Disasters - Natural and Man-made
Fillmore is set in a beautiful, fertile area of the Santa Clara River Valley, but since it's founding, it has experienced multiple fires, flood and earthquakes.
As early as 1890, fires raged on the hills northwest of Fillmore. In 1903 a fire burned many of the stores along Main Street. Fires have continues to threaten Fillmore. Fires in 1972, 2014, and 2017 have required some residents to evacuate but few structures were lost.
1914 saw major flooding on both the Santa Clara River and Sespe Creek. The railroad bridge over the Sespe was washed away.
At 11:56 pm on the night of March 12, 1928, the St. Francis Dam, just east of what is now Santa Clarita failed suddenly sending 12 billion gallons of water down the Santa Clara River. It is believed it failed do to improper engineering and construction. Over 400 people are known to have been killed including several people living in the Bardsdale area. The City of Los Angeles, who had built the dam to provided a water supply for the city, took full responsibility, compensating survivors, families and property owners. The Bardsdale Bridge over the Santa Clara River was destroyed but was quickly rebuilt, reopening in January of 1929.
Barely a decade later, another flood, this time due to Mother Nature again took out the Bardsdale Bridge. The CCC rebuilt the bridge. In the meantime residents were hoisted across the river on a two man cable car. The same flood took out the Telegraph Road bridge over the Sespe as well as the railroad bridge over the east channel of the Sespe.
Additional flooding occurred in 1969 when levee broke on the Sespe Creek and water flowed into Shiells park and the surrounding orchards. in 1978 the Sespe again flooded. The highway bridge again washed out and 5 to 8 feet of water flooded the Los Serennos tract on the west side of Fillmore.
In 2005, heavy rains and early snow melt caused the Santa Clara River to rage. Mud slides on Highway 126 east of Piru and on Highway 23 over Grimes Canyon closed those routes. High water closed Highway 126 west of Fillmore so access to the town was cut off for several days.
Earthquakes have been the most devastating disasters Fillmore has experienced. The 1952 Tehachapi quake caused minor damage to local businesses, but because of damage to railroad tracks elsewhere, trains were once again routed through Fillmore.
On February 9, 1971, a 6.3 earthquake struck the Sylmar area, it also struck Fillmore.several businesses on Central avenue including Shirley's Clothing Store and Brigg's Hardware suffered major damage.
The 1971 quake, however, was a pale prelude to what Fillmore experienced from the 1994 Northridge Quake. Scores of homes were damaged or destroyed and the main business area along Central Avenue and Main Street was virtually destroyed. It took several years to rebuild and vacant lots still sit are reminders of the event.