Milepost #954

December 19, 2019

By Ken Brafman, Image from Wayback Machine

LIFELINE FOR THE MOUNTAIN COMMUNITY: While Facebook™ was first offered for use to the public in late 2006, there was a predecessor which was dedicated to the San Bernardino Mountain residents called Developed by Scott Straley and Dave Henderson the website was launched by Straley in late summer 2003 as a community information hub and casual social network. When the Old Fire started in late October 2003 took on a much more vital role, becoming a main conduit for the dissemination of important information and communication. At the peak of the crisis this local site drew up to 500,000 daily page views, with 25,000 unique visitors. Los Angeles television news agencies tend to lack knowledge of mountain geography and other unique aspects of this area of Southern California. Television news coverage was practically non-stop at the time but often contained incorrect or misleading information. For example, one LA station showed a screen image entirely filled with flames, and a caption reading, “Crestline Burning”; when the actual location was Cedar Glen. was able to give timely reports, obtained first-hand. Intrepid souls who defied evacuation orders created a means by which residents could learn whether their homes, neighborhoods and/or businesses were still standing. Evacuees would post their addresses and one of these holdouts would check the status of the property and reply. In the coming weeks and months, the site would report on rebuilding progress. Users often posted road conditions and various types of hazards. News of the continued fates of the hard-hit communities was shared. The sleepy little website designed for casual use became our most important communication tool in this time of crisis. It fostered friendships, hosted heated debates, announced important events and ultimately brought our mountain people closer together. After a dozen years of service faded away, succumbing to increasing costs and the steady migration of users to Facebook™ and other venues. Many remember it as a lifeline and comfort during desperate times. It made an impact.

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