VIGNETTE > The Great Fire of 1929

View from Sausalito (Harold R. Henry)

View from Sausalito (Harold R. Henry)


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On an unusually hot day, July 2, 1929, a column of smoke was reported at 2:45 pm near the Garden of Allah, home of Ralston White on El Capitan Ave. Although it was not far from the Mountain Railroad, the cause of the fire was never definitely established. Mill Valley’s volunteer firemen responded to fight the fire. A call for help was sent to neighboring towns. Frank Canepa who had arrived by truck with a load of fruits and vegetables for his grocery on Throckmorton Ave. was pressed into firefighting duties. Mill Valley teenagers Mary Bettencourt and Tony Brabo had eloped to Alameda. They were married on July 3rd. Their view of the conflagration across the bay on Mt. Tamalpais and Mill Valley made them fearful for the fate of the Bettencourt family’s small farm on Reed Street. Although a change in wind direction saved the business district, the fire burned for three days on 2500 acres and destroyed 117 homes. In 2011, Mary and Tony Brabo celebrated their 82nd wedding anniversary. They died shortly thereafter, Tony at age 99 followed by Mary at age 100. Mary had lived her entire life on the small Bettencourt farm.