Chalk Fire, Day Six

4:30 am -I am up WAY too early, but hope to catch another hour. Is it really only Day 6? I swear it has been at least two weeks!! In the mean time, Connie McCoy sent me a photo last night that is quite dramatic. It is was taken last night, around 9:00 pm from the Lucia cabins, looking south to the ridge above Limekiln’s south side, perhaps called Escondido Ridge. (Neither Connie or I are sure of its name-I’ve GOT to find my topo!!.)

THANKS, CONNIE — What an incredible shot. Stay safe, everyone, and as the thermals and modis last night indicated (See firefighter’s blog (Point of View) and Coast Communications in my blogroll to the right), and this photo proves, the Chalk Fire has reached the coast. If anyone hears that Highway One is closed, please let me know. As you can tell, I rarely sleep!

It will be interesting to see what the morning report has to say about the size of this fire, as this fire was going OFF on the south east side, and the north west side as the sun set.

7:00 am – a quick look outside and I see smoke in all the canyons, even Willow Creek. NOTE: NO FIRE IN WILLOW CREEK, just residual smoke. It is looking pretty knarly to the north of me. Current status of fire, as of 6:00 am is that 7,079 acres have burned. It is 20% contained. “Fire continues to move outward in all directions at a slow/moderate rate while containment and contingency lines are being constructed and strengthened. Fire has moved through many of the residential areas. Reports of successful protection efforts in Dempsey Flat/Nacaruby, Alms Property will be reflected at 1800.” There are currently 1473 personnel on the fire.

From the Plaskett Ridge perspective, the fire is north west of me, north, north east, and east, but still a safe distance. The rains should be here, before I am facing any threat.

Okay, now I have to have my COFFEE!!

8:30 am – This is the view this am. Prewitt Ridge is in the foreground.

9:00 am – We’ve got 3 helicopters, one Chinook, dipping water out of the ocean, and making drops. I will try to get some good shots of them this am.
Here is one, with the bucket trailing:

9:30 am – Here you can see three separate plumes coming from the other side of Prewitt Ridge. I cannot be sure where they are, but look like Wild Cattle/Mill Creek drainage areas, perhaps by the Noc. They “might” be burn outs, as the 6 am report indicated two things that lead me to this conclusion: One, that burnout operations were possible today, to protect structures, if conditions were right; And two, that they expect to be able to declare structures in this area as safe at the 6 pm report.

There is still quite a contingency of fire trucks at the top of Prewitt Ridge, as evidenced by this photo.

Here’s a shot of the Chinook in the Prewitt drainage. They are NOT making drops there, it is just the route they are taking.

A main concern, right now, is Highway One, and keeping it open.

10:30 am- just got a call from Phillip Darnell, Air Tanker Operations in Paso Robles. He wanted me to know that those absolute AWESOME tanker pilots flying T-23 and T-25 are respectively: Brent Connors and Bill Waldman. I cannot express my appreciation to these guys enough. If you’ve ever watched these bomber pilots, they are the gutsiest pilots I have EVER seen, all of them. Thank you, Phillip for the names of these guys. I will also post the correct pilot’s name on that page.

Here is a photograph of Tanker 55, being piloted by Dale Dahl taken yesterday of the drops on McKern. Look at that awesome roll-out, huh?

11 am -NEWS FLASH – JUST SPOKE TO RICH PHELPS, USFS PIO. THE WORD IS THE ROAD WILL BE *IMPACTED* NOT CLOSED THIS AFTERNOON, as Lindsey reports in the comment section. It will be necessary to proceed with caution, as the debris from the fire is falling on the road particularly between Limekiln and N-F Rd. 4 pm – Just spoke w/ John Bradford, USFS MD Ranger. NO plans to close highway, at this time. See below for full report.

NOON: i am not taking a field trip to the back at my usual time. Most of the areas of concern for me and my neighbors are to the north west, so I want to stay and keep an eye on it. Also, I am really beat, and am hoping to catch a short nap before the afternoon traffic picks up. Okay, one more note before I break. Scott Bogen, Mid Coast Fire Brigade, just posted a VERY timely warning and caution for us about fire behavior with the incoming storm. Winds are going to be a factor, which could change everything. PLEASE take a moment to read his comment below.

1:30 pm – a nap is not in the cards, apparently. Bombers flying over, dropping retardant just on the north side of Prewitr Ridge. I captured one. You can see the fire trucks on the right. Also, Ventura just dropped 2 firefighters off at the start of the dozer line down Home Ridge with all their gear for a little walk-about. Poor guys. At least they are going down hill!

Okay, I give up. I cannot get the Ventura Firefighter photo to show up. I’ll try later.

4 pm – The bombers are still flying over me. Cannot tell where they are dropping retardant. There are no longer three distinct sets of plumes behind Prewitt. It is all one big smoke screen. The clouds are building up behind Cone Peak. Here is the shot I just took. For those of you not from the South Coast, that is Cone Peak in the center. The ridge at the bottom is Prewitt Ridge. By now, most of you know the smoke is in the Alm’s Ridge/Mill Creek area. You can see several fire trucks spread out on the top of the ridge. The pine tree on the right, is on my property.

4:30 pm – Just got off the phone with John Bradford, the District Ranger for the Monterey District. At this time, the fire is creeping slowing down the hill. It is approximately 1/4 of a mile from the highway at Hare Canyon, across from Kirk Creek Campground. They actually expect it to reach Highway One, as there is no where else to stop it. USFS, CHP, and Cal-Trans are working closely together and have no plans to close Highway One. The most they expect to have to do, is to close one lane to clean up rolling debris, and they do not expect that to happen until tomorrow. On the east side, the fire is about 1/2 mile from McKern Rd., although it seems to have reached the summit portion. That is the containment line. The winds expected to proceed the storm, are expected to push the fire east, back in on itself.

XasauanaToday has acquired a copy of the USFS probability map. I can see why they would not want to release this to the public, but private citizens surely can, right? Of course, this was prepared 2 days ago, and this fire has not performed according to probabilities.

And please, if you get the chance, read the sweet comment posted in the comments section by one of the children, Allison Toombs, who was evacuated from her home at the beginning of this fire.

I will post more when I know more.

15 thoughts on “Chalk Fire, Day Six

  1. Kate i’ve been up since just before 4:am too. The warm temp outside woke me. It is our indian summer, but this feels more like earthquake weather.

    The picture that Connie took is amazing. It does look like the fire is touching the water on the right edges.

    Does this mean that mama Midi and those up on the ridge, all the way down to HWY1 are evacuated?

    I’m worried about everyone. Rob says i’m a worry wart, but I feel this year could easily be named the year of Fire.

  2. Pendoodle-
    From the googlemodis map on, it looks like the fire is still well north of Willow Creek Road, which is quite a bit further south of the fire, not even in the area shown on the maps. There are others, though, who are threatened. Looks like it has entered the top of the Limecreek watershed as well as Mill Creek.

  3. Katie, I would be very worried for you if I didn’t understand that the firefighters are really there to protect you, and others, threatened by yet another fire.

    I take that back. I am worried! Your posts – and the photos – are superb. What a service you are providing.

  4. I saw the fire above Limekiln SP and Kirk Creek last night. Yes, it was coming down all the little ridge spurs between those Hare and Kirk canyons. “Espinosa” is the campground up there along the Kirk Creek to Vicente Flat trail. The fire was making its own way down towards that trail. It was still high on the mountain and I couldn’t tell if it had reached it yet. I drove to Mill Creek. No active fire visible from the highway up there.

  5. I just drove down to school. One mile north of Mill Creek, maybe 1.1 mile, I looked up to a frightening sight: a long line of tall flames creeping downward. It seems so close to the highway. I wonder if it is a backburn. It did not appear to be tended in any way. I hope I am mistaken about that.??

  6. hi kate just got news from rich phelps that highway i will be closed later this afternoon. 10-2-08

  7. Joyce and Suzi are right. As I was driving to school, it caught my eye, and I stopped to study it. Got a good picture, too. The fire is in a long horizontal line backing down the three ridges from just north of Kirk Creek to just south of Limekiln. It is approximately (8:00 am) 500 feet up, and only about 1/2 mile from the road. It is generally a 4-10′ high wall of flame, burning grass, and moving downhill about 5 mph, burning low beneath the oaks (no crown fire in most tree’d areas. But, in the small canyons I did observe some big flames up to 30-40′ high and crowning. Sean Collins, from the USFS stopped at the school to set up a fire information board here. When I told him about my observation, he said that they were aware of it. He said that they will be sending crews there, and air support is on the way, but it takes time to get the crews and planes “from here to there”. My concern is that closer to the road, the brush fire load is a lot heavier and higher, and the burn intensity could “explode there, causing danger and a road closure to the north. It could also jump the road to the eucalyptus trees, and then you will have a real firestorm that could run into Kirk Campground FAST! So hopefully, the forces will be on it in time.
    The NOAA weather radio report, and the NWS weather reports have the rain possibly starting tonight up north, moving south tomorrow, with rain Friday night into Saturday showers (all day). tomorrow. The rainfall predicted is about 1/2″ and 1-2” along the coast and mountains (Bay Area…a little less here, I suppose). The low cyclone is a strong one, centered over Oregon, dropping south, so we are likely to get a dousing. This would be good, but hopefully not too much at once…those landslides are just waiting to go off…in avalanche terms…the slopes are LOADED.

    Sean Colling will be back at the school to post the latest status reports and maps, so anyone interested can come and check the fire news here. The board is located right by the flagpole at our school.
    …On Friday night, when those storm-front southerly gales start blowing, you will probably find the information board somewhere up in the trees to the north of campus!

  8. Fire Behavior With Incoming Storm

    Just a quick note to say that with the incoming weather we can expect extreme and erratic fire behavior. This fire so far appears to be a mainly fuel driven fire. Add some wind to this and especially winds that can and will change direction on a dime and it will be very difficult to predict what the fire will do.

    It can make runs up drainages in a matter of minutes and spot out ahead up to several miles. So be very careful. The rain will be a huge help in getting the fire contained, but the lead up to the rain could be very intense.

  9. Scott’s right also. During the big fire up in Idaho during the Summer of 2007, which burned two million acres…the whole Salmon River drainage over about 3 months did a lot of absolutely insane things. We were there and watched it daily. Some days it was nuclear winter, other days were like Mt. Saint Helens. And yes, spotting of over 4 miles was common. During the Hare Creek (Limekiln) fire, I spent an entire day, while I was doing my commercial fishing off the Limekiln area, watching the fire do run after run up canyon after canyon. Some of the runs were beyond belief! The fire would back down a canyon taking about a half hour, then jump the creek and scream up the slope in SECONDS, running at speeds I’d guess over a hundred mph. When the flames reached the ridge, they would go at least 500 feet in the air, burning on vaporized plant matter superheated, and creating a sort of vertical hurricane, and then repeat the process down the next canyon. I saw this repeat itself over and over, until it crested Cone Peak. This may seem unbelievable, but when you see this kind of fire behavior, you’ll know. Fortunately, the Chalk fire has not been that violent in most cases, but given the heat, dryness, wind conditions (Haine’s index), it could “go bezerk”. Fortunately, the rain chance might provide a blessing, but the wind will be a serious potential. Since south winds go with cyclonic storms (which it is), the nastiest dangers will be heading northward. In Idaho, the storms were often violent subtropical thunderstorms, and all hell would break loose in seconds. Here, we have some time to make predictions, but if the south winds start up, it can be sudden…I know from the many days I have been at sea when those @X&@# southerlies sweep a calm sea into a frothy world of whitecaps.

    In other words…be cautious and safe.
    Again, you have our blessings
    Captain Lingcod

  10. I too experienced wild wind/fire behavior in the Salmon Creek fire way back when…slowly burning down the north faces of ridges, then screaming up the southern faces…bursting pitch pines at the tops into torches we could see from pt 16…in the daytime.

    I was up Willow Creek at the Gold Star mine once during that fire, helping a friend try to save the place, and almost got fried as the fire raged over the top of that ridge. The ‘mine’ was situated out at the western end of the ridge, with nothing around it but air to feed the fire. We jumped in the large round cattle trough full of h2o…just in time. Then we had to ‘run the ridge’ in a pick-up..through the flames. Truly powerful experience!

    Be safe folks, and don’t get caught inbetween bad stuff…it’s not worth it!! I am thinking of you all.

  11. Checking in on you Kate and reading all the updates and peoples imput. Thanks mucho! Also thanks to Suzi for her info.

    Not much smoke up here today. I hope that means the rain will be coming down here faster than predicted for Friday evening. It would be nice if its a nice steady soaking rain for you all.

  12. Nothing I can ever do can make you understand how grateful I am to all those who are helping fight this fire. The mountain that you are protecting is my home. It is hard for me to look at these pictures; they show me the reality of what is happening, and it terrifies me. I know the places that are in these pictures, but the fire makes them look almost unrecognizable. It is hard for me to believe, maybe it is because I haven’t seen it with my own eyes yet, but I think that even when I see it, I still won’t really be able to believe it. Because of you I still have my house. I still have the place where I’m growing up. As of now I can still someday show it to my children and their children and explain to them that if it wasn’t for you there wold be nothing to show them, there would be nothing for them to see. Thank you so much, bless you!

  13. I just came across your site while searching for information on the status of my favorite spot on earth. Thank you for all the pictures and fire updates. I read with tears in my eyes…I hope all is okay with everyone and that the rains don’t cause too much damage. Keep up your efforts to inform.

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