Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Archaeologist helps firefighters navigate ancient Indian sites around Southern California
When lightning sent flames ripping across a Southern California mountain ridge last summer, fire officials wanted to cut firebreaks with bulldozers. But first they called U.S. Forest Service archaeologist Doug McKay.

McKay knew the remote area east of Big Bear Lake was the ancestral home of Serrano Indians and told fire crews to hold off. After walking around the area, McKay warned officials the bulldozers likely would churn up innumerable ancient sites, crushing pieces of history and costing taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars to repair.

Officials took his words to heart and instead had firefighters clear brush by hand. Using shovels, firefighters carved a 2-foot-wide buffer that helped stop the 361-acre fire near Arrastre Creek.