Soberanes Fire, Day 20, 8/10/16 – Local Reports

7:45 pm – note from Kathleen Lee – the controlled burn from the Molera fire camp was done to control the Italian Thistle so that the trucks that are parking there, are not bringing it out with them to spread it through out the area. Kudos to the State Park Biologists!

7:30 pm – report from a happy local business owner:

“Smile on my face tonight. Marine layer was able to stop the fire in the middle of Juan Higuera basin, the N/F of Juan Higuera is considerable less a threat due to direct attack by Hot Shots from Dell Rosa or Dela Rosa, USFS crew real animals!

The S/F of JH has an area they tried to slow with water until the marine layer returned, they did a backfire to create a safe zone on Hopkin’s and they plan to go direct tomorrow on that area.

By Friday this should be a memory!”


7:00 pm – I promised my report from yesterday, so here it is, finally.

We fortified ourselves at the hotel Tuesday with a room service breakfast, packed, and headed out. I need to give a shout out to the Portola Hotel and Spa where we were treated so very well and given a Motel 6 rate for a 4-star room. It was greatly appreciated. We had a dinner that was unbelievable at Jack’s on Sunday night, after the fundraiser, as the crowds were so big and the lines were so long, we couldn’t get the samples of what, I’m sure, were wonderful bites.

So we had the usual town things to take care of, but made it to the River Inn by 11 or so on Tuesday for coffee and Internet, food for Rock Knocker, and local gossip. (Note: if they won’t let me start paying for things, I may have to stop coming!! But then I would miss everyone.) On the way, I stopped at the Little Sur and watched the fire burning on the west side of Pico Blanco, mostly saw smoke, not flames. Also noticed a number of dozers up on the ridge on the north side.

Rather than recount the day, let me summarize the things I took away – first, the tourist traffic was dismally slow and dangerous with lookey loos. The large turnout across from Pfeiffer Ridge was packed with cars, people crossing the road, and a lone officer trying to enforce some semblance of order (mostly ineffectual). Each available turnout in Big Sur was filled with tourists taking photos of the fires. Not a pretty sight. I was astounded at the patience the tourist industry workers were exhibiting with the inane questions and cluelessness. It is a great thing that I ended my tourist industry career about 25 years ago. I don’t have the patience.

We stopped in the parking lot at Ripplewood to watch the 4 helicopters we heard at River Inn come in from the ocean with full buckets, go back behind the short ridge right behind the resort and circle to the top of the Juan Higuera drainage and drop their water … One after the other, after the other, in well practiced precision. I wish we could have seen the actual drops. We later watched the drops on Mt. Manuel and those guys are accuracy in motion. Such pros. I stopped at the TapRoom to use the internet again and recount what I saw, but had nothing to eat or drink, as I was still full. Kurt and I talked the whole time, so was unable to post.

Most of those in the Valley were cautiously optimistic on Tuesday given the hellacious day and night they had had on Monday. I saw my community the way it is during an emergency – the best of the best. I am always so proud to be a member of this wonderful group of human beings, who pick on each other in the best of times, but put it ALL aside and work tirelessly and well together in the worst of times. I can never leave here. It has my heart and my soul – it is the love of my life: the land and the people. Thank you for welcoming me into the fold 31 years ago.


4:15 pm – fire in the new fire camp at Andrew Molera? How could this happen? This has got to be a first. Photo by Mike Gilson. One local has it as a “controlled burn” for the fire camp. No “official” confirmation, yet. “At Molera it was a controlled burn from all the poison oak brush they cleared for camp, just didnt bother telling anyone…”



Another photo by Mike Gilson, showing Ewoldsen’s (aka The Knoll) on the left taken at some time:


3:45 pm – I wish I knew the story behind this one. Just glad the pilot made it safely back to the airport. “Hey Kate….just had a tanker declare an emergency for smoke in the cockpit…..he just landed and shut down on the taxiway… is T01….engine crews are at the A/C.”

3:30 pm – from Cal-Fire:


Noon – I cannot believe I actually fell asleep again, after such a wonderful night’s sleep, but I did! I received these photos from Ray Martorano, a retired fire captain from FHL who lives near the Paso Airport. He is one of the many, many people who help to keep me up-to-date with information. After 38 years on the FHL Fire Dept. it is in his blood. You can see our fire clearly from there, and here are two of the 5 tankers that are working it from Paso:


8:00 am – and so the healing begins (photo by Michael Troutman):


Mother Nature continues to amaze with her healing powers.

7:45 am – recycling fire signs:


7:00 am – ah … What a long sleep I had. It has been almost 3 weeks since I slept 7 hours in one stretch, and this should do wonders for my mental and physical health. I heard from one of those closest to the fire yesterday, and he, too, slept a solid 8 hours. (Exhaustion will eventually win) The marine layer is over those in Big Sur Valley, mitigating fire behavior, for which we are all greatful. Smell of smoke is heavy in the Highlands, so breeze must be pushing the fire back north from whence it came, which has resulted in cleaner air and safer conditions for those of us in the south.

Fire is 68,698 acres with 50% containment. I don’t expect those containment figures to change much over the next few weeks as the Soberanes makes its way deeper into the wilderness.

64 thoughts on “Soberanes Fire, Day 20, 8/10/16 – Local Reports

  1. Deep rest. So glad you got some. It will definitely help you deal with all you must in the hours and days ahead. Many prayers still sailing your way, Kate 💕

  2. A big breath, and now a cool prayer for our four legged companions in the wild , their challenge is not over yet .

  3. I have been so appreciative of this blog, Kate. I am a mama bear living in Ashland while my cub, Myan, is navigating between and giving attention to both her grandpa Don’s property where she lives, and boyfriend, Cyrus’s place on Apple Pie–while she also continues to work at Nepenthe on top of it all.

    She seems to be doing well in spite of the smoke and there is no place she’d rather be than with her community there, but since I’m not there helping, I sit on pins and needles pretty much every second knowing that this fire is at Ewoldsen’s breathing fire on McQueen’s and Apple Pie. I hear the Dragon is snoozing a bit right now. I’m vibing it to recognize that should it rejuvenate, that it will be facing Don or Micah or both, and therefore, decide to surrender.

    Anyhow, my point is that while she’s so great at sending me quick check-in texts, she cannot send enough of them to satisfy my maternal concerns, so this blog has been a great comfort and wealth of information for me. I lived there in the ’80s (i used to be married to Dave Backer and lived on Pias Ranch, and then eventually to Wade McQ—both now formers but also friends) and know how well the Big Sur community leaps into action during emergencies, so I am also enjoying being reconnected to the familiar voices of you all, the heartfelt stewards who simply have it right.

    Love, thanks, and deep gratitude,
    Suzanne McQueen

  4. Our view from Carmel Valley looks down at the old air field. All the helicopters are gone. They must have been relocated.
    Thanks for all you do Kate!

  5. Immense gratitude to Big Sur Kate. You help keep my whole family informed in a major way through all these fires. Mom and dad are doing well. We all have complete faith in firefighters. Shadwells are handling the stress by working to keep the valley flow as smooth as possible. So many visitors have no clue, and they all seem to need to eat and pee. Gratitudes to all the good vibes floating about.

  6. Glorious morning here. Thick fog. Great day for the fire to SLOWLY back down into the BS valley, deeper into the marine layer. On the dark side the air is unbreathable.

  7. And Suzanne, you have just put to eloquent words the reason why I do what I do and love doing it…keeping the Big Sur community from all over the globe connected via its heart strings. Hugs from this Moutain Top look out – deep in the wilderness.

  8. xoxoxo
    Hugs back, Kate. Truly invaluable what you’re doing here for everyone. Much love and safety to all of you…and holding big light for the forest critters.

  9. Just heard via Wade that Hotshots came in and did a fantastic job of debilitating Dragon back behind them, and that now the focus is on Pfeiffer SP.

  10. any locals with boots on the ground who are awake and might comment on the state of things?

  11. Thanks as always to the amazing Kate; to each and all who comment here; to all those fighting in the field; and to Suzanne for the comments above, so luscious and lovely, and, with respect to the one about Hotshots debilitating the fire and now focusing on Pfeiffer SP, so welcome to hear.

  12. At Fernwood, quiet last night, no visible flames unlike the night before. Also, the sky was dark not a visible re hue. Did encounter a mtn lion on the highway a 2 a.m.

  13. Great job Kate. Will continue to Pray for rain and good weather as they fight the fire. We can all use Divine help, and everyone’s participation is important. God Bless all of you.

  14. I’d also like to acknowledge (and then this will complete my commenting), that a big difference with this fire than the one back in 2008, is that the fire crew powers-that-be are now cooperating with locals rather than not using their wisdom.

    From what I understand, the Hotshot crews around Ewoldsen’s last night were awesome! AND…water trucks (and probably physical labor or dozers) were being brought up to them by McQueens— a total joint effort. I’d like to acknowledge that everyone’s hard work of clearing their own land and making wider fire breaks is making it easier for the fire crews to do their job. It’s a joint effort.

    While ultimately fire fighters deserve major kudos, they are also the ones who actually get them, while the locals who have worked so hard are often seen and reported as rebellious at best and in the way. So I’m glad to see the cooperation happening this time, and the Locals need to be greatly commended for their hard work and dedication, as well as valued as the most important part of the operation. Without your prep, vast knowledge, and bravery, I do not think the fire crews could be successful in this area.

    Well done—all of you. Thank you.

  15. What does it take to close the highway, close the forest, and keep the tourists out? An atom bomb?

  16. Suzanne, you hit the nail on the head…joint effort. Living in the forest (ans Earth!) comes with great responsibility and we are reminded daily of that and more sincerely when these events happen. Living on the South Coast I’ve been on the perimeter of the fire but I haven’t heard the squawking of contention between the locals and the authorities the way I did in ’08. That fire ousted the sheriff at the time (Mike Kanalakis, sorry if it’s misspelled) when he came up for re-election! That shows that getting out to vote can have a direct effect on our lives! (Small plug for November)!!!

  17. YonderMtn: So pleased to read your report re: the state of things at Fernwood last night — Equally as pleased to learn that a Mountain Lion has thus far survived this massacre. Huge Hugs to you, Kate, and all living creatures among us.

  18. Just wanted to thank Kate and this whole community for documenting all of this. We had a camping reservation at Limekiln for this weekend that we had been planning for months. For the past week, we’d been debating whether or not to go, how bad the smoke would be, whether it was best to go anyway and patronize businesses during this crisis. I really didn’t know what we were going to do until I started reading this blog. From the pictures and firefighting stories documented here, it became clear that this is not the time to drive down through Big Sur, regardless of whether Highway 1 will be open or not. We’re instead heading up to the redwoods this weekend, and hoping to return to Big Sur next year.

  19. News from The Knoll (Ewoldsen’s) is that we are still standing and Kurt and Chris, along with 2 FF are going to try and investigate where the blockage is for the water.

  20. Thank you again Kate , Loved the photo from Michael T. Let the healing powers begin, live in Highlands My wonderful Mother passed away this year and just had to put our loving 4 legged friend of 16 years to rest. The photo is another reminder of hope and have faith in good.

  21. Jenny: I’m so sorry I keep referring to The Knoll as Ewoldsen’s. My ignorance comes from not knowing what happened with the place after Esther & Hans passed, and then the homestead burning down. My heart is with all of you– and my apology for not including you in the kudos for the joint effort when you were the ones in the thick of it. xoxox

  22. I wake up this morning after a good night’s sleep for a change, it’s foggy and cool, I just can’t believe our luck with the weather. A lot happened yesterday, the hot shots attacked the fire below the Ewoldsen water thank above the house, helicopters doused the last few flare-ups on the ridge across from us and Cal fire and the USFS worked with us to keep the ranch secure,all of it totally amazing. Our community which over the last few weeks has work so hard on extra clearance was geared up for the fight that thankfully never came. We did have a bit of fire at the top of our water line in the canyon, but Tyson and the guys hiked up with hand tools and chain saws and delt with it just a the flames were licking at the poly pipe. Thanks to all that have helped so much, I see a biggg Apple Pie Ranch party coming for you all, tri-tip and a keg of beer for sure!

  23. I woke up to see CV Airfield under a huge smoke/fog cloud in all directions. Once the CVA visibility improved, it looks like the entire place is almost deserted.

  24. Dear Kate and all facing the fire,

    I’ve been in Asilomar and Monterey for 10 days for a retreat and family vacation. Wanted to show my 21-year-old son this beautiful area but we haven’t driven to Big Sur given what’s been happening.

    Kate — been reading your blog and am so impressed and touched by what you and your contributors are doing. You put the social into social media (and community as well).

    CalFire and others could learn a lot from you. Heading home to Alameda today but will keep reading and keep you all in my thoughts and prayers.



  25. It appears that at least part of the CV helibase had relocated to the Rana Creek Ranch area (further up-valley) as of yesterday afternoon.

  26. Suzanne – no worries – we called it The Knoll, but most likely everyone else called it Ewoldsen’s. Just like we grew up calling Apple Pie – The Lyons’ house and then Curtis’s. Either name is fine with us. Everyone is working hard and once things are under control we can catch up on thank you’s owed – there are many we owe also.

  27. Huge helicopters circling Prince’s Camp, Cachagua as I write this. At least 60 new trucks, tankers, crew trucks came in this morning heading for the dam. Cal fire says Cachagua road, Tassajara roads under evacuation advisory again.

    More info would be nice if anyone has some..

    Thanks, Page

  28. So many thanks Kate & others for your info…wanted to visit Monterey/Big Sur this summer (lived in Monterey for 9 years) and have instead been praying for all of you. The Neal & Larry show has forwarded all the fire news and I and others are so grateful for the updates. Please know that so many hearts are with you…your steadfast courage is awesome. It is bone dry here in La Jolla…certainly a challenging year for our Beloved California. Please stay safe & strong…

  29. The back-burn up Hennickson’s Ridge (east of the Los Padres dam) is supposed to start sometime soon (today, tomorrow, day after, weather permitting). That may explain the increased presence. The official sites indicate that evacuation warnings for Cachagua/Tassajara are the same as they have been– still warnings, not orders.

  30. Yes, I think 3 helicopters back and forth, wondering where they are dropping. I am about 3 miles up from Jamesburg and they are flying right over me. Hear another non-hell too but did not see it. I hope it is a backfire.

    I did not get a reverse call saying Cachagua was back on Mandatory Evacuation. Does anyone have the official real time status info?

  31. As to back burns from Hennickson’s Ridge, I thought the back burns were going to be further west on the Carmel River which goes up from Los Padres dam curls southwest pointing to the Coast. Maybe that is wishful thinking.

  32. The Tassajara Zen Center’s blog reported Aug 9, “The fire is moving slowly, and is still 10.35 miles from Tassajara, and about 4 miles from Jamesburg.”

  33. Thanks everyone for the updates! I have a son working down on division N, and this site helps keep me informed. I wish the Fire Services would take note of how benificial this site is, and create something similar for all fires.

  34. Regine– I understand from speaking with personnel that the burn will start along Hennickson’s Ridge at the reservoir, and then move in stages up Hennickson’s to Chew’s Ridge. They’ve been doing *a lot* of preparation along the firebreak in those areas, so unless the fire decides to go out of its own accord, I think that’s where the back-burn will be.

  35. Oh Kate and all you all! Much love and praise for all you do! =) We have been reading everyday. Thank you so much for the depth of information you provide!
    We have been analysing the maps and praying for still winds and low temperatures. These brave souls on the front lines and in the skies are truly heroes. That beastly dragon is scary and voracious. We were away when the fire began, then it was 70 acres and on the coast. We are off of Tassajara and thought, oh we are fine, it’s nearly 20 miles away and we had a bad one less than a year ago, that burned several our neighbors homes down and came up to our property line and was stopped by a well placed retardant swath at our ridge.
    So we are good, right? Uh, each day the beast grew stronger and larger. We watched the plumes growing. Those of us that remember the fumbles of the Basin fire, freeze when we hear that back burns are starting in our area. Panic sets in. All the planning and prep that we have learned and adapted over the years has helped, but fire is unpredictable and destructive. There is a strong personnel presence in our “neck of the woods” we have wineries and things to protect there. They tell us we “should” be ok. But I can’t sleep. My mother in law says, it’s all material, as long as everyone is safe, nothing else matters. But I LOVE our place of peace on the mountain.
    Pray for the end soon, containment and out once and for all.


  36. Thanks Erica. Guess we are sitting ducks till it gets here along Hennickson, since I do not see any rain in the forecast.

  37. Thank you to all who have been updating today and to Curtises, McQueens, Wrights, Sandborns, Shadwells, Mike Trotter, and Jenny & all crew members and other local or professional fire people who have been working above and around Apple Pie, the Knoll, and Juan Higuera. I’m hearing there is still creeping around Ewoldsen’s and Juan Higuera, so almost but not quite in the relief zone here.
    The wind is heading north-east in carmel now. Hoping for the same in Big Sur. May the sparks cool in that moist sky. May the flames in the interior turn back in on themselves long enough to make a difference for the firefighting in the areas of all habitants.
    Mom and Dad can’t wait to get back home, and, thanks to all of the great cooperative efforts of younger bodies, it looks like they will soon get to.

  38. Just finished doing some measuring. If Fire is at Elephant Mountain, then it is only 3 miles from the closest place on Hennicksons trail.

    Somewhere I read today on this site that if the fire near Elephant mountain crosses the CV river to the east and starts running, it could run at 1/2 to 1 mile/hour. Did I read this right? I think it was on the Noaa page, info for Branch III. The maps and notices come across fuzzy, so I do not want to state a mis-readdue to lack of focus. Could anyone please clarify if it is per hour or per day? Thanks.

  39. I would appreciate it, if some board/reader wizard could possibly trace a Soberanes Fire Progression Map on an Uncle Sam’s Mountain Map of Monterey- thanks to all who make the effort- I’m still trying to learn all these small community focal points and the degree of the fire’s progress. Keep up the tireless work alerting us all on the latest confirmed reports and thank you Kate for having such an awesome caring crew of informed residents and well wishers.

  40. Ditto on so much of what ‘mama bear” McQueen wrote above. I too have found this website to be indispensable. I check in every morning from Bainbridge Island to find out how my daughter, Laura is and if Deetjen’s is still safe where she works and lives. My dearest long time friend Billie and her husband Louis had to evac. their wonderful year round home at White Rock. Not knowing what is happening is unnerving. Some of the photos, reports and maps you keep current have been the information we all need while tracking loved ones and our beloved country that is being so devastated. Thank you Kate, thank you.

  41. I saw that too, Tzila. Rachel Moody posted a pic of a plume…sore hope it’s tiny and quickly dealt with!

  42. Regarding AIR QUALITY today, 8/10: Today due to a directional change in transport winds smoke is expected to move north today. Early morning smoke is being experienced by some, particularly Monterey, Carmel, Carmel Valley and Salinas Valley. This has been factored into the AQ Table. Big Sur is expected to be Very Unhealthy all day. Carmel Valley is expected to be unhealthy. Monterey, Toro Park, and Fort Ord are expected to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. Smoke is expected to continue impacting the San Joaquin Valley and Sierra foothills. The northern San Luis Obispo County, especially coastal areas, are being affected by smoke. Changes to AQ today are results of continued burning, forecasted weather, and dispersion models. Tomorrow with warmer and drier weather conditions forecasted, fire growth and interior burning, smoke production is expected to increase and AQ degrade. Smoke transport is expected to be similar to Wednesday as well as impacts to those affected communities.

  43. Andrew Scott, the map you reference is actually MAPCARTA, which identifies landmarks (focal points) but not the actual progression of the fire. There is a useful federal gov site that has links to the progression and MANY other links. Here’s a link specific to the SOBERANES FIRE as well as it’s associated link to the PROGRESSION MAP. 3rd link is another useful PROGRESSION MAP.

  44. Sobranes fire phone folks just said highway 1 would definitely NOT be closed tonight as it has been on the previous two nights.

  45. Hi Kate! Thanks for your coverage. I’ve been watching carefully as I have a trip planned in 2.5 weeks and trying to decide if/when I should change plans. It’s simply mortifying to watch Big Sur burn away. :'( 90% of the 62-69k fires per year in the US are started by humans.

    I’m really shocked they have closed Highway 1 at all. During the Sand Fire in Santa Clarita, the fire was ON Hwy 14. They had crews up and down constantly watering the sides of the highway so that traffic could keep moving on through. California just does /not/ close highways, it seems, if there is any humanly possible way to keep cars moving!

  46. Oh, Julie, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you NOT asking me to predict what conditions will be in 2.5 weeks. I have joked about crystal balls, or sarcastically mentioned my tarot cards (when overly tired and then had to apologize) so it is really, really refreshing not to get asked that. I hope you are able to make it, but none of us knows that right now.

  47. Just got word that the amazing firefighters saved the homes of our wonderful friends who live up Palo Colorado Canyon!! Lord, please bless these ‘everyday’ warriors and angels and keep them safe in their labors!

  48. Ha! Of course I woudn’t ask that! And, I definitely do not want to be a tourist in the way of fire workers. I am astounded at how hard our fire folk have to work in the summer!! It just doesn’t let up!! I’m also really impressed with how your community works together to keep everyone informed. After 20 days of this, you are all holding it together remarkably. I send my electronic hugs and support energy!

    For what it’s worth, I have regular conversations with the ocean and air, asking for more of those high pressure zones that bring high marine layers, higher humidity, lower temps, and drizzly nights — and give them lots of praise when they come through! 😉 I;m currently trying to negotiate an early rain with them — can’t hurt right! 😉

  49. I have a direct view on Hennicksens and am right on this afternoons flight path. I would say that after a late evening machinery push yesterday the ridge has been pretty much deserted today in Div K, a dozer drove down not working and the corrections crew is still out there. If there’s activity in J today it’s down by the dam, but no noticeable increase in smoke. The all red skycrane and the other big Helo on the circuit seem to be making 15 minute or so round trips, to the south east refill at los padres. There was also a bucket huey working around the dam about an hour ago but he left. I heard a rumor (from a guy in a yellow shirt with a radio) that they had started a backfire in Div J, but I see no evidence of it.

  50. Marvelous to hear it was italian thistle and not poison oak being burned. I knew I just had to “wait for it”. Thx again Kate

  51. L-mom: thanks for your efforts and extra link sources, but, what I was looking for was to see the MAPCARTA focal point features on a Progression Fire Map – basically merging the 2 on one platform for location learning purposes and following along this mega fire’s growth.

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