A 1960 fire history …

Skee Stanley, formerly of Cachagua Fire, sent me this interesting report on a fire on the edge of Southern Monterey County and Northern San Luis Obispo County back in 1960. Historical perspective is always fascinating to me, and I hope you will find it interesting. I thought this would be a nice time to take a break  from 44 days of reporting on Soberanes, which is over 95,000 acres at the moment. I’ll post my usual fire maps later today. Note the discussion at the end about the Public Information Officer for the Weferling Forest Fire. Thanks, Skee.


14 thoughts on “A 1960 fire history …

  1. What a detailed, articulate accounting of the Weferling fire back in the day. A bit of nostalgia for me, as we do not see this kind of heartfelt writing very often any more. The summary is informative, full of imagery, humorous and raising salient questions about the science of fire fighting and the need for serious improvements in communication and public information. Communications officer Diltz “could often sleep in the early hours after midnight. That sleep was often interrupted.” We have our own communications officer in Kate…fueled by gallons of morning coffee to remain at the helm of viable, heartfelt public information. A must read article.

  2. I deeply appreciate all that you have been doing for the Big Sur community Kate!
    Question, when there is a fire ban in Big Sur, one could assume this would include Lime Kiln and Kirk creek campground, went by last night and both area were smokey. This has been appoint of discussion an confusion on the South coast.

  3. Shirley, in Level 4 fire restrictions, that means no campfires, even in developed campsites, including Kirk Creek and Plaskett Creek. Limekiln, a State Park, being owned by the State, and not part of the National Forest would not be subject to the ban, unless the state issued a similar order.

  4. Thanks for posting that, Kate. Fascinating, it was such a personal encapsulation of that fire. It really described how the conditions of weather and terrain hindered much of the fire suppression. It was a good reminder for me as we’re on Day 44 of Soberanes Fire and getting a little impatient (and maybe more anxious as it comes nearer to the south) that the terrain is a real challenge.

    I loved the reference to how the zebras and turkeys were adapting to the action around their usual bucolic lives! I also loved reading of the monetary amounts of loss and thinking of how the Soberanes Fire was listed as costing upwards of 5 million a day, if I’m correct! I wonder, was the area in a drought situation like we are now?

  5. I would hope that the State Parks will be issuing their own fire ban, as we all know that fire doesn’t distinguish the lands between, USFS, State or private.

  6. 6 million a day, I believe, but each day’s total is really dependent on the tankers and helicopters. Now that the boots on the ground are considerably lessened, I am sure the costs have as well.

    My favorite part of the read was the wild turkeys preening and prancing …


  7. Wow. That is fascinating. Thanks to you and Skee for this and, Kate, for all of the info on these fires and your wonderful blog. History just keeps repeating itself in these mountains. I’m originally from the Salinas area. My family spent tons of time in Big Sur and hiking and fishing most of the creeks. One of my dad’s cousins was a USFS ranger responsible for calculating fuel loads in LPNF. I was in the USFS Youth Conservation Corps the summer of Marble Cone. We had hiked up to the lookout tower and then the next day the big storm rolled in. We saw the lightening strike at the base of Cone Peak; then they put us to work setting up the first two fire camps (Arroyo Center and the hills south of Carmel Valley).

    The report so clearly describes the difficulty of fighting fires and protecting structures in those mountains – crazy winds, vertical terrain, super narrow trails. The firefighters are tremendously skilled, brave and gritty. A memory from Marble Cone. We were based at The Indians USFS station. One night, some of us were lying on a hill watching the meteor showers, with the glow of the fire lining the ridge. The mountainside was very steep. Every once in while a bright light would appear on our side of the ridge – spot fires. Then, a few minutes later the light would vanish, courtesy of the hand crews who were scaling the sides of those mountains, crawling through the poison oak.

    The report was fascinating for the description of the fire and, as you noted, the comments on the need for press liasons – and the importance of cooperating with local folks who know the country. It seems like the management of the Soberanes and Chimney Fires have absorbed that bit of wisdom.

    Thanks again.


  8. Starburst, I hear from everyone that the handling of the Soberanes Fire is so very different than the way the Basin Complex Fire of 2008 was handled, primarily in using and benefitting from local knowledge. There is nothing like it – people who have lived here for decades, or in some cases, generations – have valuable information to share. I wonder, sometimes, whether the fact that this one started on state property originally signifies that the state and the Feds have very different approaches to fighting fires, but then that same approach has been utilized by the Feds when they took over the Soberanes. So, I have come to believe it is a function of the 8 years of learning and changing the approach to the cooperation with locals that has become responsible for success in that area, and probably in the success in fighting the fire and saving resources. The first 24 hours of any fire seem to be when the most loss of structures happens, with a bit more in the next 24 hours. It has been a welcome change for us here in Big Sur.

  9. The first Public Information Officer for fires….wow. And he had wires trailing behind him? My, how times have changed…from hard wire to wireless. What a difference.

  10. This is an amazing report and so user friendly vs. the dry reports that government agencies put out now albeit very useful mind you. Loved the adjectives and the visuals, the person writing this was a good writer and very entertaining! The sad thing though is that the expense of all of this they were hoping that fire prevention would prevail. Hmmm….Thanks for sharing and Kate, I hope you are having a restful day!

  11. I, too, found the Weferling Report very educational and well written. Is there a link so print this out by any chance?
    Aletha Parker

  12. I was on the Waferling Fire. We backfired 3300 acres one night. Fired burned right up to the canyon below Hearst Castle. Fire camp burned up too. In 1960 I was a nineteen year old with USFS at Big Sur Station.

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