Living with Wildfire

I have two articles in Voices of Monterey Bay this issue — both addressing wildfire in Big Sur.

My son came home from town one recent night, only to find campers near where the Plaskett 2 Fire of 2000 started — a mere 40 acres away from me. They had a campfire. He confronted them, made them put it out. It was 9:30 on a Sunday night on the Fourth of July weekend, just as I thought all the latest round of holiday craziness had ended.

They were campers who don’t think they can really be camping unless they have a campfire. We see way too many of them in Big Sur.

Like most everyone who lives in Big Sur, we were cautious and ever vigilant during the July 4th weekend. The usual concerns about campfires are aggravated by people shooting off illegal fireworks but sadly, the Fourth of July is only the beginning of what can be a very long season.. In thinking back over the last 30 years living on the South Coast, I can’t recall any significant fires starting on the Fourth of July. But I clearly remember my first wildfire up here on the mountain, not in July, but in October.

It was the Wild Fire of 1996, named after Wild Cattle Canyon, where it started. It was arson. Jeff Avila had a contract with the U.S. Forest Service to provide services in case of a wildfire and it had been a mercifully quiet fire season. That meant no income and no work for Avila, so he decided to create some. He paid another man $2,000 to drive Highway 1 and throw a flare up a steep canyon on the South Coast around 10 p.m. 

You can read the rest of this article here:

My second one is Up in Smoke: a history of wildfire in Big Sur.

Campfires have been sparking spectacular wildfires in Big Sur since settlers first appeared in this Land to the South.

Back in 1904, an observer named E.A. Sterling reported that an untended campfire had started a massive fire in the Chews Ridge area the previous year. The fire burned for three months. It started “from an unextinguished campfire in Township 18 south … and burned a strip of about a township wide through to the coast, becoming wider towards its western end.” His observations were recorded in an unpublished USFS typescript.

This was not the first recorded wildfire in Big Sur or the Monterey Ranger District of the Los Padres National Forest. There is a long history of wildfires in the mountains and forests of the Santa Lucia Range.

“According to a number of sources, in 1894 most of what is now the Monterey Ranger district was consumed by a fire that burned unchecked for weeks,” wrote David Rogers, who has written extensively about this history of wildlands in Monterey County. 

And again, here is a link to the second article:

2 thoughts on “Living with Wildfire

  1. Time to wake up! Crowd control may be the sole way to prevent fires and destruction. Change vision and accept there can be life for next generations!
    Robert korstanje

  2. I am making a concerted effort to keep from a serious rant, but let me just say that I think campfires and fireworks ought to be banned outright (with huge penalties for violations). Yeah, make the bastards pay for the loss of life and property and the cost of destruction.That pretty much sums it up.

Leave a Reply

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