Soberanes Fire, Day 7, 7/28/16 – Local Reports


“The [mechanized equipment] request was approved 90 minutes after the fire went into the LPNF. USFS worked hard in the early days to get all of that ready in case it came into the forest. What Bill Monning announced was that the Federal Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) was approved by FEMA – which provides reimbursement for state and local costs and recovery money.” Kathleen Lee, assistant to Supervisor Dave Potter,

From tonight’s Community Meeeting, partial notes:

Q: how confident are you in lines protecting CV? A:Last 5 years fire has been extreme which is why trucks are coming. direct on fire in DivC and creating 2nd line on RSC road & 3rd line on Chamisal ridge

Q What part of cv is most vulnerable? A: Robinson Cyn, Garzas, RSC. Hitchcock & other remote steep outlyers

Q: Update on Palo & Garrapata? A: Hard area. Structures lost. Damage team not able to get in yet. Intensity off charts 2 prior days, cooler today & some progress.

Q: Palo fire movement direction? A: generally backing west, south into little sur drainage, burning downslope . Moving twd bixby creek, backing down twd palo creek in road corridor. SOD logs light, burns fown…

Wants more general questions

Q: containment size & date A: % is relative. Projected date is Aug 31 now cause he knows more than he did

Q: Communicating w/absentee landowners, gas service? A: register w/reverse 911 and turn off your own gas. Help your neighbors. Feeling ‘very comfortable @ CH.

Q: What is up north of skinners, mt carmel, poinciano ridge & pine valley? A: structure protection first. Working on that long term w/ midelling

Q: No plan to close shelter if there is a need but nobody currently usong it. can be opened again immediately if reqd

Sobranes Fire Conference Call Presentation
July 28, 2016 3 PM

Presenter: Chief Michael Urquides, MCRFD
Moderator: Forrest Arthur (The Preserve)

On the Preserve there are currently 40 fire engines, 20 bulldozers (at the end of the conference he said 30) and over 300 correctional fire inmates. There are 8 helicopters, 4 fixed wing air tankers.

As far as those that have been evacuated expect to be evacuated a minimum of 5 days. They look at it with 5 day blocks. They will have a better estimate after the weekend.

Williams/Trapper Area:
There are 4 areas currently involved. The Williams Canyon/Trapper area is most active currently. The others are Garzas, Spill Area and White Rock. In the Williams/Trapper area (what we saw last night) it is what they call a backing fire, a planned fire slowly backing down to containment by design. They are close to putting crews in to fight it on the ground. The fuel is not very volatile and the humidity is higher than expected. It is not too destructive. The upper fuel is not being involved at this time (top of trees). The conditions are great for the ground litter to burn. The fire has not yet jumped the containment lines at Williams Canyon but the concern is it is not big enough to contain it. They are not worried if it goes to Rancho San Carlos. Great break there. The helicopters are currently making drops in this area and will do so until sundown as they did yesterday.

Rear of Garzas:
This area is not volatile, just ground litter burning. Properties are defensible.

Spill Area:
(approximately 1 1/2 miles due west of the intersection of San Clemente Trail and Robinson Canyon Rd.) The fire is active, 4-5 acres here but not scary. It did jump the primary dozer line in this remote area. Strike teams and dozers have been dispatched to this area to begin the installation of secondary containment lines. This outbreak does not endanger any homes at this time.

White Rock:
One concern is containment for the fire. Rancho San Carlos Rd. is one large break. One concern is the fires burning on the E side of White Rock Mtn. and getting into canyons in the Valley (Hitchcock and Robles Del Rio areas). For this reason they are staging 150 fire trucks in this area. Other containment lines are CV Rd. and Highway 1. They are doing long term planning here, more rather than not enough.

Other General Information:
The weather is cooperating for troops on the ground. This is the number one fire in the nation now and there aren’t other big fires happening now. They have requested and are getting everything they have asked for. There have been no delays on the requests. This fire has already gone over $40 million to fight it, 4-5 million a day. The biggest cost is aircraft but the daily cost goes down when they are grounded because they are contract employees. 4,000 fire fighters are assigned to fight this.

There are trucks in every driveway of the preserve. This is precautionary. They are checking for embers. They have 20,000 feet of hose laid out. All hydrants on the preserve are used for top offs. Another concern is when the smoke clears the sun is out and makes things volatile. Fighting this is a delicate game. They can’t underestimate the fire and take it one day at a time. There is a lot of save haven in the preserve which is why they have so many fighter in there. They are able to make big containment areas rather than little island containment areas. The Preserve is like a little fire city with equipment. They prepare for the worst but hope for the best.

Regarding the maps which are developed by Intel they are done at 4 PM for fighting the next day. They are already 12+ old the next day. They also use a Type 3 Helicopter so they can have a better picture but the smoke makes that difficult too. The Incident Commander goes up in this to get a better picture for fighting the fire.

Fuel burning slowly is defensible. It will be smoky.

A note on the bull dozer operator that was killed. This was almost the same spot the previous dozer was killed.
There was an email address to send questions but it was given so quickly I didn’t get it. Forrest Arthur asked Chief Urquides questions residents had sent in. I will try and get that to you.
There is a community meeting at CMS tonight at 6 PM. I will attend and relay any new info.

Incredible community up here on the mountain!
_____________________________________________________________________________________________MCRFD Add’l notes from same meeting by Lucas Ryan. Note costs at end, and prior dozer death at same location in 2007.

Chief Urquides

40 trucks and 20 Bulldozers at The Preserve.

5-day evacuation blocks at this moment. Not long term. Wait through the weekend. 5-day windows of opportunity.
Global picture – 4 quadrants
Williams canyon – Trappers – Garzas area: backing fire. planned fire couldn’t go direct because of ridgeline. By design. Eventually, FF will go in to put fire out. Fuel not volatile, humidity higher. Fire not backing down into rancho san carlos contingency road area. Fire not destructive to upper fuel bed, all duff driven, win win to keep fire out of trees – ground crews – conditions are great to just burn ground litter and not upper canopies.

Garzas – Fire close to the rear of the Garzas. Smokey conditions. Not volatile, A lot of FF’s doing great work. They are confident properties are defensible.

Spill area 1.5 mile west corner of San Clemente trail and Robinson – 4-5 acres contingency lines. Jumped Whiterock dozer line. Trucks on RSC road, concern is embers from backing fire fall onto west side RSC south facing grass.

CV village – Fire Dept. Big Box Line, CV road, Hwy 1, Cachagua. If the fire continues to loop around Whiterock, San Clemente, the canyons could align to CV village – Hitchcock Canyon. Don’t have any definitive fire breaks but are trying to put them in as we speak. They want to do long term planning – overplanning. FF’s in village proper, Hitchcock, Robles. New order for 150 truck for this area. Not much fire in western united states, #1 incident, so they are getting what they are asking for. Error side of caution because of severity of fuels. Weather is cooperative for troops, but not for airplanes. Sun will ripen the fuel to become volatile. Trying to get as much work done as smoke allows – without aggressive use of aircraft. Delicate game. CAN’T UNDERESTIMATE THE POTENTIAL OF THIS FIRE One day at a time. Calling for a lot more resources to be over prepared.

Entire Preserve effected? Pre-planning box – can’t undercut backside of preserve planning fire or division breaks, we include the whole Preserve. A lot of safe haven, we can stop from aggressively getting to Chamisal, but don’t want to make islands. Planning so it will not impact more than it has. Prepare for Worst, hope for best, calling a lot of resources to protect infrastructure of Preserve. Picture little fire city. Overplan, request resources in case the fire takes off. 5 day segments for evacuation, Maps – intel in at 4pm, 12 hours behind for fire data when they come out. Commander has type 3 helicopter to fly fire, but with smoke they can’t do that. Maps are a concern for FF’s and Public.

Proximity to RSC and the trappers. It is close. Slow, Smokey, no aggressive wall of fire. FF’s are confident. Defendable for any structures there.

Fire Fatality, 2007 Matt Will, the recent accident, Robert Reagan, was 1/4 mile from where that occurred. Last Dozer fatality was 2007 in the same spot. Just shows it is steep. Dozers are an amazing tool, but when you can’t go direct it causes challenges. 60 Dozers assigned and 30 on the preserve to safeguard homes.

Appreciative that the homes were protected in the Garzas, but 4 homes on West side RSC, 35, 39, 42, 44. They look great. Trucks in driveways to prevent embers falling in grass. Cache of hose – 20,000’ of hose pre-staged along RSC, water system working great, hydrants in service. Life first and then protect the environment. Nothing precludes us from protecting those homes.

Has fire jumped containment lines Williams canyon? It has not jumped, but we question the fire line strength. If it does jump then it’ll be at the bottom. They prepped BSLT cabins, the fire burned around, it is secure. If we can protect those cabins then we can protect homes. We will see fire from Williams canyon to RSC road by backing or FF will put fire on the ground to secure that line.

Any known cost of the fire? $40 million, 4-5 million a day fire. Cost is down because of aircraft – they can’t fly. When they can’t fly they don’t get paid.

Photo from Saddle Mountain looking toward Preserve, photo by Aletha



This evening from Clear Ridge, photo by Jen Smith


3:00 pm – From Michael Troutman


9:15 – A GOFUNDME account has been established for the wife and two daughters of the dozer operator who lost his life, Go fund me for Robert Reagan

A friend of Michael Troutman’s (ex USFS hotshot) found this amazing video. It is shot from inside the cockpit of a tanker. The green dots on the dash are the retardant level

Retardant drop (It has been taken down)

5:30 am – asked to let you know about this organization:

“July, 2016. Monterey, CA. The Community Emergency Response Volunteers (CERV) of the Monterey Peninsula, a 501c3 non-profit, has launched in response to the Soberanes Fire recovery efforts. The website is overseen and staffed by Recovers Squad volunteers from CERT programs in Monterey, Seaside, Marina, and Pacific Grove. The website,, is a tool to build community resilience by matching people’s needs with resources in the community at a grass roots level. Local organizations and community members with specific needs as a result of the Soberanes Fire are invited to register and post on the site.”

5:00 am – had company stop by LAST NIGHT, with some lovely Holy Granola and honey from the Hermitage (thanks to all the monks for this) and a couple bottles of wine, and we shared stories and wine for a couple hours, it was a nice break last evening.

Today, after an exhausting 6 days, I will be taking some time off and will be off line from 10 – 2, while Mike Morales will be keeping an eye on the blog for me, and moderating comments, etc. I am taking Rock Knocker out to lunch in the Big Sur Valley for his birthday (it was yesterday) which will allow me a closer look at things up on the North End, and an opportunity to get a feel for what people’s concerns are, and where any help may be needed. During travel time and during lunch, I will not be monitoring, but before I leave, both home and lunch, I will check in.

In the mean time, I will be uploading my daily dozer maps when I get them, and other information that may be of help. One note I would like to make is in the comments people leave seeking information from others, these comments are often left in all sorts of different places, which will be hard to find, for example, one person waning to know about a specific place on Day 6, left a comment on Day 3, which is not likely to ever be seen by anyone now, 3-4 days later. Might I suggest those kinds of comments are best posted on the “locals” post for the day one is asking the question? More likely to be seen. Some great summaries and observations came out of last night’s summaries, but they are spread out among Day 6 posts.

One of the things I learned in covering fires for this blog is that I can get “up and running” and “up to speed” in an hour, whereas most sources of information might take days. That first week is critical in knowing what is going on. As “official” sources become more available, and more information becomes available through all sorts of sources, my blog becomes less critical and thus I can begin to slow down. I couldn’t possibly humanly keep up the pace I have been devoting to this until the end of August, the new containment date, so beginning today, you will start to see a slow down in the amount of information offered.

37 thoughts on “Soberanes Fire, Day 7, 7/28/16 – Local Reports

  1. Enjoy your well deserved break today!! You are abundantly appreciated and beyond measure in a gift to so many.

  2. It’s Thursday and 5 pm somewhere in the world Kate…yes…it’s happy hour…go have a margarita! You deserve it!

  3. We can’t thank you enough for being the communication lifeline to us. We so appreciate your updates and map postings.
    Have some well deserved time to yourself!

  4. Kate, I’ve come to rely on your first hand notices and connections. Thank you so much! Please take good care of yourself, try to get some sleep and enjoy your time offm. I echo the comment above, you are abundantly appreciated and your commitment is a gift to us all.

  5. Thank you and have a nice lunch today. You deserve it. I check your blog several times a day for info. it’s a fantastic gift to the community.

  6. Ditto what others said. You are an invaluable and tireless resource . I empathize with you and so respect your motivation and dedication to create a factual, well documented and pertinent communication tool for your followers. Bless you and your helpers!

  7. Kate, Thank You for all that you have done and are doing. I’m SO grateful for such a reliable and consistent source of information. You are such an asset to this community. Please, take good care of yourself. Enjoy lunch with your friend and next time you come to Deetjen’s, I’m buying you breakfast.
    Much love and appreciation, Laura Tugwell

  8. You are an enormous asset to all of us who read your blog looking for info regarding all sorts of information. You more than deserve time off as it will good for your mind and body. Bless you for being our eyes and ears down in Big Sur.

  9. I wanted to know if our house Mark and Barbara Mills in house in palo Colorado is still standing and not burned. We are neighbors of Norm Cotton and Heidi. The house is just up the dirt road opposite the firehouse.
    Thank you for all the information and for the great work you are doing. I wake up every morning and rely on this site. Enjoy some time off today.

  10. Kate – you are doing a fabulous job keeping us outsiders up to date. Enjoy your lunch – you deserve a break.
    Question – just noted a GoFundMe site for the family of Robert Reagan. Is this verified that this is the dozer driver who lost his life?

  11. Any more detailed news available regarding the area near Arroyo Sequoia in the Preserve? Your info early on (and still now) has been and is outstanding! Thank you all so much. My home is on that street but we’re in Wyoming, so we only get info from places like this.

  12. Is there a source besides the suggested but not accessible for status of homes in Palo Colorado, especially near and beyond the Hoist? I live in Carmel Valley but am involved with Sweetwater Refuge, the buddhist place, which is the old Lyke place on Sweetwater Creek. Thank you!

  13. 15 fire crew trucks plus other support trucks heading up Robinson Canyon about 10 minutes ago. Only 2 have come down thus far. Helicopters now overhead. Thank you all for working so hard. I’d like to stop them all and give them a huge hug but at least posted a big “Thank You” sign by our corral for them to see. Hope everyone will do the same.

    Yes, money is needed most (give to CPOA-Coastal Property Owners Association – they know who/where help is needed).

    It also feels great to give actual physical items (clothes, food, water, toiletries, kid’s toys, games, etc.) in this time of need. Do both.

    WATER/FOOD FOR FIGHTERS – 10-1 pm today – SAFEWAY Rancho
    Bobby Richards is at the mouth of Carmel Valley (right in Safeway parking lot – jeep and white trailer – marked “Donations”)
    10 am – 1 pm TODAY gathering donations for the firefighters.
    Yesterday, he successfully delivered a huge trailer of drinks, apples and other snacks to the fighters with Michael Troutman. I believe he’s going to be doing this as long as its needed – check his FB page daily to see.
    Feels great to DO SOMETHING real for the guys. Bring some drinks.

    BIG THANKS TO Amy at Carmel Country Inn – she reached out to other hotels – they are donating a great collection of pillows, sheets, towels, blankets to evacuees
    (these are bring brought to the BIG SUR STATION today – 1/2 mile south of Pfeiffer campground)
    KUDOS TO these local innkeepers!
    Amy – Carmel Country Inn (Bobby called her and she called all the others!)
    Nancy – Lobos Lodge – Carmel
    Mary – La Playa – Carmel
    Jennifer – Vagabond’s Inn

    SPCA – CARMEL MIDDLE SCHOOL – is taking all kinds of stuff for pets

    Many Big Sur evacuess are staying with friends in Big Sur (or camping) and are NOT able to drive all the way up to Carmel for supplies.

    I encourage you to donate items that can be brought to the BIG SUR STATION, as this will eventually be a center for resources. Donations accepted 9-4 daily.

    Big Sur Station is asking for:
    CANNED FOOD (chili, pasta, corn, etc.)
    NON- PERISHABLE (ramen, cereal, nuts, raisins, etc.)

    Everyone is being awesome. This fire is …. well, something we haven’t seen before – and it’s going to be a long haul until this is “over”….. Thank you all for pulling together to make a big difference.

    God Bless everyone. 🙂

  15. D Allen – I asked a neighbor to post my information for me, rumor is they’re only calling people who’s houses have burned. If you don’t have property out there they probably won’t get in touch with you and you’ll have to rely on word of mouth.

  16. MT – Donations to Big Sur Fire Station – I am staying off 1 until things get better. Any other gathering place? Another Fire Station? I’m outside Salinas. Also might want to add CAN OPENERS to the list… one of those little things people forget about.
    Powdered milk good too

  17. Just saw a post on Nextdoor regarding an event at Post No Bills in Sand City. (see Facebook) I’m sure in the near future there will be many similar events.
    Kate – your efforts the first week were AMAZING (TY!!!!) and as you said, the “official” sources are now up and running, but still some what difficult to keep track of and navigate. Lots of different FBs, websites, blogs etc… sometimes I have so many tabs up my screen starts to smoke! So I always come back here.
    So… when you get bored and have nothing to do… 😉
    maybe a separate section for “fund raising events” ??? I want to support these events but it was 5 “steps” to find the above event and the first step was almost pure luck – plus my dogged resolve to find “the source”. 🙂
    Just a suggestion.
    Like I said – I always come back here and I can tell a lot of other people do too. You’ve got the people’s trust.
    Thanks again – Denise

  18. Thank you, Kate!! You are the “go to” site for thousands of people who are watching this monster fire!! Prayers being lifted up for those who are on the “front lines”, and those directly affected!!

  19. Happy Birthday to Rock Knocker. I hope the two of you enjoyed a wonderfully relaxing lunch today!

  20. Does anyone have current news for the fire up north in the Highlands. It has been quiet for 2 days and now constant helicopters over downtown Carmel in the fog.

  21. Yes, echoing Q above, Does anyone have any info on Wildcat Canyon / Mal Paso Canyon etc – the area of the Highlands south of the Corona road area? I am hearing conflicting things, would love actual info if anyone knows anything, THANKS.

  22. I saw MT, Martha, today, and I volunteered her to gather this info for me, as I believe this is a wonderful suggestion, and hasn’t yet been done.

  23. Excellent! (separate fund raising section)
    I will post on Nextdoor, regularly, until this b1tch is contained… especially after the hoopla dies down and (some) people “forget” when their little patch of blue skies return. The MCRFPD makes posts on my little Nextdoor site but I’ve noticed comments on their posts from all over so… will piggyback there for now.
    My first visit to Big Sur was in the early 70’s.
    I will… I MUST do what I can.
    Take care – it’s gonna be a long month… and then some 🙁

  24. I’m sure many of you remember the movie “Starman” with Jeff Bridges….at a moment when all hell was breaking loose, he said….”Your species are very interesting….When things are the worst, you are at your best”….I think lthis sums it up pretty well….Thank you to all….Kate, Firefighters, and fierce folks on the ground…You are the Best!… (Ps…I might now have the quote totally right, but the sentiment is the same) xooxo rachel fann

  25. “You are a strange species, not like any other … Intelligent, but savage … You are at your very best when things are worse.”

    I(d say you nailed it,


  26. You are the eyes and ears and all the senses (typing fingers too) of the community. As many have said you are our number once source for detailed information. You inspire us all to reconnect and support each other. Thank you, Kate, from the bottom of my heart.
    Aletha Parker

  27. Kate, awesome meeting you today! As an official “Big Sur Kate Groupie”, I have to admit it made my day! 🙂 I’m “never gonna wash that hand”! (after shaking your hand!:) Excited to support fundraising efforts and help.
    Aletha, thank you so much for posting the notes from the meetings today! Really helpful info! 🙂
    Love the quote about “you are at your very best when things are worse” – I’ve had the delight of picking up donations around Carmel – people are SO HAPPY to give to this cause and to help. I feel so hopeful for raising big funds to help people get back on their feet. I’m a goal- setter. Does a goal of $50 million sound too low? This is an amazing and generous community. Watch and see.

  28. Denise,
    Thanks for wanting to donate. I am a teacher still on summer break, and I can take donations down to Big Sur for people (done this the past few days). I totally understand wanting to stay off Highway 1 – a highly respectful attitude as there is so much going on.
    Let me know if you want me to meet you somewhere to take down your items. Happy to help.

  29. Hello! I’m concerned that I will lose you on this site so I wanted to get my contact info to you… just in case. I clicked the”notify” box on the bottom of this reply but not sure if I have to every time and I might forget… who me? Never… hahah 😉
    (H) 831-455-1229 leave msg
    (C) 702-423-7673

    I’d like to get a full car load from my Nextdoor group – Indian Springs Ranch and Las Palmas.
    Seeing how you you’ve been down there, you know what is needed and what they already have plenty of. I know sometimes “donations” can be almost more trouble than good.
    Are there any specific things you can think of?
    Also maybe ideas of “needs” down the road, when people can go home and start rebuilding. I’m thinking along the lines of… oh say shovels without the handles burnt off? I think there are some extras laying around here. They may not be new but they work. (As this is needed a bit later and you may be getting ready for the school year, the road will be open and I can probably take them down myself)
    In general – I’ve posted this link which has a good collection of links
    Like Kate said – the “official” lines are now up and running but the first week??? Boy was I glad I found this blog!
    Thanks! Look forward to talking to you soon.

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