Sunset on the Chalk Fire

Tonight, we bid adieu to the Chalk Fire. I do not know what the “official” stance is, but for the South Coast of Big Sur, it is over. We were very blessed in so many ways. As I have said before, we did not lose any houses, all injuries to firefighters were relatively minor, as far as I know, and the weather was our best friend. The men and women who fought this fire gave it their all, and their all was more than enough. Their family and friends should be very proud of these young men and women. We are. Neighbors and friends came together in phenomenal ways. It is our strength. The dance of this fire is the stuff of legends, and it will be told to those who can hear.

This fire was different than the Basin Fire. There is not enough bandwidth for me to recount the ways. We are a smaller community, and a tighter community. As Mary said, we have lived together for 20 years or more, and helped to raise each other’s children. As I say, we are the way Big Sur “used” to be. In Big Sur “proper” there are still pockets and enclaves, but it is not as it was. Money has moved in. Town has moved in, and with all that, the values have changed. Not so here.

Personally, I have many, many people to thank for their input, advice, geographical corrections (there were many!) and support. If I list names, I am sure to forget someone. And some, wished to remain anonymous, which I have always respected. But rest assured, I will never forget. It is because of so many of you that this site was often more accurate than the “official” information.

And now, a personal note: this blog came about as a result of the Basin Fire, so it was already in existence when it was needed here. I am blessed to live on the “Top of the World” with forever views, 24/7 cell phone reception, and 24/7 internet, unlike most of my neighbors. This position and access is what made me feel I had a responsibility to my community. I feel blessed to have had a useful role. I hope I have fulfilled my obligation. We all contributed, in ways we could, and that is what makes the South Coast of Big Sur so unique. There are so many people who contributed to this event. Most will never seek acknowlegment, but we know who you are, especially me. The midnight food, gas, supplies runs that came through my front yard were too numerous to count. They did not ASK what was needed. They knew, and they brought. There were dozens of heros in this story, in this small community. People ask me how I can practice law here; how I can live so isolated. This is why. There is a sense of community here that exists no where else I have ever lived. After 23 years in Big Sur, 19 of them here on the South Coast, I am home. I am accepted. I am loved and I love. This is community. This is home.

This is the last “official” evening summary:
Tuesday October 7, 2008, 8:00 PM

Goleta Fire Information Center: 805-961-5770 (8am-8pm)

Fire information online:

Fire Statistics

Acres burned: 11,189

Miles of fireline to build: 13

Date started: 9/27/08 (evening)

Percent contained: 69%

Expected containment: 10/17/2008

Firefighter injuries to date: 13

Structures threatened: 9 residences; 15 outbuildings

Structures destroyed: 0

Suppression cost to date: $11.9 million

Firefighting Resources

Crews: 26

Engines: 61

Helicopters: 10

Air tankers: 2

Dozers: 7

Total personnel assigned: 1,322

Current Status: The fire activity was very low today. Crews continued to hold and improve lines in all divisions of the fire. Firefighters rappelled from helicopters on the east flank of the fire and constructed hand line where possible. Tonight crews will work along the southern section of the fire to the east of South Coast Road and Prewitt Ridge to extinguish some interior hot spots. Firefighter safety and structure protection remain top priorities.

Evacuations: There are no Evacuation Warnings. An EVACUATION WATCH is in place for residents in the following areas: the immediate fire area west of Chalk Peak and South Coast Ridge Road (Alms Ridge, Dempsey Flats and Prewitt Ridge areas), Lucia, Mill Creek, Hare Creek and Limekiln State Park. Persons issued this notice are not required to evacuate but should be prepared to evacuate should an Evacuation Warning be issued.

Highway, Road and Area Closures: Hwy 1 is open, but subject to traffic delays up to 20 minutes. Vehicles must travel slowly and watch for debris and emergency equipment and crews. Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd is closed. South Coast Ridge Rd is closed from Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd to Willow Creek Rd. Limekiln State Park is closed. Mill Creek Day Use area is closed due to emergency equipment in the area.

Weather: Temperature 70 degrees; relative humidity 13%; northeast wind 5-10 mph.

Agencies: This incident is being managed under Unified Command with the U.S. Forest Service and Fort Hunter Liggett. The Incident Command Post is at Fort Hunter Liggett. Media access to Fort Hunter Liggett is restricted. Contact the Goleta Fire Information Center for assistance.

NOTICE: This will be the last evening update for the Chalk Fire. Starting Wednesday, October 8, there will be one update per day, issued at approximately 8:00 a.m. The Information Center will be staffed from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily; a recorded update will be available after hours. Inciweb will be updated twice daily.

Picture of Chalk Fire Perimeter – 10/07/08

Chalk Fire Perimeter – 10/07/08
Credit: USFS

view pictures || view maps
Basic Information
Incident Type Wildland Fire
Cause Under Investigation
Date of Origin Saturday September 27th, 2008 aprox 07:30 PM
Location 22 mi southwest of King City, CA
Incident Commander Jim Smith / Alan Courier
Current Situation
Total Personnel 1,322
Size 11,189 acres
Percent Contained 69%
Estimated Containment Date Friday October 17th, 2008 aprox 06:00 PM
Fuels Involved

4 Chaparral (6 Feet) Large volume of dead and down material in fire fuel bed. Oak woodland and pockets of timber.
Fire Behavior

Smoldering with some down dead and snags openly burning.
Significant Events

Crews began fire suppression rehab in addition to continued mop-up. Weather conditions transitioning back to warmer dryer conditions over the fire area.
Planed Actions

Current efforts focus on containment of northwest and southeast corners. Continued mop-up on west and southwest flank. Crews continue the arduous task of seeking opportunities for direct line construction.
Growth Potential

Terrain Difficulty


Unified command of the fire will end at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 8. Good progress constructing direct fire line on large fingers, continues in extremely steep rugged terrain, making overall containment a slow process.

Tomorrow, I will switch from the Chalk Fire to the Jade Festival countdown.

Chalk Fire, Day 11

LOCAL UPDATES FOR TODAY: Heavy rehab at Prewitt/Alm’s Ridge area, so getting in or out may be difficult, if not impossible today. Also, I encountered a grader between Plaskett & McKern Rd. and could not get around, so I just came home. (Remind me to tell you this story OFF line!!) Also got an email from Geri. N-F Rd is closed, EVEN to locals! She got out, says it is not bad, but they won’t let her come back through, so she has to drive all the way around through Monterey from the Salinas Valley to get home from work!!

MORNING UPDATE: Still dark. Still quiet. No more midnight or 6 am traffic, thank goodness. Sleep comes easier. I’ll be taking a run to the back to check on the road work that has been done over the past two days and the fire on the east, and will report back before I leave for town today, along with acreage and containment figures. Maybe a photo or two.

Only two days to finish preparations for the Jade Festival. I have two friends that have heeded my calls for help — to bring all the little things I am likely to forget this year. Mollie and Mary, thank you both.

Oh, yeah, Pendoodles (see comment below) such a Peaceful, Easy Feelin’

Today’s inciweb report is EXACTLY the same as last night’s. No change in acreage, personnel, containment, and planned actions, and it just posted 5 mins. ago. Let’s see if this is a mistake and a new one is issued soon.

9 am- a new summary just issued. Still no change in acreage, personnel, or containment, but for today, this is the plan: “The fire activity overnight was very limited. Today crews will continue to hold and improve lines in all divisions of the fire. Firefighters have done remarkable work in extremely steep and rugged terrain and now have the upper hand with 67% containment. There are still sections of open line and crews will concentrate on those areas building direct line where possible. Firefighters will monitor the general fire area to address hot spots. The weather is returning to a warmer and drier pattern. Firefighter safety and structure protection remain top priorities.”

I agree. Firefighters HAVE done a remarkable job. If you see a firefighter, where ever you are on this planet of ours, would you tell them, “bigsurkate says, Thank you?”

I’ll post more this evening. No mid-day report. Have a good day, everyone, and while we are 99% certain the Jade Festival will be happening, the USFS is expected to give us the formal go-ahead by noon, saying, “No news is good news.” I know this is going to seem obvious to most of you, but those coming, there are NO campfires, EVEN in the campground! Propane stoves, ONLY. No charcoal stoves!!