Chalk Fire, Night 4: Air Show

There were several planes and a spotter up this afternoon. I wish I could post them all, but I need some sleep. I chose this series, as i had the most sequential shots of this run. It was like watching the most orchestrated ballet. It was visual poetry. You pilots put on quite a show. I am grateful I was provided a front row seat. Thank you!!

I got a call today, Thursday, October 2, 2008 from Philip Darnell, who runs these guys out of Paso Robles, who informed me that the gutsy pilot in T-25 is Bill Waldman. What a treat I had, Bill!! Thank you. Also running the same line, doing the same thing in T-23 was another gutsy pilot, Brent Connors. Wow!!

I also got some shots of you guys yesterday laying down line back at McKern Rd. You probably saw me standing up in the bed of a Toyota Pick-up truck, taking pics and waiving? That was me.

Chalk Fire, Day 4

7:00 am – Early morning visual. Smoke plumes quite visible, much more so than yesterday morning, more like what I saw during the day, so it appears the Chalk Fire was active last night, but don’t know the details. You can compare this morning’s plume with yesterday morning’s plume, in Day 3. Last truck through last night was midnight. First one through this am, 6:30. Also, got a call from a former student of mine. Grew up down here, knows everyone and has hiked these hills all his life. Left a message for his dad, Chicago Kid, which I will deliver when I see him.

This morning’s plume.

Betty did not send her usual evening update, last night, which is worrisome. Hopefully, I will hear from her today.

Inciweb should be publishing around 7:30 am. We’ll see what they have to say, but of course, it has not been particularly accurate re estimated acreage. Weather is no wind, 60’s and clear. And so, day 4 begins…

8:00 am – We are up to 1100 personnel on this fire. YAY!! Next 12 hours, it is expected to move south. 11 people advised to evacuate in Dempsey Flat area, and Beiar Property. Oh, and Dempsey Flats is where my friend and reporter, Betty, lives.

BSVFB member just came through and informed me that the fire crossed Mill Creek and is coming up on the houses. It is between JP and Ted’s places and is getting closer to Rocky & Geri, everyone over there is in danger.

8:45 am – Keith just came screaming through to go to Rocky & Geri’s. This from their daughter, Shelagh, an email she sent her brother:

chatting with mom at 7:40. They are still at the house. The fire is running up the canyon now. JP is gelling his house right now and Ted managed to save his last night (YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!) Ted and Surge are holding the line at the Knock but the fire is in our spring and below us, at Al’s, and to the north side, and it’s below Peter’s trailer to the west.

Someone (brigade, forest service?) is bringing foil to wrap the house up later this morning, which is really good news, too. They are also going to start gelling as soon as the sun rises (around 9 or 10) if the winds shift. No one is leaving unless they are forced to but it probably won’t come to that. New estimates are that the fire will come through our place today but not sure when. It’s still creeping. There is lots of constant communication between our place and the Knock.

Bob is heading up from the coast to refuel Volunteer engines, including the one at our house. He is bringing another leaf blower up from Pt 16 and they’re going to back burn in front of the house this morning. Not sure how much back burning they’ve done already…

They are smoking a LOT of cigarettes (this seems to be my mission up here in Seattle… that and cookies!) and Warren was able to get over the ridge on his ATV last night and bring in supplies. I’m not sure whether you can get in through Nacimiento but I know the Plaskett route is passable and Kate has her gate open.

That’s all I know. I’ll send you more later. Hope you’re doing okay out there.


REMINDER: I have NOT confirmed that Ted’s house is saved. In fact, the BSVFB member told me the fire was BETWEEN JP and Ted.

9:00 am – This just shot of Alm’s Ridge. You can see the fire spotters and trucks on the right. All the places that “she” (Shelagh) reports on in her email are just over that ridge. Busy day.

9:45 am – just confirmed w/ LPNF ff, no homes lost. Oh, and Lycia, I sent a message to the newlywed on TNF, that his wife says “hi!” (I figured out what the “T” stood for — duh!)

10:30 am – Here’s a better, and current, shot of the plumes behind Alm’s Ridge. Look at all the red and green on the ridge!! Lots of air support this am, too, although I haven’t seen the DC-10, yet. It came in very late, yesterday, too. But boy those bombers are workin’ it!!

For those of you not familiar with the area, that is Cone Peak standing tall in the background.

11:00 am – significant increase in plumes. It is taking a run. Photos to follow.

JUST received this from Wild Cattle: “Thanks Kate for the updates. It really helps. The support we are getting is unheard of in this area….very grateful that it is happening.”

Confirmed with a local who spent the night at the Noc that the fire burned around Ted’s place. Also confirmed that Betty is fine. This new run was happening as the local was arriving, and he did not know about it, as he was driving away from the area. He watched from my deck. The three photos above were taken back by the launch road on my property.

Today is critical. I’ll be taking a field trip at my usual time (noon). I’m going to leave a little early, and take a little longer, to see how far I can get, and what I can see. I will be back around 1:30 or so. I have a friend bringing me more gas and those nasty cigarettes that I seem to be going through at a record rate. Stress?? What’s that?? So, everybody reading today, particularly if you find yourself “glued” to my reports, take a breath. Get something to eat and take care of yourselves — particularly if you have friends or family whose houses are threatened, or if you have loved ones on this fire. Remember what Wild Cattle said, we have unheard of support for this area. They are providing a record number of assets for this small mountain community. We are very, very fortunate.

1:30 pm – I am back from my field trip. Before I get into my more factual reporting, I would like to offer an emotional one. Seeing the huge plumes and knowing I was driving into them, was quite eerie. For several miles, I did not see a single human being, except through the telephoto lens, at a long distance from me. The road I was traveling was desolate, not just in terms of human sightings, but also in terms of the dozer work done yesterday. I was not frightened, or even anxious, as I knew I would run into a roadblock if I got too close to the action. But there was an aloneness I rarely feel even when I am alone.

Now for the factual account: Not as much action on the South Coast Ridge Rd. today as there was yesterday. The “run” I witnessed is on the east side of SC Ridge Rd. near Rocky & Geri, who are in the most immediate danger, but there is lots of support for them at their house, so we will be keeping them in our thoughts all day.

The USFS would not let me up Alms Ridge this afternoon. Too many men, equipment, dozers, and many bombers making runs. They are painting the entire Prewitt Ridge with fire retardant, from the top to the ocean. Seems to me the DC-10 could lay down a line like that in just one or two runs. They are also putting in a dozer line on the east, on a ridge that comes off the south side of McKern Rd. right at SC Ridge Rd., which is good news for me. However, no work has been done between McKern and Plaskett.

Wild Cattle had this to say, just a short while ago: “All is good here. No fire visible, just smoke coming out of the Noc. We are preparing for it to come through. My last visitors, 2 guys a couple of hours ago, said the best thing for me is to stay put….I am in a good position if it comes from the top…If it comes up the canyon I am not so good…..I figure we may have 24 hours.”

I did take photos and will post a few shortly.

3:30 pm – Sorry, a friend came up to visit and bring me supplies to support my blogging efforts, and she and I got distracted by the great air show happening on Prewitt Ridge. The best seat in the house was on my deck. Wow!! Laying down some red!! More photos, but first I’ll start with the ones from my “field trip.”

This is the dozer work going on on the ridge which comes off of the intersection of McKern & South Coast Ridge Rd. The one with the black top is from Cachagua Fire, Skee Stanley’s crew!! You guys are awesome!!

I’m having trouble uploading my photos, so bear with me, I will get them up just as soon as I can.

This is another view, taken about an hour later of this morning’s run. It is to the east of SC Ridge Rd, I have heard it placed in the general area of the pond near Rocky & Geri’s gate, but have not confirmed that. I DID confirm that it was part of the main fire, not a burn out operation. This shot was taken from Plaskett Ridge Rd. before it hooks up with SC Ridge Rd.

This is part of a hand crew working Alm’s Ridge Rd. at the intersection with SC Ridge Rd. There were hand crews up Alm’s Ridge Rd. as far as I could see.

4:10 pm – As to the firefighter injury, I just got official word that the injury was minor. It was either a rolling branch, or falling branch, but the firefighter was evaluated by the medical team, and as far as USFS knows, is back on the job. Good news. No other injuries reported. So, all your loved ones are still okay.

Other immediate news: the plumes visible from my place are extending further south than they were earlier today. Two USFS trucks with smaller crews (5-6?) just came through my yard. Packs tossed into the beds of the trucks. Until now I have not seen any real “crews” come in this way. It has been the bosses, a scout, dozer supervisor, those types. Not the real-on-the-ground hand crews that I just saw.

Here is one from the air show this afternoon. It was unbelievable to watch, and even better to photograph. These guys are one of a kind — really gutsy. My father flew (crop dusters, at one point), my first husband flew, I was a unicom operator. Pilots, just like firefighters, are a breed apart. It is no wonder they come together like this. If anyone reads this and knows the pilot. Tell him or her, I had a great afternoon watching the best show on the coast!!

Isn’t that beautiful?? I have a whole series, from start to end of drop, and I will upload them tonight in their own post.

Bombers still bombing, but I cannot tell where. Going for a look. I cannot be sure, but it appears they may be bombing McKern in anticipation. A friend on the other side of the Santa Lucias called this evening, and he has a clear view of the top. From his perspective, McKern road sits at 12 o’clock. The fire, sits at 2 o’clock. However, he is more worried that the fire, which is close to the top of Alm’s ridge is going to hit the top some time tonight. I will be keeping my eyes open, that is for sure!!

6:45 pm – here is an update on Rocky & Geri I got from Shelagh around 5 pm. I thought I had posted it, but don’t see it here. “Hi Kate, Thanks for the posts! I just talked to Bob Milton, who was up at our place a couple hours ago, and he reported that the fire had burned through our spring and up the hill toward the Coast Ridge Road from the house, missing our house! I talked to him around 5:00 pm but he said that report was a couple hours old but our house was still there when he looked back from the summit. Also, he reported that the house (Baird) had been wrapped in fire blankets, so there they had to take solar panels, etc, down, which is why Kelson and I have been unable to get in touch with them. This is very relieving news for the time being! Weird stressing about your parents… 🙂 Anyway, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the posts and the pictures and all the good wishes. Big Sur is awesome!!! What an amazing community we have! Thanks again! Love she”

I spoke with a LPNF official who was on site all day today, and he informed me the fire is everywhere. It is spreading down N-F Rd. on both sides toward H-L. It is spreading down N-F Rd. on both sides towards the coast. It is on both sides of S.C. Ridge Rd. spreading towards Alm’s Ridge. He also informed me that he believes a burn out operation may be planned for the east side of SC Ridge Rd, from Alm’s Ridge to McKern. But organizations, like small rural communities, are prone to rumors, too. So, I wouldn’t bet on it until it is official.

8:30 pm – Okay, I really, really AM going to post that series of bombing runs tonight, but first some “official” updates from some “unofficial” sources:

First: Current acreage – 3,453 acres & 8% containment.
The winds have transitioned and are now from the NE, this should assist in securing the fire’s western perimeter. Crews made good progress in cutting direct on the northwest corner of the fire near Nasciemento & Cone Peak Roads. If conditions are favorable they will attempt some burnout tonight.”

And here is the official inciweb report, in pertinent part, as the acreage and containment are as stated above:
The fire became active earlier today than on previous days. Crews constructed and improved control lines all day. Burning out operations are occurring only when necessary and when crews feel the conditions are favorable. The fire has the potential to move extremely quickly and erratically tonight. Crews and dozers will continue to construct and improve lines tonight where possible and provide structure protection in the Dempsey Flat area. Firefighter and public safety will remain the highest priority.

An Evacuation Warning is in effect for the immediate fire area south of Chalk Peak and South Coast Ridge Road. This warning is given for affected areas where there is imminent threat to life and property. Persons who receive this notice should evacuate in accordance with the direction of the deputies on scene. Approximately 7 homes, the Forest Service Nacimiento Fire Station, and 4 outbuildings are within this Evacuation Warning area.
An Evacuation Watch is in place for the Lucia, Mill Creek, Hare Creek and Limekiln State Park. This order is for areas where a threat to life and property exists. Persons issued this notice are not required to evacuate but should be prepared to evacuate should an Evacuation Warning be issued.

Firefox is right, our BSVFB is doing a TREMENDOUS job!!! They are the ones who probably saved Rocky & Geri’s house today. They deserve all the support we can provide. I have spoken to many volunteers over the past 4 days and honor each and every one!

9:30 pm – just got off the phone with PIO Rich (sorry, can’t remember last name). I was very happy with the sharing of information. We are both on information overload, so I don’t want to misquote him, but the sharing was great. Neither of us was sure about where the late bombings or “laying down of retardant” was occurring, so we compared notes. We spoke of possible burn outs tonight, and as he explained, it is such a changing situation, it is hard to predict. He felt that tonight would primarily be in relationship to structure protection, but that if a fire approached a line, like the one made at McKern road today, too fast or too hot, then a burn out would have to occur to protect the line. I really felt as if we were having a conversation, rather than I was being fed the “party line.” Thanks, Rich. I’d love to meet you!

I’ll post more when I know more. No more tonight. I am putting up the new post with the bombing run.

Chalk Fire, Night 3

So, at 6 pm, the super tanker flew over me. I could hear him coming. I scrambled to get my camera, which was still connected to my computer, downloading photos, I quickly disconnected it, ran outside, aimed, and he flew below the height of my trailer. I rapidly walked to the front, and shot off a quick one, only to have it focus on the pine trees, and not the plane. Damn. I missed it. Oh well, there is always tomorrow!!

I still have a few shots from my field trip today, that I would like to share, so I will upload a few more, before the sun sets. Netflix arrived via my ex who brought me cigarettes, gas, and milk, so I will be taking the evening off, I think, to watch movies. 😉

Buddies, helping one another out.

What bothers me about this shot is that this is toward the bottom of the Mill Creek drainage, and the fire is progressing downhill, apparently. I am far from an expert, a mere “C” student (if that) in fire behavior, but judging on the barren hillside ABOVE these flames, I would say it is moving downhill, toward the creek.

To all the worried mothers and fathers out there, whose sons and daughters are on the fire line (and I know there is at least one who is reading this blog) I think I can speak, gratefully, for the entire South Coast of Big Sur in thanking you for supporting their decision to enter this difficult and dangerous work. These young men and women are dedicated, hard-working, and service-oriented people who may never even know those whose property they defend; whose lives they have touched. But we do. And we honor you. We thank you for who you are and what you do.

I’m multi-tasking, watching a movie, while paying attention to fire info. Here’s tonight’s release from the USFS. I reproduced the entire public release here:

Fire Stats

Acres burned: 1708 acres
Fireline to build: approximately 9 miles
Date started: 9/27/08
Percent contained: 5%
Expected containment: None
Injuries: 1
Structures threatened: 12
Structures destroyed: 0


Crews: 31
Engines: 13
Helicopters: 9
Air Tankers: 8
Dozers: 9
Total Personnel Assigned: 830
Suppression cost to date: $1.2 mil

During the evening of Saturday, September 27, a fire was reported in the vicinity of Chalk Peak and the South Coast Ridge Road in the Monterey County portion of Los Padres National Forest. Initial response was by the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Department, Fort Hunter Liggett Fire Department, CalFire, and the U.S. Forest Service. On Sunday, a Type 2 Incident Management Team was ordered to manage the Chalk Fire; the team took command of the fire at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, September 29.

Current Status: The fire continued to be very active today with spotting and intense uphill runs. Crews and dozers worked through the day constructing control lines. The fire has high potential to move quickly and erratically tonight. Crews tonight will continue to construct hand line where possible. Fire fighter and public safety is the highest priority.

Evacuations: The Monterey County Sheriff’s Department has issued a Mandatory Evacuation Order for the immediate fire area south of Chalk Peak and South Coast Ridge Road. Approximately 7 homes, 1 commercial property and 4 outbuildings are within the evacuation area. An Evacuation Advisory is in place for Lucia, Mill Creek, Hare Creek and Limekiln State Park. The advisory warns residents to be prepared to evacuate should an order be issued.

SPCA for Monterey County Disaster Response Team is available to assist residents with emergency animal evacuations. Please contact The SPCA at 373-2631 or at 646-5534 (after hours) for information or assistance with evacuating pets and livestock. For disaster preparedness information and a listing of pet-friendly hotels and motels in the area, visit

Highway, Road and Area Closures: Highway 1 is open, but Nacimiento-Fergusson Road and South Coast Ridge Road are closed.

Weather: A cooling trend will continue through the first half of the week with a deeper marine layer. Temperature: 78-84 degrees; relative humidity: 15-25%; winds: southwest 4-8 mph; marine layer to
1500 ft.

Agencies: U.S. Forest Service and other cooperators under Incident Commander Jim Smith (USFS), of Central Coast Interagency Incident Management Team 7. The Incident Command Post is at Ft. Hunter Liggett. Media access to Fort Hunter Liggett is restricted. Contact the Goleta Fire Information Center for assistance.

Chalk Fire, Day 3

NEWS FLASH!!! Kevin, of the H-L Fire Dept. just stopped to talk to me. He has three dozers coming in from the bottom of Plaskett to put in a line!! They’ll be running the dozer line down as they did in the Wild Fire of 1996 and the Plaskett II fire of 2000. Kevin is hiking the line. They are still hoping to stop it at Prewitt, but this is the back up. Kevin also informs me that they will punch all the way through to South Coast Ridge Rd., so my road will be graded!! As anyone who has driven it lately knows, THAT is good news!!

Chicago Kid came through to check on me around midnight. He had heard about the guys in the truck by my back gate, and someone had heard on the scanner that the truck was reported stolen, and he wanted to make sure I was okay. The jungle drums of rumor work better on the South Coast than anywhere else in Big Sur. I’ve got an email out to USFS law enforcement to confirm or deny that. Let you know if I hear back.

Anyway, I had parked in the middle of the road to prevent the truck from coming through here, but CK convinced me that confronting them, alone, in the middle of the night, if they DID decide to come through here, was probably NOT a good idea. Considering I left my 4 dogs and my gun inside when I came out to see who was trying to get through, I agreed with him, and moved my truck.

7:00 am – Initial visual report: Temps in the 60’s, no wind, fog bank quite high, and smoke is “laying down.” Looking g-o-o-d!! Mother Nature seems to be helping us out this morning.

7:30 am – report from Betty: “good morning, no action yet. Fire has moved to the south and downhill in the canyon, not yet to the creek. smoky”

Fifteen minutes later, I am hearing airplanes.

8:00 am – inciweb reports, in part: “Continue to hold and burn out the South Coast Ridge Road. Burn out dozer line constructed from Highway 1 from Prewitt Ridge west to Highway 1.”

9:00 am – no air support, so far today. The plane I heard earlier must have just been a spotter. Jim has a nice thermal posted at his site:
Jim suggested I take another look at the topo on Chalk Fire, Night 2. The “X” in particular. Is that the estimated point of origin? If so, our initial reports that it started between Apple Camp and Chalk Peak were in error. No confirmation re what the “X” represents. Click on it to view it larger.

It has been SOOO peaceful this morning, without the air support, without all the neighbors coming through. I’m torn between enjoying it and missing all the action and on-the-ground reports. Almost eerie quiet.

10:00 am – traffic has started back up, again. More investigative phone calls re the truck I saw. Fire moving south (towards me) but slowly. Here is the current plume, which is more toward the east than the plumes yesterday. Haven’t heard anything re burn out operation.

10:30 am – Still quiet, only one truck passed through, so far.

Will the REAL Apple Camp, please stand up?? Turns out that the “Apple Camp” listed on the topo has had another name historically. It is by the pond, but the long-time historical Apple Camp is north of Chalk Peak, where an old homestead used to be. Got its name because one of the old apple trees from the homestead survived, even though the old homestead did not. That is the approximate location of the “X” on the topo map. So, if the fire originated between THIS Apple Camp and Chalk Peak, it started further north than I thought. Getting it straight takes some effort. Still don’t know that the “X” is the origin of the fire, though. **JUST GOT CONFIRMATION FROM USFS. “X” MARKS THE POTENTIAL START OF ORIGIN!! (Note added later. I meant to say “Chalk” Peak, I thought, “Chalk” Peak, for some reason, typed Cone Peak. Sorry, brain fart. Thanks Barbara for pointing it out.)

YAY, air support is definitely back!! At least one plane. There’s more! And see NEWS FLASH at the top.

11:00 am- recent update for USFS is posted on inciweb, so I only include the critical info, and I do think it is critical:

Current Status: The fire continued to be very active last night with spotting and intense uphill runs on the northeast side. Crews worked through the night constructing control lines. The fire has a high potential to move extremely quickly and erratically and the terrain is very steep. Today crews will continue to construct hand line to keep the fire north of Prewitt Ridge, west of Del Venturi Road, south of the San Vicente Trail to San Antonio Trail and east of Highway 1. Crews will be supported by helicopters and air tankers.

2:30 pm – just got back from my field trip to Alm’s Ridge to check out the fire’s progress. LOTS of work going on on South Coast Ridge Rd. Looks like a war zone, which, in a way, it is. LOTS of men and equipment. I lost count of the number of dozers working on the west side of South Coast Ridge Rd. I took LOTS of photos, so I’ll spend the afternoon uploading them, so you can see for yourself what is happening over there. Turns out, I had better than Press Credentials. Whenever I introduced myself to the “bosses” – they already had my name, location, and phone number on their clip board. Dozers aren’t up here, yet, still working the Home Ridge.

That is Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. that cuts through the front of that ridge. The ridge top is painted red with retardant, which is only hinted at in this photo, but the fire is on both the west and east side of the ridge.

This is an example of the dozer work working on the west side of South Coast Ridge Rd. (I think it is actually a north west slope in this photo) All dozer work being done on the ocean side, and hand crews were cutting down all the standing dead trees on the east or H-L side of the road.

A spotter plane as it flew over Alm’s Ridge, almost performing aerobatics. These pilots are gutsy.

3:45 pm – YAY!! The first dozer just made it up Home Ridge, and is parked on my road!! I heard it before I could see it, so I was ready with my telephoto and Nikon D-70. God, I love these Nikons!! Here it is arriving. Oh, the dust!!

Not too many people can say they had a D6R XL stop in their front yard, have the operator step out, come over and shake my hand, introduce himself (Ron) and tell me he remembers being here on the Wild Fire of 1996 and doing all the dozer work around my place!!

5:00 pm – busy day. All three dozers are through, and went out the back, they’d been called to work back there. My guess is they will take care of the area between Plaskett and McKern Rd. where the others started their route north. Ron said a blade had been ordered today, so it should be here tomorrow.

Mystery Fire?? I took this photo from my property, from the road to the launch point, looking toward the east north east. I cannot identify this ridge any more specifically than that. When I took it, I thought I saw a spot of red. When I downloaded it, again, I saw the spot of red that I’d forgotten about, so I zeroed in, and blew it up. The quality is not that good, but the flames are clear. It is indeed flames on top of the ridge, in an area *completely* different from the main fire over in the Mill Creek drainage. These flames are south east of the Mill Creek incident. I have NOT heard anything official about my sighting. I am posting 2 photos, one the blown up one, and one the full shot, for reference.

Wait a minute…are those trucks on the right? They ARE, and one is a USFS truck. Looks like South Coast Ridge Rd? Anyone willing to help me with this one, I would appreciate it. With the two trucks there, and the road, I am betting on a burnout operation. Kimball suggests McKern Rd. But I really don’t think it could be that far. It’s only a 300 mm lens. OTOH, McKern makes sense, based on what I saw today.

Time to switch to Chalk Fire, Night 3.

Chalk Fire, Night 2

As the glow of the last rays of the sunshine turned the plumes a pinkish hue, the wonderful air support we enjoyed all day, dropped their last loads, and went home.

Here are Betty’s words on that: “It is now quiet after a full day of the most radical air support ever! just at sunset the supertanker came flying in a line directly toward us and dropping red, in the red glow of the late afternoon, and the fire under its belly. so brave, and so overpowering to see such a display. it’s the sort of thing you never want to see again! however, probably more excitement than we thought, already. Please, let’s not get used to it…Well, that’s it. Need some rest and will report again in the morning.”

And here is my photograph, to go with her words. What a team, huh?

At the end of the day, a quiet settles in. The battle zone of airplanes overhead and many, many people coming through my front yard has ended. The end of the day, and its beginning, often offer the best photographic shots.

Here is one:

And can you say, “Almost eye level with a DC-10?”

10:00 pm-And here is tonight’s official word from the USFS:

Our information is still limited, but this is what we know:

The Chalk Fire started at approximately 7:30 p.m Saturday, September 27 in
the upper Mill Creek drainage area of Los Padres National Forest in
Monterey County. The fire is about 22 miles southwest of King City and
about 2 miles east of Highway 1. It is primarily south of Nacimiento
Fergusson Road which connects Fort Hunter Liggett to Highway 1.

The fire has burned approximately 800-900 acres in oak and brush in steep,
rugged terrain. There is very little to no wind on the fire and it is
primarily slope and fuel-driven.

Earlier this afternoon the fire reached and crossed to the north side of
Nacimiento Fergusson Road; it is also on both the west and east sides of
South Coast Ridge Road.

Residents of three parcels of private land within the national forest in
the Prewitt Ridge, Alms Ridge and Mill Creek areas, were advised to
evacuate earlier today. The fire is approximately 2 miles from the nearest

All National Forest campgrounds along the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, South
Coast Ridge Road and Prewitt Ridge, have been evacuated.

An Evacuation Advisory has been issued for residents along Highway 1 in the
Limekiln, Hermitage and Harlan Property areas. This advisory is a
precautionary notice that people in these areas should be prepared to
evacuate if an evacuation order is issued.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Road closures: Nacimiento Fergusson Road is closed at Highway 1 on the west
side and at the national forest boundary on the east side. South Coast
Ridge Road is closed at Nacimiento Fergusson Road and Highway 1 at Plaskett
Creek. Highway 1 is open.

Draft map, acreage approximate, use for general location purposes only:

More detailed information about the location and status of the fire and the
resources assigned will be available after 7:30 a.m. Monday. Inciweb
( will be updated by 7:30a.m. Monday. The Goleta Fire
Information Center will open at 7:30 a.m. Monday.

The information flow from the field to the Goleta Information Center should
improve Monday with additional field PIO’s. Thanks for your patience.

Kathy Good
Public Affairs Officer
Los Padres National Forest
10:30 pm – I have information from reliable sources that this fire is expected to last a couple weeks at a predicted cost of $20,000,000. Predictions are that they have 20 MILES of line to build!! Oh, my! In just over 24 hours, the costs thus far have been $750,000. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. A burn-out is planned for sometime tomorrow.

I just went outside to check for glow. While there is some, it is much dimmer than last night, and primarily to the northeast, which is good for all of us.

Good night, everyone. I am aiming for about 6 hours of sleep tonight.

Chalk Fire, Day 2

6:15 am-I just woke up, after a few hours sleep, looking for information. At this point, I can again see the plumes. The Chalk Fire is being reported on wildlandfire, initial attack. Have not found anything on inciweb, yet, and no new reports from my neighbors to the north.

As with last night, I am posting events and reports throughout the day, chronologically, so scroll down to see the most recent information.

Had Monte, and one other vehicle come through early, after 2 am, but quiet since.

Taken around 6:30 am from my back deck:

7:15 am – Call from Lee. He related that he spoke to MCSO and mandatory evac issued. Said Sarah and kids evacuating, but Ted staying. He is preparing to go over to help.

NOTE: Reports include source and time, and will continue to do so throughout the day, so that the reader can evaluate the accuracy of the information as it becomes available.

7:30 am – reports from Betty that at 3 am evacuation order issued, but Knock is staying. Weather reports for area from CDF Ret. Fire Capt Mike: “Looking at the wind and weather it is unfavorable if this decides to run, today at least. 97 degrees in Nacimiento today and wind from the S/E at least this am.” The good news is, no other fires, so we should be able to get the support we need. Heard, but have not seen, air support.

8:45 am – L&L just left, after watching from my deck for a while. Initial attack reported 4 minutes ago: “LPF WildCAD reporting;
15 Acres
10 Engines Committed
3 Chief Officers Committed

No information shown about commitment of Crews and Helicopters.”

8:45 am report from Betty: “some slowmoving aircraft heard recently, could not see. ridge road is blocked by fire, and crew working to open it so they can get here for anchor support. Fire still in north fork of mill creek, sounds like this watershed will burn and they want to use prewit for the fireline. it is not moving fast.”

9:00 am – Tom just came through. As we discussed, this “ain’t no 15 acre fire.” Estimate 100 acres. Low flying aircraft definitely here and flying.

9:30 am – initial attack reports LP hots spotted headed this way early this am. Also reports: “BEU sent 1 engine strike team, 2 single increment engines, 3 crews from Gabilan Camp, 1 chief officer, 2 air tankers, C-406. Good header showing from King City with drift smoke going to the north. Mid 90’s expected today. Fire is on the south side of Naciemento Ferguson Rd. off the South Coast Ridge Rd, both sides of the South Coast Ridge Rd. have fire on it. Last update I heard was 20-30 acres. Smoke column looks like it might be a little larger than that.”

10 am – lots of traffic going through this morning, all locals looking to help neighbors. I haven’t seen this many of my neighbors in one day since last year’s Jade Festival!! Grand Central, directing traffic.

Recent plumes

Modis map posted on Kelly O’Brien’s site, on blog roll at right. Modis is reporting two separate hot spots, confirmed by ff Jim 911, about 2 miles apart.


Two reports from Frank Pinney: “FYI, we are standing by at this time on the South Coast with structures threatened by a 200-300 acre active fire near Pruitt Ridge, just about to South Coast Ridge Road. USFS has crews on it since about 9PM last night and incoming resources this morning.
Frank” and: “As of 1020 hours Sunday AM Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade has committed 2
water tenders on scene, Chief Martha Karstens on scene at the ICP, Engine
7834 and personnel are standing by ready to be assigned by IC (Mike Kremke). Numerous resources from USFS on scene or on the way. Frank”

10:30 am – Kimball notifies me that he has posted thermals and modis on his site, Coast Communications, link to the right.

11:00 am from Initial attack: “Jim Smith’s Type II Team has been activated. Camp be at Fort Hunter Liggett. Reports from flights this morning 200+ acres. I will get back to the group with other updates and info as I can.” And an eyewitness report from Betty states: “the air is full of planes. two dozers are going down Prewitt ridge opening the road for contingency firebreak. hearing reports that we will have engines here soon.”

I have decided to take a short trip over there, to see what I can see first hand and will report back, perhaps with photos.

1 pm — Back from a viewing from the top of Alm’s Ridge. I don’t see a lot of equipment, yet, other than plenty of air support. However, I am hearing we have plenty either on site, or coming, and as they are coming over N-F Rd, from the H-L side, they may be on the other side of the fire, as I understand it has cut off SC Ridge Rd. and they are trying to open it up. One or more dozers came up McKern road, as evidenced by their tracks. Went down Prewitt, while I went up top. Saw JC, Warren, and Tom of the BSVFB doing spotting, and witnessed a run up the ridge toward Chalk Peak. Quite a sight. Here are two photos.

I have been informed that Plaskett will become part of the “Big Box.” Not unusual, as I usually end up being a staging area, but so far, no equipment through this side.

This is a photo of what look like “spot” fires coming down the south slope, to the west of the “run” (and I am not using that in a technical sense, as I don’t the technical terms).

2:00 pm – as Z notes, inciweb has now posted the Chalk Fire. It states: “The Chalk Fire started at approximately 7:30 p.m last evening and has now burned 500-600 acres. The fire is located just to the north of Chalk Peak, approximately 22 miles south west of King City, in the Monterey County section of Los Padre National Forest. The fire is burning in oak and brush west of Chalk Peak and South Coast Ridge Road and is on both sides of South Coast ridge Road. By 1:00 p.m. this afternoon, the fire had crossed Nacimiento Ferguson Road and is currently burning on both sides of the road. The fire is currently very visible, as it is generating a large column of smoke.

Cause of the fire is under investigation.

Road closures: Nacimiento Ferguson Road is closed at Highway-1 on the west side and at the forest boundary on the east side. South Coast Ridge Road is closed at Nacimiento Ferguson Road and Highway-1 at Plaskett Creek.

Evacuations: As a precautionary measure, 3 national forest campgrounds southwest of the fire have been advised to evacute. Other rural residences and private inholdings may need to be evacuated.

Resources either on scene or ordered: 7 helicopters, 8 air tankers, 1 lead plane, 1 air attack aircraft and 10 engines.”

And this just in from the PO: “The Chalk Fire is now on Inciweb. Info from the field is sketchy at this
point, but should improved later this afternoon/early evening when the
arrival of the Type 2 Incident Management Team and additional PIO’s. We
have a field PIO (Rich Phelps) in the area right now, however cell phone
coverage is poor. We have only two phone lines open in the Goleta Information
Center so would prefer everyone check As we receive new confirmed information we will post it on Inciweb….

Kathy Good
Public Affairs Officer

2:00 pm – just spoke w/ Kathy Good. Jim Smith and his Type II IC team is on the way, and additional information should be available once the situation is evaluated.

2:30 pm – Roberta, of the USFS is asking all children to leave the area, according to Alicia. Keith Harlan reports an evacuation for Lucia and the Hermitage.

2:45 pm – Bob & Joey just came through. Incident w/ suspicious squirrel hunters by my back gate and on my property. I’ve called 911 to report suspicious persons. Glad I have dogs!

4:00 pm – major air traffic. Frank Pinney came through about an hour ago. Fire has grown quite a bit, today, but resources on the ground, I understand. RH was reported at 18%, temps mid-90’s. This fire really took off today. Let’s hope it lays down and behaves tonight. Miss Sarah just evacuated with a pack of dogs bigger than mine!! Couldn’t see any kids, but they are probably with Embree.

Please note the comments below, also. For example, Ken reports that SO is stating the Chalk Fire is on BOTH sides of N-F Rd. as well as both sides of So Coast Ridge Rd. It ain’t getting any better, folks!

5:00 pm Luke of USFS and Crystal of the BSVFB report that the Hermitage and Lucia are on 48 hour notice, NOT mandatory evac. Both confirm fire is on both sides of N-F and S.C Ridge Rd. Confirmed fire at *800* acres. It is grand central to the max this afternoon. I have a party going on by my front gate. Should have popped the popcorn for this afternoon’s show!! Oh, and got some great shots of the jet super tanker I will try to put up!! Yay, the BIG, BIG BIG guys are here!!

Another photo:

A Ventana Wilderness guy (I with hold his name, in case he doesn’t want it posted) and his friend came through about 1/2 hour ago and disagrees with the “official” reports. He thinks the fire is much bigger than reported. He was over helping Bill, down by Peter & Katie. He reports it is almost 1/2 way up Cone Peak, on both sides of Cone Peak Rd. He also disagrees with the assessment that the single blade dozer cut down the Prewitt Ridge will hold anything back. He also reports that it has climbed the ridge from the north fork and is moving down into the middle fork.

I cannot seem to post any more photos here, so I will start a new post on Chalk Fire, Night 2.

Will post more as I learn more.

Chalk Peak Fire

At 10 pm tonight, I had a report from Betty Withrow of a fire on the Mill Creek drainage area. Early reports are sketchy, and may not be accurate. One report is that it is at the 6 mile marker of N-F Rd. Another report is that it is closer to Apple Camp. Yet another report has it on both sides of the road. about 20-25 acres. USFS Fire Engines are on scene, per my local sources. Follow the chronology of reports below:

Alicia Lutz just came through on her way home, so we know Peter, Merritt, and Katie will be notified. Serge is on his way down from Monterey and will be coming through. Also my gates are open, and my Jeep out of the way. Kerri is on her way, also. Rocky and Geri know about the fire.

I can see the glow, but no flames.

11:15 report from keith harlan: “just got a call from warren and he reports that 30 min. ago the battalion chief was reporting 15 acres for the “Chalk Peak Fire” backing down Mill Creek Drainage and east from the ridge road.”

11:25 report from Big Sur, sirens going by in Valley.
11:25 report from Betty, “reports are that there are planes and dozers on the way.” (In the morning.)

12:00 – drove to front gate, quite a glow from that perspective. Going to be a long night.

12:30 am – This from Geri: “it is on So coast rdge between apple camp and chalk peak both sides of road can be seen from our house.”

12:45 am- Keith reports that he & Mary on their way up to help Rocky & Geri, Monte on his way from Paso.

1:00 am – Serge came through on his way to his mom’s and has two friends coming up to help tomorrow. Gotta love the way the South Coast mobilizes to help one another. I certainly do.

1:15 am- Kerri came through on her way to help Rocky & Geri.

1:45 am- Keith & Mary came through. I also just checked the glow from the perspective of my front gate, and it seems to have lessened. I’ll see what the morrow brings.

2:00 am- hopefully this is the last person to come through until dawn, so I can grab a couple hours before I begin a long day.

I will continue to add information as reports come in. For those of you not quite familiar with the area, Kimball has posted two topo maps on his website, Coast Communication, linked in my blogroll to the right.

Catastrophic Event? – BSMAAC Meeting Notes

Predictions are dire. The news is not good. According to Rob of OES, a rainfall of 1.5-1.9 inches in 3 hours at any point this winter will result in a catastrophic event for Big Sur. OES is setting up a flood watch, and flood warning system. The flood watch will be relatively easy to implement, and the OES plans on using any and all means available for notification of residents. KUSP is already working with OES regarding providing public service announcements . Flood warning will be problematic, as there might not be enough time, and if issued too early, might result in lesser compliance as more warnings are issued. Some, if not many, evacuations will occur. The BSVFB is working out the logistics and places available for evacuation shelters, here in Big Sur, rather than at Carmel Middle School.

The State Park campground will close 11/1/08, and may not be open again until Memorial Day, 2009, due to flood concerns. Two of the bridges to the campground will be removed, to prevent being washed away. One will be put back after winter rains. The other bridge is to be rebuilt to withstand a 100 year flood. This will put a serious strain on the campgrounds and areas down on the South Coast during this 7-month closure, as well as the businesses in the Valley.

Cal-Trans has been taking a very pro-active position, and my drive north today demonstrated this position on the ground. Lots of work going on in preparation for winter. USFS is woefully lacking in their participation and preparation, and the community expressed its frustration with the USFS and with John Bradford, who was unprepared to answer questions about what his agency was doing. Sam Farr’s office is calling for a meeting with the USFS for next week.

It is hard to envision what may happen this winter. If you’ve watched any debris flow videos, you know that these things are like runaway freight trains, and all one can do is get out of the way. We can only hope that whatever rains we get are gentle, otherwise, slides, road closures, bridges washed away or taken out by debris flow, houses not burned could be flooded, or filled with mud and debris. We must pray that no one is injured.

I wish I had better news for all of us, but the meeting was excruciatingly depressing and detailed about what we are facing. I will revise this abbreviated report tomorrow, as I left my notes in the Jeep, but the critical points are here.

Also, please note I have updated the Winter Preparations Page of my blog with links to the SEAT report, and the federal BAER report, released to the public 9/26/08. I have added a few notes from the reports themselves, although the BAER report was a bit of a disappointment.

Indians Fire Entrapment, 6/11/08

The Accident Prevention Analysis Report of the burn-over of 4 firefights of Engine 71 on June 11, 2008 during the Indians Fire on Los Padres National Forest has been released. It is a lengthy report, and I cannot reproduce it here in its entirety, but you can read it here:

Click to access Indians_Fire_APA_2008.pdf

The story portion of the report is fascinating reading and includes maps, photos, and well as depictions. Anyone interested in how this came about, will find this interesting reading. Three of the 4 firefighters were burned. One remained in the hospital for a week. All were lucky.

Fiscal responsibility

I am trying to stay out of my political thoughts here on my blog, but with the budget impasse, my bank’s failure, and now the sub-prime fiasco, I just can’t seem to stay away from it. So, I post this from the Obama campaign, for those that are interested.

We are facing a financial crisis as profound as any we have faced since the Great Depression, but there’s something you can do to make your voice heard right now:

The Obama campaign is asking folks to support a responsible recovery plan that is fair to taxpayers and will fix our broken economic policies moving forward.

It’s actually a very simple plan:

* No Golden Parachutes — Taxpayer dollars should not be used to reward the irresponsible Wall Street executives who helmed this disaster.

* Main Street, Not Just Wall Street — Any bailout plan must include a payback strategy for taxpayers who are footing the bill and aid to innocent homeowners who are facing foreclosure.

* Bipartisan Oversight — The staggering amount of taxpayer money involved demands a bipartisan board to ensure accountability and oversight.

Join me and support these principles for economic recovery:
And some humor (I think) to combat the seriousness of the situation(s) we are facing:

Dear American: I need to ask you to support an urgent secret business relationship with a transfer of funds of great magnitude.

I am Ministry of the Treasury of the Republic of America. My country has had a crisis that has caused the need for large transfer of funds of 800 billion dollars US. If you would assist me in this transfer, it would be most profitable to you.

I am working with Mr. Phil Gram, lobbyist for UBS, who will be my replacement as Ministry of the Treasury in January. As a Senator, you may know him as the leader of the American banking deregulation movement in the 1990s. This transactin is 100% safe.

This is a matter of great urgency. We need a blank check. We need the funds as quickly as possible. We cannot directly transfer these funds in the names of our close friends because we are constantly under surveillance. My family lawyer advised me that I should look for a reliable and trustworthy person who will act as a next of kin so the funds can be transferred.

Please reply with all of your bank account, IRA and college fund account numbers and those of your children and grandchildren to so that we may transfer your commission for this transaction. After I receive that information, I will respond with detailed information about safeguards that will be used to protect the funds.

Yours Faithfully,

Minister of Treasury Paulson

BTW, I clicked on the link in the above, and sent an email, including Obama’s 3 principles and a personal note. Just for grins.