Update 7/6, evening, cautiously optimistic

Here are the notes from tonight’s community meeting:

7/6 9pm: Tonight’s Meeting
July 6, 2008 by thebirdsings

Notes from tonight:

From Mike Dietrich, Incident Commander:

* It was a great day!
* We began backfiring south of Palo Colorado Canyon towards Bixby Canyon. They intend to continue the burning and get it to the Old Coast Highway tonight.
* Fire made it to the boy scout camp and the fire line held. The camp is secure.
* We’re very close to getting the northern line to the Little Sur River.
* There was a little bit of burning inside Big Sur today. Crews are looking at trees that are a hazard and mopping up hot spots along the highway.
* The line is holding at Dolan Ridge. Dolan had seven residences at risk – teams led the fire down around them and they pulled off a tremendous save. Everyone and everything is safe.
* Plans for tomorrow and the next couple days: continue mopping up inside Big Sur and securing the area. Working Bottchers Gap to Dani Ridge tomorrow – if this is successful we’ll be able to close the door on the Palo Colorado threat.
* Next piece (2-3 days out) is to begin burning along the old Marble Cone line at the north end of the fire. The DC-10 and the Martin Mars (Super Scooper) are working there.
* Current strategy with limited resources is to box things out, work in specific areas then move on to the next hot spot.

From Frank:

* There was a flare up on Partington today, an area we thought was cooled down. It was on the south slope just below one of the houses that had been saved and the fire wanted to move west, which would be a bad thing. A Brigade engine jumped on it and knocked it down while it was easily manageable. (Lots of clapping.)
* The Brigade finished their gelling operation and have gelled 54 structures.
* Re-entry is now at the top of the list and in the planning phase. There is a member of the OES (Office of Emergency Services) team from Monterey County working with Frank on this. “We are working on the first phase that will get us the ability to do infrastructure repair and make it safe for residents to return. The fire is still cooking out there and there are lots of hot spots that will need to be taken into consideration as we start fixing things (laying plastic pipe for instance, would melt right now if it was laid down in some places.) The sheriff is extremely anxious to be as collaborative as he can possibly be with us in this process.” This planning will take everything into consideration, including the possibility of returns for in-and-out visits (get stuff, insurance specs), and those who are in areas that have not burned or lost infrastructure.
* No more structures have been lost.

Q&A Answers:

* Frank: There have been two phases of the mandatory evacuation. The first phase gave residents an option to sign a waiver and stay. When the fire got more intense, the sheriff’s office upgraded the evacuation to say that anyone who stayed was subject to arrest. The sheriff’s have been working with us to interpret this for the benefit of the community. I recognize that the evacuation zone has the appearance now of being a “prison” of sorts to people who have stayed. But this is not the intention and the people who have stayed have been extremely cooperative with us – so given the circumstances, tomorrow will be another day and we’ll look at all the options available.
* Gel questions: Ask questions or come get a Q&A sheet on the gel from Sharon Torrence. (Will post this sheet on the SurFire2008.org site in the Notices section tomorrow.)
* Frank: Residents who are still in Big Sur: If there’s a flare-up that’s a true threat and it’s after hours, please call 911. Please use discretion. We’ve been called out for a couple stumps in burned out areas that were not a threat and we have limited resources.
* Mike: There will be a substantial heating and drying weather pattern coming in, moderate offshore flow Monday-Wed. with the potential for thunderstorms (and lightning) Thursday and Friday.
* Frank: Houses are gelled on Pfeiffer and things are looking very good there.
* Mike: Near Tassajara the fire has only moved about ¼ mile today and there is air support to keep it moving as slowly as possible toward the Tassajara area.
* Backburning did not happen as planned off the highway near Esalen today, but they hope to begin tonight if the conditions are right – going from Anderson Canyon south to Hot Springs Canyon.
* We have the DC-10 now but it could be moved down to the Gap fire. The super scooper will stay here in the area to use as we need.
* Not every residential area will be represented at tomorrow’s re-entry meeting. We’re doing a scaled down group of reps, including three members of the community.

Rob, a rep from the OES was at the meeting and spoke about plans for re-entry. I took lots of notes on this too, but am clarifying and checking info with him again before I post that. It will be posted tomorrow.

7/6 mid-day updates

There are four articles, stories, updates, which might be worth your time. There are:

There is a great story at: http://xasauantoday.wordpress.com/2008/07/05/the-last-time/
about the Molera Wildfire in 1972. A first hand account complete with photographs. Well worth a few minutes of your time. I will be seeing if I can link it here, but otherwise, just go to xasauantoday.wordpress.com


AM UPDATE from Esalen at: http://www.esalen.org/home/gordon.html

Backburning the east side of the highway today, before the predicted weather change.


AM UPDATE from xasauantoday:

Overnight thermal imaging found heat only along the north edge of the fire. The fire is still burning in other places, of course, but the north appears to be where most of the action was last night. Heat detections were recorded in the canyon between Pico Blanco and Mescal Ridge, along the road between Bottcher’s Gap and the Scout Camp (which could be an error) and, most extensively, in the Comings Creek watershed below Pat Spring.

Lastly, Connie McCoy’s guest commentary in today’s Herald is reproduced in full here:

Heartlessness hurts fire-weary residents
Guest commentary
Article Last Updated: 07/06/2008 01:41:25 AM PDT

Our experience in Big Sur since lightning touched down in Grimes Canyon has been a devastating thing. We have been harassed by an impersonal pervasive force that seems to be everywhere, limiting our movements, appearing unexpectedly and unwelcome,

Unfortunately, I’m referring not only to the Basin Complex Fire, but to the mindless, arbitrary authority residents in Big Sur have been subjected to since the fire began. I live just outside the current restricted area on the south coast. What I and others have experienced in the counterfeit name of safety and welfare angers and saddens me. Indiscriminate decisions have been made affecting many lives adversely, perhaps more so than the fire itself.

The arbitrary “hard” closure of Highway 1 has cut us off from essential services, our livelihoods and loved ones. Accounts of ill treatment by authorities abound. We look over our shoulders, wondering if we’ll be apprehended when we venture down the highway to check on neighbors and catch up on the news or maybe get a few supplies before sneaking back to our homes.

Residents have been chased up ridge roads and forced to hide when they just want to grab a few things from their homes like family photographs and records.

Responsible community leaders’ intelligent input and attempts at intervention based on years of living in Big Sur have been met with stonewalling and a one-size-fits-all mentality when the need for flexibility and mindful listening are paramount, particularly for those who are in charge but who are unfamiliar with the area. It’s well documented that at least one high-ranking, non-local official conducting a community meeting had only a vague idea of the locations he was referring to when presenting his fire report.

Instead of exemplifying a reassuring, calming demeanor, officials have at times disseminated incendiary, irresponsible, misrepresentation of danger (particularly when authorities reported erroneously that the fire had jumped to the west side of Highway 1) causing terrified residents to flee prematurely, leaving behind essential items and undone protective structure measures—with tragic results.

Residents anxious to return to homes no longer endangered have been denied access and threatened. Access to miles of highway with little or no fire activity has been inexplicably barred. A resident driving within the closure area but many miles south of the fire was threatened with arrest when attempting to fulfill job responsibilities near home. Additionally, driving restrictions have caused businesses to close when they could otherwise be serving local needs.

Who is responsible for this unproductive heavy-handedness? I hope it’s someone I can vote against when re-election comes up. Is it Incident Command? Is it the Sheriff’s Department? When questioned about the source of policies we’ve been forced to live under, Incident Command and the Sheriff’s Department seem to recognize the egregious effects of the decisions by pointing the finger at one another instead of taking credit.

The heartless nature of the fire is expected, but that of the authorities is heartbreaking.

Connie McCoy, who has taught and worked in the hospitality industry, lives in the Pacific Valley area. She can be reached at conicoy@earthlink.net.

Next 2 days critical!!

I urge you to read the blog on http://www.surfire2008.org or the reproduction of same below. A report about tonight’s (7/5) community meeting includes a correction about firefighters being up on Apple Pie Ridge, and news regarding today’s fight, and the concerns they face tonight and tomorrow. I wish I had been there, as this appears to be the most HONEST meeting yet. There is much information in this summary of the meeting, not all good, but all informative.

On Dolan Creek, firefighters were fighting the fire on the highway, four homes were threatened and saved.

These firefighters are fighting with their lives for our lives, and when you read the summary of what this monster did today, on all fronts, you may want to cry, but I strongly urge you to read it.

Tonight, the battle continues to stop this monster. Tonight, I have no battle left in me. I, too, must regenerate. But I also need to remind myself that during this time of the monster, I must remember we are all anxious, worried, and fearful. And that during this time, it is more important than ever to be kind to one another.


I decided to reproduce the entire summary here, so it will be available, and saved.

From IC Commander Mike Dietrich:

* Correction: There were not fire fighters up at Apple Pie at the time of the incident yesterday. Apologies for the mis-information – it is now a law enforcement issue.
* The fire was very active at the north end today and it moved about a mile up into Puerto Suelo Creek. It is moving toward Little Sur drainage, and has not crossed over the little part of the drainage.
* There are burning operations happening along the Old Coast Highway – they (optimistically) hope to make it up to the Little Sur River by tonight.
* Fire is down to Highway One between the Pfeiffer turnout and the post office/ deli area. Firefighting efforts saved the Ventana Inn and the River’s property in a substantial fire fight.
* Crews continue to work areas between east Molera and Captain Cooper road – crews are working to secure the fire perimeter there with backburns. Crews worked a 24hr. shift yesterday to meet that objective and this area is stable.
* Power was turned off at our request yesterday and we asked it to be turned back on today to save food that’s in refrigeration, etc. The power will stay on unless the fire burns through or destroys power lines. We may have to de-energize specific areas if crews are taking down trees near lines.
* The line is holding at the southern line – crews were working there today near the highway.
* Next two days are key days and we’re going to be really focused.
* The fire burned around 4 homes in Dolan Creek – all of the structures are safe and intact.
* A DC-10 (12,000 gallon capacity tank) dropped on the north line, tying the line up into the Little Sur area and Boettcher’s Gap. We are working to secure the northwest corner of the fire.
* We’re improving the line at the northeastern corner – waiting for the weather conditions to be right to tie the line into the Indians fire.
* There is still a threat at the fire line (the highway) in the valley and the intention is to open up access there are as soon as that line is fully stabilized.
* We’re getting a boat with a radio repeater down at the southern end to improve communications for the firefighters down there.

From Frank:

* Frank and Martha’s role has been to communicate needs from the community to the IC.
* The activity right down in the valley has been upsetting – the whole face of the mountain now has fire – some by nature, some by backburns.
* Spent time around Don McQueen’s and Blaze Engineering today and a great coopertive effort between the residents there and the firefighters is happening. Tactics there have been successful. Gel was applied to buildings on the east side and in the state park where the fire is getting close to the residences.
* It will be extremely important to work out the re-entry. Even after the fire is gone the area will be hot and we need to think through how the infrastructure rebuild will happen. Infrastructure will have to be working before we can let people back in.
* Bring questions and concerns to Frank, Martha or Jonathan Farrington so we can take them to the IC.

Answers given during the Q&A:

* Mike: The weather change that will be happening is pushing us to ensure the western containment line will hold. There is also potential for more lightning over the weekend.
* Frank: There are a whole array of contingencies if the fire jumps the highway and we won’t get into all of those tonight.
* Frank: The issue of re-supplying people who have stayed is difficult and constantly in mind. We don’t know how we’re going to do it, and we have the IC’s ear many times a day to figure out a way. Anything that complicates fighting the fire is a lower priority, especially with the unfavorable upcoming weather pattern. The road is impassable right now, so even a pass system is not an option. We cannot have people on the Highway right now. Smoke and visibility is an issue as well as fire. We’re looking for a phased approach where we can let people into the safer areas first. Time estimate: Not days, but not weeks.
* Frank: There’s a fire line that Tevye is cutting with a dozer from Apple Pie all the way across Pheager and Juan Higuera down across from Fernwood – it’s about 500 ft. above the highway and we expect to be able to hold that line. We don’t expect to see fire directly across from Fernwood and that area.
* Frank: There’s no fire below Paul Smith’s house and we don’t expect to see it there. It’s being watched constantly.
* Mike: At the southern perimeter the fire is above Big Creek and within ½ mile of the forest boundary. This is a fire fight and we’re holding steady. We have aircraft working in this area and it’s slow going.
* Frank: Burns Creek, Buck Creek and Hot Springs Canyon – they burned very rapidly yesterday down to the highway, burning into Anderson Canyon and didn’t cross under the bridge. Right now it’s staying pretty quiet and considered a fairly stable situation.
* Frank: If people are still in Big Sur and want to leave they will have no problem leaving – this is encouraged. The sheriff is enforcing the law which is to make the area safe for fire fighting and it is appropriate. On the ground the deputies are showing compassion in administering the policy.
* Mike: Crews have cut fireline near the bridge at Little Sur drainage and there is a crew strategy to hold the fire there.
* The Hill Ranch has been working very closely with the IC team – the cows are fine.
* Frank: Restoring the water will be done in phases, we hope it will be done by local teams who know the area best and we hope to get federal support in financing this.
* Frank: Captain Cooper is considered a save – it’s black all around

Blessed Be, StationKATE