Fires are no stranger to the Great Republic of Rough and Ready. As the town developed, miners built their shacks and cabins with no particular order. Often cabins would butt up to their neighbors’ cabin.
It was June 28, 1853 that the first fire struck the camp of Rough and Ready. It is reported to have started when a candle was left too close to a canvas wall. The fire burnt the entire camp. The camp, with the help of the neighboring camps, was immediately rebuilt to fulfill the needs of the thousands of miners in the area. The new town was laid out in two streets and was bigger and better than before. As reported in the Grass Valley National of November 4, 1953 “Phoenix like, she has arisen from her ashes and at this time presents a finer appearance than at any former period. The buildings erected are of a more substantial character, and the businessmen of the town, although they suffered severely by the fire, are preparing to do a large business this week.”
The second fire occurred in 1859. Most of the towns’ 300 buildings burned to the ground. Many of the miners moved on. Some moved on to the Silver mines in Nevada. In spite of these adversities, Rough and Ready did not “ghost” because in addition to its original golden riches it had a strategic location. It was in the best natural opening to the gold country and it had a mild climate. The California Trail ran through the town as travelers traveled between Nevada and the Central Valley of California.
On September 11, 1988, the 49er fire broke out in North San Juan. It burnt south into Penn Valley and into Rough and Ready. This time, the downtown was saved from this 35,300 acre fire. After four days of the fire burning, crews were able to contain the blaze. By the end, 144 homes and 219 other structures were either destroyed or damaged.
On August 7, 1994, the 500-acre Trauner fire started in the downtown area of Rough and Ready when an oak branch struck a 21,000-volt power line. It burned northward towards North San Juan, but was stopped before the fire reached Bitney Springs Road. The fire burned 12 homes and 22 other structures.
On Sunday, Oct 8, 2017, the 821 acre Lobo Fire started and caused the evacuation of an estimated 8,000 residents of Rough and Ready and Lake Wildwood.