Friday, August 6, 2010


Today at 11:43 a small brush fire was reported behind the residence at 1236 Grand Canyon, said lt. Peter Rodriguez of the Brea police department. Brea Canyon road was shut down between Tonner canyon road and Brea Boulevard shortly thereafter. The area behind the residence is a undeveloped area of Brea and is right across from Brea Cañon oil companies old property. There is much dry brush and many possibilities to start fires, such as power lines and oil field equipment (and workers). Luckily for the firefighters, there are access road to easily fight brush fires. Provided that they are not blocked by couches and litter dumped by lazy canyon goers.
I was probably one of the first to notice the fire as my house looks over the canyon and I was outside mowing my lawn. I noticed a strange amount of smoke coming from the canyon so I hopped on my bike and rode it around the corner to where I had a better view. I didn't call the fire department as I assumed somebody already had. Shortly thereafter, I could hear sirens echoing through the city and I could hear the skies being torn asunder by aerial water drop helicopters. I took a break and watched the brave men and women of the Brea fire department and the surrounding cities work to quickly get the fire contained. Brea Canyon road was open at 1:20 this afternoon CHP says. I am very happy the fire was contained and I couldn't help but to think back on the fires of November of 2008 in neighboring Carbon canyon.

There are remains of two old houses in the area where the fire was today that seem to have been occupied as residences at one point and later used as offices. I have personally explored the remains of these houses and the fire access roads that I mentioned in the past, going all the way to the top of the hill where a old water tank is. With the large amount of dry brush, oil field equipment and workers, fires are destined to happen. One smoldering cigarette can destroy thousands of acres. A scary but true thought is arson. Why anyone would want to do that is beyond me, but it does happen. The fire roads aren't secured very well, simply a gate to keep cars out and a sign that happily displays a "NO SMOKING" sign and a "NO TRESSPASSING" sign are about all that will deter someone from entering these fire roads. I have no problem with these gates, however if someone really want to get into this area of the hills they easily can. Arson is a very high possibility of how this fire was started. If I find out how this fire was started, I will update this as soon as I find out.


Saturday, October 3, 2009

History of Brea Canyon oil operators

The natural tar seeps in the Brea Canyon area have always been used (or exploited in some cases) by the inhabitants of the area. They can be found even to this day oozing down desolate hillside in the fields. The Native Americans used the crude petroleum as a waterproofing agent and as a glue, and they would smear it on their skin to cure ailments. Which made Gaspar de Portola remark that "the native inhabitants here are dirty". Basque shepherds used it as an ointment for sheep, and early settlers burned oily blocks of earth as fuel for heat. While timber rights were held by property owners, anyone was free to pick up brea (tar mixed with soil) wherever they happened upon it. Early attempts at recovering oil in quantities consisted of digging pits at tar seeps and filling barrels with oil. These pits were rather shallow because at 8 to 10 feet, the mixture of oil and sand became too soft to stand in without sinking. Oil refining was done on a small scale, sometimes in family kitchens. In the 1870s, chunks of "brea" were harvested and used in gaslights in the Los Angeles area, but was relegated to use as an insect repellent because of the odor it produced when burned. In the 1880s, more uses were found for crude oil, and machinery for oil extraction was invented and methods of refining improved. In about 1882, the Chandler Oil Mining Co. was drilling productively in the area where Tonner Canyon joins Brea Canyon. Shortly thereafter, the company moved its operations up Tonner Canyon to a place a short distance northwest of the current Stearns Property (which is between Brea Canyon and Carbon Canyon) and the settlement Petrolia was born. In 1890, Wallace Hardison and Lyman Stewart, who were active in the Petrolia area, pooled their resources with others and started the Union Oil Company (Union 76). In January 1894, Union purchased a 1,200-acre tract from the Stearns Ranch Co., which came to be called the “Stearns Fee.”
after their purchase, Union leased 100 acres of the eastern portion of this land to the Columbia Oil Producing Company. The Columbia Oil Producing Company transferred the land acquired by lease from Union in about 1919 to Shell Oil Company. This portion of the Stearns property is still known as the Columbia Lease. In a land title dispute, the Brea Cañon Oil Co. (still in business!), with Edward. L. Doheny as promoter, acquired 200 acres on the west end of the Stearns Fee from Union. The 1890s and 1900s were boom years for the oil business in Brea. New drilling technology developed, which was best described as “pounding a hole into the earth”. The ancestor of today’s oil rigs, this process made deep wells possible. In 1906, additional technology was introduced, which allowed companies to drill even deeper wells. Oil companies in this era of the Brea area included: Union, Home Oil, Central Oil, Murphy Oil, Fullerton Consolidated, etc. The development of the southern California oil fields around the turn of the century was stimulated by the U.S. Navy’s need for fuel oil. By about 1908, the U.S. Navy had, for the most part, switched entirely from coal oil to fuel oil to power its fleets. As a result, production yields on the Stearns Lease were quite impressive during this period. The heavy weight crude from the La Vida fault was ideal for fuel oil production. In 1897, the wells produced 12,700 barrels. The following year, output rose more than fourfold with the production of 60,000 barrels. In 1900, 510,000 barrels were produced, 40 times the amount produced just three years before.Stearns Camp, the center of operations on the Stearns Lease, was located onUnion Oil Road (later named East Deodara) near the mouth of the present Wildcat Way. These headquarters evolved from workshops, tent housing, and a cook tent into a community of boarding houses, homes, and warehouses. During the 1920s, new strikes and record-breaking production levels on the leases in the Olinda tract (east of the Stearns lease) overshadowed oil production and associated activities on the Stearns Lease. A 1928 air photo showed that Shell’s Columbia Lease was part of this heightened activity. The photo illustrates extensive development with numerous oil derricks and pumps, roads, and industrial and residential structures. However, very little of the Stearns Lease appears active at this time. Only the gas plant, roads, and a few oil
derricks and pumps are evident. During World War II, two army battalions quartered at Brea-Olinda High School (which was located on modern day State collage rd.) moved into more permanent housing on the Stearns Lease. During this “occupation,” Stearns Camp was known as “Camp Brea.” During the battle of the Pacific, local soldiers drilled wells, built bridges and roads, and prepared to revitalize the Stearns Lease, which was considered one of the nation’s strategic oil fields. However, the plans for increased activity on the Stearns Lease were never carried out because of the Allies’ slow advancement in the South Pacific. Historic maps indicate that the project area was not heavily developed by oil companies. Oil companies owned and exploited tracts to the north (Industrial Oil Company, Getty Oil Company), west (Naranjal Fee), and east (Shell Oil Company, Olinda Tract). The 1955 map for Union indicates that a few oil wells were located on the north and east edges of the parcel. Today, some of the original oil companies that were established in Brea are still in existence. Either as a company, or a lease name for oil wells. For instance, Brea Cañon oil co. is still operating with a production facility located at the begining of Brea canyon rd. The Union oil co. later UNOCAL pulled out of this area from the late 1980's to mid 1990's. The name Stearns still exists as a lease for oil wells and a street name. Birch oil co. which was a player in the growth of Brea, has a street named after it today known as Birch st. The columbia lease is still in existence, however, most, if not all of the wells have been plugged. Today, Linn western operating is the key player in all of the the Brea-Olinda field. They acquired it from Blacksand energy LLC around 2003. Before that, Shell was the owner of the field.

In my next few posts, I hope to capture some of the historical info on Brea Canyon. I would like to get a whole post on Brea Cañon Oil co. Also, there is a house located up in the oilfields behind Brea Cañon oil co that can be seen from Central Ave, I want to get a post on that with pictures up close hopefully, so stay tuned!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Sorry for the delay in updating this blog!

I'm still alive and interested in this blog, however, I'm busy with school and other stuff. I've been meaning to document some of the things in the canyon like the oilfield history and info on the things like the derricks that tower of the canyon as you drive through. Stay tuned for an update real soon.


Thursday, July 30, 2009

Traffic accidents along Brea Canyon Road (and tips for safety)

Brea Canyon Road can be one of the most fun roads to drive along, yet one of the most deadly. Each year several people lose there lives along this road. Driving along, you see small white crosses dotting the landscape of Brea Canyon offering us an eerie reminder to drive safely. Even if it is not a deadly accident, a car accident will block Brea Canyon road and will cause it to back up onto Central ave and will cause havoc with the entire traffic situation in Brea, so please remember to drive safely. Back in the 90's my neighbors sister was killed after she careened off Brea Canyon road after a night of drinking and partying. She was discovered the next morning, dead, when the Brea fire department was on their patrol of the road. She was only in her early 20's and this could have been prevented had she have had a designated driver and proper guard rails been installed. I also know first hand that Brea canyon rd. is very dark at night so many times, an animal such as a coyote or deer may try to cross, the best thing is to slow down and not try to swerve for the animal. Another problem is that the guard rails along Brea Canyon rd. have reflectors that become un-reflective over time due to graffiti or dirt getting on them, so please use caution around turns. Never drink and drive. Living adjacent to Brea Canyon rd, the sound of sirens are not uncommon.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Litter problems along Brea Canyon Road!

Brea Canyon road, by no doubt, is one of the funnest and most scenic roads to drive along in Orange county. However, there is a big problem along this road, LITTER! For as long as I can remember, Brea Canyon road has had litter problems. In recent times however, it seems to have gotten worse. Along Brea canyon road, there are sofas, parts of an old Jacuzzi, bottles, and various other piles of trash dumped along their and never cleaned up. There was a sofa dumped there several years ago and when I called to complain about, guess what cal-trans does? They bury it with dirt! Cal-trans very easily could have hauled away the old sofa, and it's not like they would have had to drive very far to do so, there yard is located at the mouth of Brea canyon road! What makes matters even worse is that the City of Brea, Diamond bar, or Rowland Heights (all cities in Brea Canyon), have no regular litter removal program. This, I believe should be changed, especially with all the taxes every CA resident dishes out each only to have it spent on frivolous things. 

These photos show SOME of the litter:

 Here on the left is the half buried sofa, it is located just after the bridge, on the right when you are coming from Brea Blvd.

This pile of trash is located off Brea Canyon road, in front of Nieto & sons trucking, it looks like someone decided this would be a good spot to dump their crap, scumbags.

Well, that's it for now anyway, hopefully the City's will implement a program to keep Brea Canyon road clean, I haven't had very much luck calling the city of Brea.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Portola came through Brea Cañon in 1769

Located on Brea Canyon road there is a memorial marker, many wonder what it is or says but very few have actually gotten out of there car to see what it is. I investigated one day and here is what I found.

It reads:

With 60 men camped here July 31 1769 on his march from San Diego to Montery dedicated June 2, 1932 Grace Parlor No. 242 Native Daughters of the golden west."
After doing some research on Portola, I found that he was a Spanish conquistador who was responsible, along with Father Junipero Serra, for planting missions along the coast of California. Portola started out on July 13, 1769 working his way up the coast. On July 31, 1769 he camped in Brea, I could find no info if he did anything other than just camp here, so I'll assume that's it. On August 2, he had reached Los Angeles, Santa Barbra on the 19th, and had reached the mouth of the Salinas river on Oct. 1, but fog obscured the Santa Cruz shore, making the rough bay look like open ocean, reaching Santa Cruz on October 18th and the San Francisco Bay area on October 31. They realized they had missed the harbor of Monterey and did not find it on their return to San Diego. The difficult journey had lasted six months and they had failed to reach their goal. Nonetheless, their voyage is commemorated as a interesting piece of California history. As you can see, this placard was donated in the early days of Brea, way back in 1932 by the Native Daughters of the Golden West, Grace parlor 242, who is an organization of California born women who are devoted to preserving California history. The plaque alone is a piece of history, with it's heavy-duty bronze construction it dates from the early days of Brea, 1932! Stop by sometime and take a look at the marker, it is located in front of (the former) Brea Cañon Oil Company property gate. There will be a spot where you can pull your car or bike off the road. Be safe!