Soberanes Fire, Day 2, July 23, 2016

8:30 pm – This is my last photo of the night on this post. If more needs to be posted after dark, I will do so on a new post, a practice I started during the Chalk in order to limit my posts to two a day.

I have a soft spot for the convict crews, probably because I was a public defender at the trial or appellate level for 30 years and had clients who worked these crews. Also, I have known as friends a number of Cal Fire crew bosses who worked with these guys. They are hard working and really give it their all for a few bucks a day and the chance to work outside the prison walls. It is a plum assignment, and there are stiff requirements to get on a crew. But when I see that long orange line, I always tear up. Photo by John Galt.



I think he means “Weston Ridge RD.” Not Western Ridge RD. At least we now have official situational reports.

7:00 from Trina Hammack again, Mid-Valley. Yup, it has exploded.


7:00 pm – it’s blown up again. These two photos were taken  just now, only a minute apart, both at 300 mm telephoto, from my watch tower up here: (Insert favorite expletive here)


6:22  just in from Cal Fire Statewide PIO: 6500 acres, 5% contained, and they used Mike Morales DC-10 retardant drop photo to tweet it. Congrats, Mike

6:15 pm – Oakland, Fremont, Hayward, & Alameda FD each sending engines and boots down to us! Yeah, East Bay. SF is already on the way.

This just sent at 6:09 pm:


4:00 pm – Top of Country Club Drive, CV, photo by Anthony Jabin:




DC-10 retardant drop by Mike Morales taken this afternoon:


3:15 pm – top of Cachuagua Grade, photo by Siobhan Warwick Griffin Wolfe


This photo taken not long ago by Trina Hammack, clearly shows this is a 3-headed beast:


2:30 – changed to an evacuation WARNING not a voluntary evacuation:

Fire and law enforcement have issued an evacuation warning for all areas of Carmel Highlands due to the potential spread of the Soberanes wildland fire to the north of its current location.

Residents are encouraged to be prepared to leave the area immediately in the event this is upgraded tp a voluntary evacuation order. Be prepared to take any medications, pets, family valuables, etc. Also, please close all windows including window coverings and leave all doors closed and unlocked if you leave.

From Monterey OES:
2:00 pm – Fire and law enforcement have issued a voluntary evacuation notice for the area of Carmel HIghlands from Corona Road at the north end to south of Mal Paso Creek at Aurora Del Mar due to the potential spread of the Soberanes wildland fire to the north of its current location.

Residents are encouraged to leave the area as soon as possible. Be sure to take any medications, pets, family valuables, etc. Also, please close all windows including window coverings and leave all doors closed and unlocked.

A temporary shelter facility has been established at Carmel Middle School, 4830 Carmel Valley Road.

Photos taken Saturday 7/23 at 1:30 pm – from Boots Road and Saddle Road by Jim Barr:

View to South


View to the West

seems to have been misplaced, for the moment. I am  too tired to figure it out, so will try again tomorrow, or just skip this one. My photo library is now in utter, and complete disarray tonight, and I am not doing anything about it until I get a little perspective back. Manana, people.





View to the South West



1:40 – Photo by Jane Goldcamp


1:15 am – let me give a description from my iPad here at my work desk. There is another HUGE plume. She is running again. In addition to the plume, there is smoke from behind Cone Peak out to the ocean, and south along the horizon as far as I can see. This puppy is pumping today, and that is not a good thing.

12:45 am – I am hearing that the wind shift that is currently taking place means the fire is making a run northward. As stated below in the comments section, this was somewhat anticipated as evidenced by the propositioning of some engines and other equipment about 10 this morning on the southern/eastern end of the Highlands.

From Mike Morales: “Wind is fierce now from Hurricane Point to Malpaso Creek Bridge. Looks S/W at gusting easily to 40+. Saw ash flying south of Bixby Bridge also leaves and debris airborne. Haven’t seen that in awhile.
The move north is astonishing. 1/2 mile from Malpaso. Went into the neighborhood and the two residents I spoke with were clueless if not defiant but once I mentioned the wind change they perked up.
CalFire based in the Highlands are patrolling.
No fixed wing or rotary. I suspect the wind is begging them off.”

All information confirmed with Monterey County OES, Cal Fire and Monterey County Sheriffs Office:
-Burn area now estimated at 3000+ acres
-1000 structures threatened
-Boy Scout camp had over 350 people shelter in place overnight and all were safely evacuated this morning
-Evacuation orders in affect for Palo Colorado, door to door notices
-Palo Colorado Rd, Lower Garapatta Rd and Westin Ridge Rd currently closed, Hwy 1 remains open
-Red Cross and SPCA shelters located at Carmel Middle School and are currently accepting donations onsite
-Incident Command Type II Team setting up at Toro Park, Cal Fire Garden Rd office currently command site
-Incident Command has been given control of Cal Fire BEU Twitter feed and will be posting updates directly from the team
-Information on air attack and ground crews will be posted shortly, teams from all over California and nearby states are in route

From early today (from the Palo Colorado Neighborhood list.)

“UPDATE FROM PALO RESIDENT: Andrew Hall from Mid-Coast
Hey All,

So as I was packing and preparing early this morning around 6 to leave a fire broke out on our property on the south side of garrapata ridge (the fire jumped the ridge by ember). I called calfire right away and then an hour later to report. After about 3-4 hours after the fire start a spotter plane and helicopter arrived. The helicopter dumped water on the upper portion of the fire that was making a run for the ridge. The fire was still spreading down towards our house, as well as east and west along the ridge. The canyon was empty heading out except for a cal fire personal who said he was going to take a look at it to see if he could get crew in. The fire is easily defensible, I have a fire hydrant right at it’s base, a trail leading to the southern flank and an access road that was cleared down below. The fire is spreading but not at an extremely rapid pace, so I will cross my fingers it can be put out. Hope everyone got out safely and that our firefighters can put it out safely.”

Saturday, 7/23 at 11:30 am  by Jane Goldcamp from a ridge in Carmel Valley.


Here’s the same thing from Salinas, about the same time:


And one from Marina


My retired fire fighting friend, and co-administrator when I need help, Mike Morales took this one this am, pre-dawn. Yes, that is a light on someone’s house in that shape. Love it!


10:08 am – Report from Garrapatos RD. The Calvary has arrived and they are bombing the sh*t of the fire that is approaching.

From earlier this am,

From the helipad furthest west on Whiterock Ridge.

It’s running south to the back side of the Ridgeline running down from Mt. Carmel. Seems really hard that it would run this way. That’s about five miles away. Absolutely no activity up here.

Please credit photo and info by Paul Ingram. He’s onsite.


9:50 am – plume died down, it is quieting down, thankfully. My friend’s panic is abating after puking. Here are a couple dawn photos taken by Mike Morales:


9:20 am – I have been notified by a local that the fire is only 1000 ft from taking out Garrapatos Road.  And 9 homes that stand in its way. This local has, until now, remained calm and the voice of reason in the face of panic by so many others. That probably scares me more than what this person has to say. I am watching the drama unfold to the window to my right as I sit here at my iPad. I can watch from a safe distance, but my heart cries for my friends, my old neighborhood, and the land.

9:00 am – It is running again!! I can see a major increase in smoke over the past few minutes, plume building rapidly. Any photo I take will be outdated in minutes, but will try.

Oh, and here is a photo taken by John Selmo around 8:30 am from Mal Paso showing the northern edge of the fire.


Fire map from 7 am briefing. 1800 acres, 0% containmentk. BTW, for the uninitiated, that line of crosses to the north of Palo Colorado Canyon usually denotes a dozer line that has been or is being cut. I learned that from many times attending these meetings over the years. 😉 Keith Vandervere says that thermal imagining puts the fire much further east than this map shows.


Helicopter 106 all good and back in the fight this am. Photo by Matt Vogelpoht this am in CV.


Here is the view from the north, taken at 7:50 am – Ridge above CV, photo by Jane Goldcamp. But according to Keith’s fire activity map below, most of the activity last night was to the south.


From XT:



photos by Kodiak Greenwood, sent by Lisa Kleissner:



See the house? Amazing.

Photo below from last night from Weston Ridge, Photo by Maren Muter, taken at 10 pm-(okay, must have messed this one up. Will go back and look for correct photo.)


7 am – Uh, oh … There is a plume forming. Darn. BTW, must be expecting lots of support for lots of days as they moved the location of the Fire Camp from Garrapata Park to Toro Park. I know the food vendor.

6:30 am – got 5 hours of sleep last night. Now,  I’m playing catch up. No visible plume this am. Fog over the ocean moving in down here, appears to be on the coast further north. By or shortly after midnight, fire given as 2,000 acres with eminent threat to at least one structure on Palo Colorado (I’m guess really Garrapata Ridge, since that would be first) but don’t know whose. Boy Scout Camp sheltered in place with MCSO, Cal Fire, and Ham Operator on site.

Here is a rather dramatic photo from Garrapata Ridge by Jessica Neafsey:


I’ll have more after coffee, and as more information becomes available.

53 thoughts on “Soberanes Fire, Day 2, July 23, 2016

  1. Toro Park is on 68 on the way to Salinas … Out of the area, but big area to set up and have telecommunications which aren’t available at Garrapata State Park.


  2. The house shown looked to be in the path of some major fire sweeping their way. I hope it survived. More than that, I hope and pray everyone evacuated and is safe. Material things can be replaced, our lives cannot. Thanks for the chilling photos, so we know how bad it really is. Hoping for better news today!

  3. Thank you for your blog Big Sur Kate my daughter got evacuated from Palo Colorado road

  4. Please keep us updated as frequently as possible, it is so helpful- my parents are 1 mile south of Rocky Point and trying to get info as they pack house in case of evacuation

  5. On the Modis fire (thermal) image map posted: in fires with strong plumes, often Modis picks up the heat in the plume, and overstates the spread. Absent confirmation of the spread east by aircraft, don’t assume the fire has spotted that far east (yet).

  6. Any word on how far the fire is from Weston Ridge? I have friends who live up there, I think next to the Kleissner’s. Thanks Kate for all that you do.

  7. Visible channel image taken at night (3:25 am) shows approximate extent of fire at that time as well as smoke plume headed south (illuminated by the moon):

    You can also loop view a loop of infrared (night) and visible (day) images over central CA. At night you can see a hot spot in the infrared image corresponding to the fire and during the day the smoke plume can be seen.

  8. There is no way to confirm specific locations or what I am hearing from others, right now. Should know in a few hours.


  10. 1000 ft from Garrapatos Rd or Westin Ridge? I’m confused as name has changed. Thank you for your updates.



  12. So…JoAnn Fletcher’s place in harm’s way? (Upper Garapata)

    My heart and thoughts are with all of you out there. Hardly slept last night. So many friends in the path. Thanks Kate, for your posts. This ex-pat in Texas is uber grateful for the info.

  13. Thank you for the updates Kate. We have a friend who lives on palo colorado. Since my wife and I live on the east coast this is a great way to find out info. Hope you all stay safe and it gets contained quickly.

  14. Thank you for the wonderful job of reporting the fire. For us that cannot be there and help save our homes you guys are doing a fantastic job. Mike Marshall, Colorado Canyon

  15. It is time to open the Big Box line between the Little Sur/Bottcher’s and Carmel Valley/White Rock. If the fire crosses that, it gets to Big Sur, and we’re in for the big one.

    Any word on USFS plans to open the line?


  16. from carmel highlands nextdoor network. One resident observedd:
    Around 10 am saw 8 fire trucks + 2 fire crew trucks headed up Cypress Way to I assume Mt. Devon Road to go up to the top ridge…

    thank you again bigsurkate

  17. The Jane Goldcamp photo shows a column on the NE side of the Palo Corona peak above Rancho San Carlos. A heavily wooded bowl with tremendous numbers of dead oak.

  18. Good news to report. We were able to drive home this morning and saw that our mountain ridge (Garrapata now aka Weston Ridge) and homes are so far untouched; I am on the north side of the ridge overlooking the old Trout Farm. A lot of ash and smoke. Flames were seen on the ridge across the way from my yard (see photo on Facebook). We saw Cal Fire staging a 30-50 firefighter group nearby. We met with the Battalion Chiefs- Ken Lowe from Redding and Jess from Santa Clara Fire services. They wanted to use my trail from the house (the only one on the mountain that leads 1000 feet down to Garrapata Creek below) to set up a fire break along the opposite ridge. I also told them they could use my Cottage for staging headquarters and general purposes for firefighters if needed. The wind was low today and it is not certain if the fire could head over the ridge back towards us, but they indicated they would be on hand to help prevent the fire spreading to our homes. Overall- so far, so good. I will be staying in Monterey for now and reassess tomorrow, as right now it is not healthy to be breathing the smoke and ash up there. Thanks to our God, whoever/wherever He or She might be and our Firefighters!!. Sincerely, Alan Buchwald, Weston Ridge

  19. Stay and Defend During A Wildfire Questionnaire

    Does your home have sufficient defensible space (100 feet minimum) and is it cleared of flammable materials and vegetation?

    Are you physically fit to fight spot fires around your home for several hours or days?

    Are you and your family members mentally, physically, and emotionally able to cope with the intense smoke, heat, stress, and noise of a wildfire while defending your home?

    Can you protect your home while caring for members of your family, livestock, pets, etc?

    Do you have the necessary training and equipment that is properly maintained and readily accessible to effectively fight a fire?

    Do you have an adequate water supply for fighting fire?
    Do you have a plan?

    If you answered No to any of the above then Stay and Defend is not for you.

  20. Thanks Kate.
    What would we know with out you?
    Do you have any recent info for White Rock?

  21. This fire has three fronts. I have friends on two, I am trying to keep up with it all, but it is so very difficult for one person. As far as the last report I got, White Rock Ridge on the Western edge is fine. I got photos, and if you scroll down the post, I think I posted them, but frankly, I am losing track. I’ve been at it today since 6t am, and yesterday for 15 hours.

  22. Thank you for the wonderful photos and continuous updates. I really appreciate your effort and time; it’s the best coverage out there!

  23. Thank you Kate.
    I am interest to know the fate of BSA camp Pico Blanco as we evacuated earlier this morning and still have camping gears at camp.
    If you have any related local news please share.

  24. Bless all the fire personal for all their hard work and please keep them safe

  25. Thanks so much for your information. We are pretty short of information here in Carmel. We hope that you are ok yourself. I have network going with several other neighbors in the Santa Lucia Preserve. Currently, we cannot see anything, which is probably a good thing. The plumes are not evident now but the smoke smell is strong.

  26. I don’t have any contacts in the Preserve, and others have asked how they are doing back there. Let us know if you hear anything thing you can.

  27. My son and his family live at Esalen which I know is further south. I am still praying for all those in the path of the fire and for the crews battling this monster. Stay safe.

  28. God, I hope the Pico Blanco campground doesn’t burn. I imagine they got everyone out.

    Much love from Santa Cruz. <3

    Thanks for what you do Kate.

  29. Thanks for the update!
    All my thoughts are with the Big Sur folks right now. I went to middle school with one of the Masten grandkids. Oof.
    You’re pretty rad, Kate. So is our mutual friend the food vendor (also grew up with those kids).
    And thanks to all the hardworking firefighters out there!
    True heroes, them.

  30. Thank you Kate for your diligence in keeping us up to speed. I’m sure it’s exhausting, but you should know how much it is appreciated by residents, and those of us far away (like me), who have family and friends there. Thank you so much! Lots of prayers going up for everyone!

  31. The photos here are simply outstanding. I posted that i had been on the sage fire in 79 but my brain is becoming vintage. That was on the
    Angeles or southern LP. What I was trying to remember was the Gorda/Rat fire in the eighties. I was on a couple others later on but can’t remember the names. We did structure protection on Escalon then and I remember the tree sized poison oak more than anything. Nasty. I hope all living in the area keep safe. Fires in this area (as you probably know) are difficult and very steep. Hopefully fog will blanket at least the coast. I’ve also rockhounded off of Jade Cove by Sand dollar (which was fire camp). I also remember a stampede of tarantulas in the mountains. Fortunately we weren’t driving but hundreds were running down the dirt road I assume to get away from the fire. Shoulda hada cell phone snap shot but cell phones were more of a twinkle in the eye. Take care everyone.

  32. Actually, I don’t think we did structure protection on Escalon. It was like a mission with monks. Can’t remember but I think Escalon was right on the coast. Brain spider webs.

  33. Thank you for the information and photos.
    Sending healing thoughts for all those involved.
    The air in some areas of Santa Cruz had some smoke in it last night. San Jose has had a lot of smoke to go with temperatures over 100*.

  34. Kate: I really appreciate your 1st comment about the use of convicts in fires of this caliber. My brother, Harold (Fritz) Cahill was with the U. S. Forest Service for well over 40 years, retiring out of the SantaBarbara office. Many years ago he told me that the best “volunteer” firefighters were the convicts. Rarely,if at anytime, is this recognized by the press or tv jerks. He would have 30+ men only a club to defend himself which he never had to use. Thanks for the info. Brian Cahill

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