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.

4 thoughts on “Protecting Big Sur from Wildfires, Part 2

  1. I appreciate you tackling this issue, too, Kate, but also find it unhelpful and simplistic to categorize people as being *either* a “homeowner” or an “environmentalist” (a member of an “environmental group”)—as if that’s an inevitable and necessary opposition. I would hope that all my fellow locals would evince a deep respect and sense of responsibility towards the wilderness we are privileged to live in relationship with. And I would hope all visitors to this coast would respect and care for both the human community and wilderness. These aren’t either/or values. And though people might disagree about specific provisions, we should do everything to promote trust and dialogue—and avoid the kind of polarizing us/them rhetoric that poisons honest discourse everywhere.

  2. Chris has an excellent point, and in using short-hand to describe two groups, I erred. It is much more accurate to state the two groups as Big Sur Property owners and the Ventana Chapter of the Sierra Club. I’ll make that correction in future posts.

  3. Hi, Kate!

    Thanks for taking the time and effort to briefly and clearly characterize what the MCCWPP says. In fact, the document – a long and open labor by local residents, with nothing more to gain financially than to try to protect our lives, homes and community from wildfire – has been cast as something quite other than that by some of our friends in the environmental community.

    That said, people protect that which they love. Those who oppose the contrived interpretation of the CWPP truly wish to protect “the environment”, and in fact, so do those 20 or so agencies and organizations that signed the MCCWPP. It just that we have an extra factor that causes our love to be a bit more focused; and, that is, we live here.

    In a real sense, factional dispute over the MCCWPP is almost a “family feud” because many of those involved will often find ourselves on the same side of any number of political issues when it comes to conservation.

    Chris makes a very valid point. It’s vital not to portray this disagreement as an “us” vs. “them” argument, and I know that that’s not your intent.

    On a practical note, the Monterey Fire Safe Council examines and evaluates all comments received from interested parties. We are a volunteer organization, without the resources to respond immediately and in detail. Thus, it takes time and effort to consider points of view, using the resources at hand.

    I’m confident that the MCCWPP will develop in a manner in which the concerns of interested parties will be addressed. At the same time, the intent and integrity of the MCCWPP will be retained as a true representation of local resident’s concern for, and expression of, wildfire safety.

    We are, after all, a community first and foremost.


    Kelly Erin O’Brien
    President, Board of Directors
    Monterey Fire Safe Council
    Jamesburg – Cachagua

  4. The pic of Don says it all……period.

    Thanks for all your hard work Kate…I truly appreciate being able to see this information. I may not be in the Sur corporally, but it’s my soul’s home, and I am always there in Spirit, and care about the issues it faces. Your blog helps me to continue to feel connected, and I am SO grateful for that. 🙂

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.