeles National Forest. Then again in 1938, one of the worst floods in the history of L.A. County, killing 85 people and creating millions of dollars of damage, the funding was increased and expanded for decades to come. Hence, the creation of certain Forest Service fire suppression crews to protect this valuable watershed in about 1948.
In the early years, two of the Angeles National Forest Hotshot crews were funded using Los Angeles River watershed funds. These crews were Oak Grove and Chilao Hotshots. Los Angeles River watershed funding for the Forest Service Hotshot crews, was to help reduce the size of wildfires, control these fires quickly, and reduce burned watershed acreage. Los Angeles County wanted to reduce the amount of damage during the winter months. The control of wildfires quickly, would also reduce the funding needed for the repair caused by large wildfires. During the mid 70’s, flood control funding for the Hotshot crews stopped, putting additional pressure on the regional fire budget. In the years the Los Angeles River Flood Prevention Act funded the fire crews, the allocation of funds was approximately $1,300,000 each year, for a number of years, and helped construct needed facilities.
1950-1952 Eddie Lundgren
Charles T. Smith
Ray Guardado Sr.
1953-1956 Harold (Tex) Strange
Tom Deal – pusher
John Stutler – pusher
Jack Lane – pusher
1957 Dave Westfall
1958-1960 Kenneth R. David
1961-1962 Tom Ralls
1963-1964 George Pond
1965-1967 Marty Barrows
1967-1971 Larry Boggs
Larry Lang Asst. Supertindent
Wayne Crowder (detail)
1971 Aug. to Oct. Mal Ellsion
1972-1973 Chet Cash
1974-1978 Steve Arney
Bob Serrato – pusher
Mark Sayles – pusher
Brush hook Bullets…
Eddie came to the Angeles N.F. from the Cleveland N.F. in 1950. Later in 1953, Eddie returned to the Cleveland N.F. to be a tanker foreman (engine captain), however, the Cleveland needed a Superintendent for the Cleveland Hotshots, so Eddie Lundgren was the Cleveland Hotshot Superintendent for two years.
In 1957, Eddie returned to the Angels N.F., Arroyo Seco Ranger District as District FCA (District FMO).
Harold (Tex) Strange
As told by Troy Kurth… Tex replaced Ned Taylor as the District FCA in about July 1958. I know he was Superintendent of the Oak Grove Hotshots for several years. He told me “the crew stayed the same age and he got a year older every year”. I think he got off the crew after 40 years old because he had a heart scare. I know he married Virginia Strange, I do not know her last name. Virginia was the tanker Foreman at Newhall during WWII. Tex complained about going down to Newhall with his tanker crew to mow the lawn cause the Ranger said it was “hard work for the all girl crew” at Newhall, that’s where Tex met her. Tex was courting her while doing telephone repair work on the Arroyo Seco. RD. He would call her on the telephone line while she was at Newhall. She was the District clerk at Valyermo in 1958; she would go to fires on district with Tex. We would pull up with the tanker and Virginia would tell the Foreman where his assignment was.
I think Tex was Foreman or Patrolman at Red Box, maybe 1938. Tex told me about not having any money so he shot a deer and had it hanging in the basement of his house. For some reason some FS type needed to do work on the house and he had to talk him out of going in. I know Ned Taylor and Don Bedibach were CCC, and very close friends. I know who else came from CCC was Fred Tyler, who was also part of that group. Hugh Masterson was referred to as Baby Hughie, as he was part of the group too. Harry Grace was too. Harry was Tanker Foreman at Big Pines station some 30 years before me. He thought that was funny when I went on the Stanislaus where he was Forest Supervisor. The group made fun of Harry when Harry told them he was “going to go to school and come back as their boss and fire their ass”. He did come back as the Angeles Forest FMO, did not fire them, and saved them from being fired on many occasions!
Tex told me about being on the Fish Fork Fire with the crew and some of the crew members found some old miner graves, dug them up, and kept the skulls. Tex fired them when they got back at Oak Grove. Tex did not want ghouls on the crew. He also said that he would fire anybody who did not work good. When they got off the truck at Oak Grove, he would just say, “you’re fired”, gone.
First time I met Tex was at Tie Summit station. We were putting insulation in the ceiling and I was in the ceiling because George Pond said I was the only one that would fit. It was very hot and the crew was supposed to put the insulation through the crawl hole. There was a slack period, still very hot, I looked down through the hole, and this person was standing there looking at me. I told him to get off his dead ass and “get the blank blank insulation up here”. He did. Later on, I was his very good friend. He told me that after leaving Tie Summit, that day, he decided being FMO was not as important as he thought it was. He hired me from the Alaska Jumpers as Patrolman at Tie Summit, then promoted me to Tanker Foreman at Big Pines and then got me a job at the Arroyo Seco RD, with Jack Lane.
Tex was very proud of his driving record. We were working fires on the Valyermo RD, small lightning fires on the desert front, we would arrive and scratch line around them then on to the next, about a dozen or so. We were headed to Valyermo for fuel, and there was Tex driving the road so we dropped down to wave at him as we came around the corner about 20 to 30 feet off the deck we waved at him. Tex, looked up and saw us and drove off into the sage brush, and then he gave us hell for scaring him.
Tex, did like to drink as they all did. He would pick me up at Big Pines and we would go look at the “tractor lines etc., to do that winter/spring or some such” and visit all the old people in Big Rock Creek or Wrightwood, etc. About half way through the afternoon, I would just stay in the bed of the truck until the next stop. Don, Tex and I would have a little Beam at Valyermo in the winter after work and they would fight the old fires… great evenings.
The Fenner Canyon Guard School always ended with a larger training fire than planned. They would select one of the crews to attack the fire and it would escape the hand crew and the fire would get bigger and then the tankers would move in and lay hose, and pick up the fire. The Bosses would say this is why “we need tankers and trained tanker crews”. Well, Tex decided it was probably his turn with Oak Grove. He did some special training with his crew before the fire school. So, the Bosses started the training fire, Tex and the crew was dispatched. Well, the crew jumped out of the trucks, lined up with heir hardhats and then the crew rushed in and swiped their hardhats full of water at the fire one behind the other. They knocked down the fire. Of course, the Bosses said that was wrong because the crew was now out of drinking water. Tex, said “not true”, Tex had doubled up on the canteens on the truck!
Tex, was a real gentleman. The best… I really liked the old guy.
In 1958, Dave was promoted on the Arroyo Seco R.D. to the east side ADFMO position. During the 1958 fire season, and while on an initial attack fire assignment on the Gun fire (started by tracer ammo.) Dave was severally burned while scouting the fire. Trying to escape the fire front, and lost in smoke, Dave fell over a rock, landing on his back, and broke his left foot at the ankle joint with only the tendon holding. Dave’s foot was saved, but the result was that the ankle had to be set in a fixed position.
Norm White, was one of the Oak Grove Foreman in 1956 to 1958, later taking the Santa Anita Fire Prevention position, and working for Dave Westfall. Norm White, was with Dave Westfall, when Dave broke his ankle, and was severally burned with 3rd. degree burns over most of his body. Eventually, Norm died of complications while in the hospital. Norm White, was married to Marilyn and at the time of the accident, she was pregnant with their first child.
In 1946, Ken worked on the Plumas NF, as a crew supervisor for an inmate crew. He married his wife Annette in 1947 in Utah.
During 1957, Ken was the horse patrol FPT on the Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF, until 1958, when he became the Oak Grove Hotshot Superintendent. Ken transferred to the Long Barn RD, Stanislaus NF, as the District FMO during 1961 to 1965.
In 1966 to 1969, Ken worked at the Job Corp. Center, in Fenner Canyon, Angeles NF, and from there he transferred to the Redding Air Center (1969-72) Shasta Trinity NF, as the Budget Finance Specialist.
In 1971 to 19??, Ken became the Employee Development Specialist on the San Bernardino NF and finished his career on that forest.
Tom started his career in 1954, as a TTO on the San Bernardino N.F., then in 1955, he was picked up as PFT as a TTO at the Arcadia station on the Angeles N.F. and then Foreman. In 1956 he was drafted in the U.S. Army
Returning from the U.S. Army in 1958, Tom accepted the Arroyo Seco Canyon Fire Prevention position. From the position as FPT, he became an Oak Grove Hotshot Foreman during the 1959/60 season. Then in 1961 be became the Oak Grove Superintendent. In 1963, he was promoted to the high country Asst. District Fire Management Officer position at the Clear Creek station.
In 1964, Tom, took a detail to the Stanislaus N.F. on the Twain Harte R.D., to establish the first Stanislaus Hotshot crew there. Tom had to plan, supervise, and build a temporary tent camp for the Hotshot crew.
1965 Tom transferred to the Groveland RD, of the Stanislaus N.F. as DFMO.
In 1974, he transferred to the Palomar R.D., Cleveland N.F. as ADFMO and then in 1981 became the DFMO on the Palomar R.D., Cleveland N.F.. In 1985, Tom became the Asst. Forest Fire Management Officer on the Cleveland N.F. until retirement.
In September 1954, George started as a crewman at Tie Summit (Mill Creek) station, working for Ralph Johnson. Between 1955-57 George became a TTO (tank truck operator) and then Foreman. He then moved to the Buckhorn station as patrolman and snow-ranger in 1957-59. He then spent two years in the Army and teh returned to the Buckhorn station. In 1961 he moved to Big Pines as AFMO for Tex Strange. In mid 1963, George moved to Oak Grove as Hotshot Superintendent. In 1965 he moved to the Shasta Trinity NF as DFMO and then later in late 1969, he left the Forest Service, and went to work for the California Department of Forestry (CDF), retiring from CDF in 2003.
Oak Grove Hotshot crewman Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
Tanker Foreman Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
Oak Grove Hotshot Foreman Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
Smokejumper (detail) Redding, CA
Fire Prevention Technician Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
Chilao HS, Asst. Superintendent Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
Oak Grove Superintendent Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
DFMO Coffee Creek RD, Shasta-T NF
DFMO Greenville RD, Plumas NF
Woody Wood Pecker Logo
The crew logo, at the time, was the Forest Service badge, routed in redwood and no one on the crew like it.
Several of the other Hotshot crews had their own crew logo that was identifiable with their crew.
Larry’s opinion was that the crew should have a logo that would identify the Oak Grove Hotshots and a logo the crew would like. Larry believed the crew logo should be fun and from an organizational stand point, not-controversial.
Below is the 1955 crew truck and crew truck sign. The truck sign was the same logo but was a little larger, and painted on Masonite, colorful but not a logo to be identified with a Hotshot crew.
In June 1967, the crew was working at the Arcadia Fire Warehouse for several weeks performing heavy building maintenance work. Ruth Coe, was the fire warehouse clerk there and Larry discovered that her husband Al Coe, was a cartoonist. Larry asked Ruth if she would ask her husband if he would be willing to draw a logo or mascot for the Oak Grove Hotshot crew.
Al Coe was an artist for the Walter Lantz Production Studio, in Burbank California. Al’s specialty was drawing the cartoon caricature Woody Woodpecker. A few days after asking Ruth Coe about her husband drawing a crew logo, Ruth informed Larry that Al had spoken with Walter Lantz and Mr. Lantz had given Al approval to develop a logo for the Oak Grove Hotshot crew.
Along with the approval to use the Woody Woodpecker caricature, was a letter from Walter Lantz, giving the crew permission to use Woody Woodpecker for anything associated with or for the crew identification. However, Woody Woodpecker was “copyrighted” and only the Oak Grove Hotshot crew was authorized to use the caricature. Any other use other than for the Oak Grove Hotshot crew was prohibited.
In about three weeks, Ruth Coe, brought three proofs of Al’s ideas for the new crew logo. All three proofs were similar but the crew picked the caricature with Woody Woodpecker chasing a fire flame with a shovel out stretched over his head, ready to swat the flame like a fly.
The rest is history. A local artist in Pasadena, California, first painted the Woody Woodpecker logo. The logo was round about 30 inches in diameter and installed on the crew truck.
Below is the first Woody Woodpecker truck logo mounted on an Oak Grove Hotshot crew truck. If you look at the bottom of the logo, you can read the “Copyright W.L.P.” required by the Walter Lance Production Studio.
After the Woody Woodpecker crew truck logo was completed, Larry had patches made for crew vests, shirts, and baseball hats. Larry also had decals made for the crew hard hats.
After completing the Woody Woodpecker patches and decals, Larry had each logo type with a picture of the crew truck, matted and framed for both Al Coe and Walter Lantz. Ruth was asked if she would have her husband Al, deliver the framed items to Walter Lantz. About a week later, Ruth informed Larry that her husband Al had delivered the framed Woody Woodpecker artwork to Walter Lantz and that Mr. Lantz was so happy with the gift that he placed it on his office wall next to all of the studios awards and commendations. So, one could assume that the Oak Grove Hotshots logo was hung next to a picture of “THE” Woody Woodpecker.
Tanker Foreman Mt. Baldy RD, Angeles NF
Oak Grove HS Superintendent Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
ADFMO Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
DFMO Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
DFMO Santa Maria RD, Los Padres NF
DFMO Santa Lucia RD, Los Padres NF
Dalton HS crew member Mt. Baldy RD, Angeles NF
Fire Prevention Mt. Baldy RD, Angeles NF
Tanker Foreman Mt. Baldy RD, Angeles NF
Oak Grove HS Superintendent Arroyo Seco RD, Angeles NF
DFMO Truckee RD, Tahoe NF
Fuels Officer Foresthill RD, Tahoe NF
In 1979, the crew was not funded and was disbanded, making Steve the last Oak Grove Hotshot Superintendent.
Steve accepted a position as a D.F.M.O. on the Truckee Ranger District, Tahoe National Forest.
All new JF’s (junior Foresters) as they were referred to, were hired right out of college. JF’s on the Arroyo Seco R.D. were assigned on the Oak Grove Hotshots and tanker (engine) crew at Oak Grove.
In the early years, everyone hired by the Forest Service, was expected to support fire suppression in some capacity. New hires were given the basic fire training by the Hotshot and tanker crew Foreman (Captain). The new foresters were required to participate in all fire training and crew project work. The new JF’s were required to work on fire crews for two years, and at the end of their two years, they were then assigned forester work.
There were two reasons for assigning new foresters to fire crews. First, there was the requirement that everyone support fire suppression. Secondly, the new hires experienced working with crews, supervision, and other duties as assigned.
The assignment caused great anxiety and frustration for some of the newly graduated foresters. The young JF’s felt they had spent 4-5 years in college and fully expected to be assigned a position in forestry and given an office. Because some of the new JF’s were not given forester positions when first hired, some of the new hires quit.
The following was the reply to an email I sent to Mike Rodgers, who at the time was the Angeles Fire Staff (FFMO/Chief).
We were recently asked how the decommissioning of the Oak Grove Hotshots came about as it is not part of the history we have in our blog. As I recall, you were the fire staff during that period of time. Is it possible that you could supply us with that part of the history of the crew, so we could include it on our site?
Thanks so much.
With only minor editing, the following is Mike’s reply.
I was the Fire Staff Officer (Chief) on the Angeles from 1977-1981. We had six Hot Shot Crews on the Angeles in 1977. Dalton, Oak Grove, Chilao, Little T, Bear Divide and Texas Canyon. There were a combination of things that happened. First, Dick Millar retired as Regional Deputy Regional Forester for Fire. He was replaced by Lynn Biddison from R-3. Bob Solari was on the RO Fire Staff at the time in charge of Planning. When the budgets came out at the RO they were printed on computer sheets that folded accordion style with tear off strips along each side with holes which lined up with the printer sprolls. When the Angeles Budget printed out three crews showed up on the front sheet and three were directly down from the first three but on the sheet that folded under. Chief Biddison did not realize this. I got a call from Lynn notifying me that the national fire budget funded only three of our Hot Shot Crews when in reality that was not the case. My DFMO, Jim Stumpf and I dutifully made plans to fit within what we were told was the budget. When we eventually received the print outs for the Angeles we realized that in reality all of our six crews were funded, however, we were told to drop Oak Grove, Little T and Chilao. Also at this time the Oak Grove and Chilao crews had been partially funded out of the Los Angeles River Flood Prevention Act, a specific Congressional Act that was written in the years following the 1938 floods that wiped out all of the foothill communities, plus Pasadena, Glendale and Los Angeles. This had been the case following the passage of the Act in 1950. In the 1970’s the U S Soil Conservation Service, they held the budget these dollars came from, begin a series of reviews as they seriously questioned the continuation of this program (which incidentally continued at a reduced level of funding until President Bill Clinton wiped out five long standing national flood prevention programs in the 1990’s with the stroke of a pen his first year in office). As fate would have it, the reduction in the Los Angeles River Flood Prevention Act coincided with the error made by R-5 A&FM Director Biddison. When the error was pointed out we were told that the Angeles had six Hot Shot Crews while most Forests had one or none. So in the fog of the error the Lassen got a crew, the Sierra got a crew and possibly the Eldorado got a crew. We made the case that the crews were based in southern California because that is where the greatest values at risk were and fire histories on the four southern National Forests justified this positioning. We also pointed out that the Angeles and the other southern California National Forests always readily shipped these crews north when there was a need with no questions asked and they were available on the southern California National Forests in the peak September, October, November Fire Season. Our rationale was ignored. As it has turned out since this decision was made, when southern California is experiencing major wildfires in the fall of the year and desperately needs experienced Hot Shot Crews the central and northern forests have laid off all of their Hot Shot Crews because their fire seasons have ended. We were told when this shift of crews stationed in southern California was made that the northern crews would always be made available whenever southern California needed them, but this has never been the case. The Little T Crew was eventually resurrected in 2001.
When I first went to work on the Angeles in 1957 as a firefighter at Chilao on Crew 1-5-1 there were four Hot Shot Crews on the Forest; Chilao, Dalton, Oak Grove and Texas Canyon. The Cleveland NF had one crew, the El Cariso Hot Shots, The Los Padres NF had one crew, the Los Prietos Hot Shots, and The San Bernardino NF had one crew, the Del Rosa Hot Shots.
The 1970 R-5 Fire Planning effort resulted in additional engines and Hot Shot Crews being located in southern California with the Angeles ending up with six Hot Shot Crews and each of the other three southern California National Forests ending up with three each for a total of 15 Hot Shot Crews stationed in southern California.
In all reality, we (Jim Stump, Bill Dresser, Art Carroll and I) did not want to let any of the crews go. We had the work load and we were geographically situated to send crews off where ever they were needed (Burbank, LAX, Ontario). Our original 4 crews were more than justified in the 1970 Fire Planning Analysis requested of all forests by the Regional Office, plus justified the addition of two more crews, Little T and Bear Divide. About this same time the LA River Flood Prevention Program financing began to collapse. That was the core funding for Oak Grove and Chilao. When our position of keeping all 6 crews would not prevail, Jim Stumpf and I made the painful decision that we would eliminate 1 of the six and see what happened next. Oak Grove was the most vulnerable, as we did not have the LA River budget and it was back to back with Los Angeles County’s Camp 2, which responded to all of our wildland wildfires along the Angeles front if they were in camp. The Chilao Crew location was very strategic in that Chilao’s response was all downhill, with the exception of going north on the Angeles Crest Hwy and they could go all directions from Chilao, plus there was a heliport at Chilao for fast attack. Bear Divide had a similar advantage. As you know the funding for Chilao was cobbled together through 1983 thanks to the efforts of Jim Stumpf, Mike Edrington and District Ranger Terry Ellis. They kept the crew going as long as they could. In the interim Little T was also eliminated because of Fire Funding budget cuts (actually the funds were taken from the two dropped crews on the Angeles and sent to the Lassen and Sierra NF for newly established Hot Shot Crews in the late 70’s). Suddenly the Angeles went from 6 Hot Shot Crews to 4 (down to 3 in 1983 when Chilao could no longer be funded) and stayed that way until the resurrection of the Little T Hot Shot Crew in 2001.