Off the Record

With FaceBook, blogging, google earth, GPS on our cell phones, etc., privacy is becoming a thing of the past. Many of us know or can know more than we really want about our friends, family, and co-workers. The current generation sees nothing wrong with this. Privacy is highly overrated, they think. Hmmm…

I saw this sign recently, and it seemed to sum it up for me. Think about it.

Art from here to there

Just a reminder of an important upcoming event –

A charity event to benefit the Big Sur Health Center

BIG SUR, Calif. — (July 28, 2010) … The Big Sur Health Center will hold its Annual Art Auction Sunday, September 12, 2010 on the terrace at The Restaurant at Ventana. This event focuses community attention on talented local artists and provides the means to fulfill the vision of the Big Sur Health Center.
Over 30 local artists have donated generously to benefit the health center. This years auction items include paintings, jewelry, sculptures and crafts with many of the artists on hand. The event will include silent and live auctions. Greg Hawthorne, local gallery owner and artist will serve as auctioneer. Area Big Sur restaurants including Deetjens, Nepenthe, Sierra Mar, and Ventana will be joining forces to provide some wonderful food to nibble on while browsing the art. The food will be accompanied by Monterey County wines and Rodrigo Teague will provide music.
The Health Center is a not-for-profit health care facility dedicated to the health and well-being of all who reside or work in Big Sur, as well as those who visit the community. The health center provides primary medical care services, with an emphasis on prevention, and is available to handle urgent care needs.
Art Auction schedule is as follows:
3:00-4:30 p.m. – Music, Food & Wine; Silent Auction and View Live Auction Items
4:30 p.m. – Live Auction
Tickets are $75 per person and can be purchased online at HYPERLINK “” or by calling (831) 626-3485. All proceeds benefit the Big Sur Health Center.
# # #

PR Contact:
Avril Ekstrand, Big Sur Health Center Board

Protecting Big Sur from Wildfires, Part 2

In 2008, Big Sur battled the Basin Complex fire which burned for a month, charred 162,818 acres, destroyed over 26 homes and 32 outbuildings, closed Highway One completely for almost a week, isolating neighbor from neighbor. Combined with the Indians Fire, burning at the same time, and right up to the Basin, 244,000 acres were burned, and it was the costliest wildfire in California’s history at a cost of $120,000,000 at the time. (The Station Fire of 2009 may have taken that title.)

Only two months later, it battled the Chalk Fire on the South Coast of Big Sur.

Out of the ashes of these fires, the Monterey County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, initially conceived in 2006, was given fresh perspective. In January 2010 the working group released its 186 page draft of this plan. You can find it here:
As I said, it is quite long. But the area of disagreement between homeowners and environmental groups is the meat or substance of the plan contained in its recommendations. Here is the index of that section (granted a little long for a blog post, but necessary) which is only about 12 pages long. Make time to read it, if you are interested in this issue:

8.1 Recommendations to the Secretary of Agriculture

8.1.1 Maintain the Big Box Firebreak

8.1.2 Maintain the Bixby Mountain Firebreak

8.1.3 Contract With CAL FIRE to Defend the Bixby Mountain Firebreak

8.1.4 Support the Santa Lucia Fire Defense System (In Progress)

8.1.5 Manage Wildfire Fuels on National Forest System Lands to Protect All At-Risk Communities

8.1.6 Priorities for Fuel Reduction Funding on Private Lands

8.1.7 Fund Emergency Ingress and Egress to the Los Padres National Forest

8.1.8 Incorporate CWPPs Into the USFS’s Pre-attack Planning

8.2 Recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior

8.2.1 Maintain Former Fort Ord Fuel Break System

8.2.2 Install and Maintain Sierra de Salinas-Gabilan Fuel Reduction Project and Strategic Fuel Break System

8.2.3 Pinnacles National Monument Fuel Reduction

8.2.4 Prescribed Fire Hazardous Fuel Reduction at Toro Creek and Creekside

8.2.5 Manage Hazardous Fuels on BLM Lands to Protect At-Risk Communities

8.2.6 Priorities for Fuel Reduction Funding on Private Lands

8.2.7 Fund Emergency Ingress and Egress to Lands Administered by BLM

8.2.8 Incorporate CWPP’s Into BLM’s Pre-attack Planning

8.3 Recommendations to Congress and the President

8.3.1 Enact Legislation to Enable and Require that Firebreaks and Fuelbreaks be Maintained

8.3.2 Statutory Exemption From the Endangered Species Act for Wildfire Fuel Reduction Work

8.4 Recommendations to all Federal, State and Local Regulatory Agencies with Jurisdiction in Monterey County

8.4.1 Annual Goal for Wildfire Fuel Reduction Work on Private Land in
Monterey County

8.4.2 Establishment of Overgrowth Hazard Zones and Approval of Fuel Reduction Work

8.4.3 Interpret Federal, State and Local Laws to Allow and Facilitate Safe Wildfire Fuel Reduction Work

8.4.4 Lead Agency for California Environmental Quality Act Purposes

8.4.5 Memorandum of Understanding to Allow Incidental Take of Protected Species in OHZs for Fuel Reduction Work

8.4.6 Within OHZs, Allow and Facilitate Creation of Survivable Space

8.4.7 Amend Regulations to Allow and Facilitate use of Large Burn Piles During Winter Rains with a Minimum of Regulatory Requirements

8.5 Recommendations to CAL FIRE and Other Fire Authorities Having

8.5.1 Designate Overgrowth Hazard Zones

8.5.2 Support Ready, Set, Go! to Include Those Who May be Trapped by Fire

8.5.3 Support Community Emergency Response Teams

8.5.4 Support Annual Treatment Goals in Implementation of the CAL FIRE Range Improvement and Vegetation Management Programs

8.5.5 Prioritize CAL FIRE Resources to Support the Recommendations in this MCCWPP

8.6 Recommendations to the California Legislature and the Governor

8.6.1 Amend the California Coastal Act to Allow and Facilitate Wildfire Fuel Reduction Work

8.6.2 Amend the California Endangered Species Act to Allow Incidental Take of Protected Species for Wildfire Fuel Reduction Work

8.6.3 Amend the California Environmental Quality Act to Provide a Statutory Exemption for Wildfire Fuel Reduction Work

8.7 Recommendations to Monterey County and to Municipalities and
Districts Within Monterey County

8.7.1 Include Language to Allow and Facilitate Wildfire Fuel Reduction Work in all Planning Documents, Ordinances, Rules and Regulations

The goal of creating this document was to make sure the devastation we experienced in 2008 is not repeated. The Monterey Fire Safe Council website listed above, is a wealth of information on how we can live in a wildland-urban interface as safely as possible.

Don Case slfting through the ashes of his home


As these MCCWPP posts become more numerous, and spread throughout my normal blogging, I have decided to make them easier to find. On the right, scroll down to categories, and there, under Big Sur, you will find MCCWPP. If you click on that, this site will give you a list of all the posts I have written on this subject.

Climate Whiplash

After days of really hot temps throughout most of California, it was so cold last night, I closed everything down. It is having trouble reaching the 70’s today. The good news is that there was sunshine on the coast, most of the day, although the fog came in and out for a while.

Here is a shot I took earlier.

The Light

Traffic Fatality at Big Creek

5:30 pm – identification of the badly burned body is still on-going, however, a wallet was found with ID that matched the registration on the vehicle. This information does NOT point to a Big Sur local, but to someone who lives in town.

2:00 pm – KSBY confirms the driver, and sole occupant, of the vehicle died in the accident. There is speculation about who the driver was, but nothing is confirmed at this time.

10:30 am – A vehicle went over the side of the road at Big Creek this morning and caught fire. CHP, MCSO and others on the scene. It is too steep for a cliff & rescue operation, so a 300 ft cable is being brought in, as well as a medical unit. There is not a lot of hope that there are any survivors, but one never knows. There is no indication of a vegetation fire, only a lot of smoke at this time.

Protecting Big Sur from Wildfires, Part I

This is a story that has spanned the last 18 months, and came into being as a result of the Basin Complex Fire of 2008. It is the story of the Monterey County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. (MCCWPP)

It embraces the efforts of many, many volunteers, and thousands of hours of planning. Now, this draft plan is in jeopardy, because the Ventana Branch of the Sierra Club does not want this plan approved, and Gary Patton, a lawyer out of Santa Cruz, is taking to the airwaves, supposedly as a neutral reporter, but really as a spokesperson for environmental groups without disclosing that he is “of counsel” to at least one of them in this fight against the MCCWPP.

I am not “of counsel” to anyone in this battle, but I must admit, I am not neutral. It affects my life, my property, my neighbors, the wildlife, and this land and place that I love.

At this point, the only agency, of the 20 involved, that has not signed on to the MCCWPP is the Monterey County Board of Supervisors. They are afraid of a law suit, as has been inferred in a letter from Gary Patton. In a future post, I will reproduce this letter.

This is a complex issue, involving many people, and organizations, and it has a long history. It is time to reveal some of that which has been going on behind the scenes, as those of us who live in the wilderness, or on its edge, face the challenges of protecting both the environment and the lives and property of those who live amidst it, and also seek to protect it from devastating wildfires like that experienced two years ago.

As is usual, emotions are strong on both sides of this issue, and compromise seems difficult, if not impossible. However, perhaps we can find a way to achieve that which is necessary – that is protecting the Big Sur Coast for all that live here, travel here, and love her.

Devastating wildfires, which close the only available road for locals and tourists alike, come within inches of historical landmarks like Deetjen’s, Nepenthe, and the Henry Miller Library, must be controlled. We cannot sit idly by and do nothing. It is up to us – all of us – who love Big Sur.

I will have many posts about this issue in the coming weeks and months as we try to find the solutions which make sense for the protection of this coast. They will include the letters, relevant portions of the MCCWPP, radio transcripts, rebuttals, and any information I can obtain so that we can all educate ourselves about what would be best to preserve this magical place for ALL to enjoy – not just the two currently major players – the people who live here, and the environmentalist groups who don’t want us to come up with a workable solution for uncontrolled future wildfire.

I will also provide my readers with the point of view of as many of those involved as I possibly can, so you can come to your own informed decision. Please share with friends and others. This is an important issue, and it is coming to its flash point.

Lake Fire

I have been following the fire out at Lake Nacimiento this afternoon, but it only got up to 17 acres, destroyed one mobile home, and was out by this afternoon. One FF injured due to heat exhaustion.

I also have been following a number of SoCal fires, particularly the Post near Lebec (off Highway 5 near the Grapevine), but as it is not in my reporting area (I cover Big Sur, Los Padres, SLO, and Santa Cruz) I haven’t been blogging about it.

SoCal lightning strikes have started a number of fires this afternoon, but the air attack guys and gals are all over them, so things are going pretty well for California, wildfire season wise.


While there are a number of Big Sur related items I am looking into, including the MCCWPP and the upcoming Health Center benefit, none of them are ready for publication at this time. Pozo is under control, no other items of concern need immediate attention, so I offer you something completely different.

Today, I had lunch in a place that had a salt-water tank. It offered new and unusual photo opportunities, and I offer them here. While this was beautiful to witness, I felt as if these very small fish were still in prison, even though their tank was extremely large.

I was mindful of the documentary, “The Cove.” I urge you to watch this, if you care about dolphins and porpoises. You can order the DVD and find out about the documentary here: The Cove. In the meantime, enjoy something different … fish …

Pozo Fire, Day 2

8:00 pm UPDATE – it is always a lot harder to get information on fires being ICd by USFS than it is on CALFIRE fires. Much less information available, and the USFS hasn’t updated inciweb in 10 hours. HOWEVER my sources say that resources seem to be being released, no smoke is visible in areas where it was yesterday, and all indications are that the FFs seem to be getting a handle on this one.

10:00 am – USFS modified the expected containment time to 6 pm, but still on Tuesday, the 24th.

9:30 am – this is now a USFS show, and updates are provided via inciweb, link provided to the right. This morning, LPF issued the following:

Incident Type Wildfire
Cause Under Investigation
Date of Origin Saturday August 21st, 2010 approx. 12:34 PM
Location Hwy 58 at Santa Margarita
Incident Commander Dana D’andrea (usfs)
Current Situation
Total Personnel 355
Size 1,263 acres
Percent Contained 5%
Estimated Containment Date Tuesday August 24th, 2010 approx. 12:00 AM
Fuels Involved
6 Dormant Brush, Hardwood Slash Grass/Brush/Oaks
Fire Behavior
Multiple spot fires with rapid rate of spread.
Significant Events
Incident is merging from state to federal command.
Planned Actions
Aggressive fire suppression tactics to include direct line construction.
Growth Potential
Terrain Difficulty

4:30 am – I woke to the smell of smoke quite early. I am assuming this is drift from the Pozo Fire. CALFIRE and others are still listing this incident as around 1500 acres. The 2500 acre report last night was a miscalculation. Around midnight last night, containment was given as 5%. I will update with more as I learn more. Now, back to bed.

CALFIRE NEWS reported two hours ago that the fire WAS 2500 acres (but unsure if this is accurate) and 10% contained. Also reporting that Jim Smith’s IMT is taking over management of this fire at 0600 hours this morning. Now, really, am going back to bed.