Pleistocene areas of red sediments and carbonized vegetation on the Northern Channel Islands, California, have in the past been interpreted as caused by fires of either natural or human origin. Some are associated with darkened mammoth and bird fossils, and these fossils have been considered as having been burned by early man. Reevaluation of these so-called “fire areas” indicates that the above phenomena are the result of low-temperature (≤100°C), nonheating processes occurring in groundwater. Evidence for this conclusion is derived from field observations on fossil carbonized vegetation, and the geology of the areas. Additional evidence derives from experiments on the red sediments and fossil wood, X-ray diffraction analyses, magnetic analyses, studies on the clay minerals smectite and illite, and the demonstration that fossil mammoth bone contains sufficient Fe and Mn to account for their discoloration. Much of the carbonization of vegetation probably occurred in water rather than in fire. Radiocarbon dates from the islands will probably need to be reevaluated. These data provide evidence contrary to the concept of the occurrence of significant fires, either natural or set by early man, on the Northern Channel Islands.