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.