Fire Monks

It has been 13 years since Tassajara faced a fire like it has faced again with the Willow Fire. I thought it was time to remind people of their story. It happened in 2008 and they defended the Zen Center when everyone else had pulled out. This year, both the USFS and Cal Fire stayed with them. In 2008, they were abandoned. And this year, they weren’t five. They were ten. It is an unbelievable story told well. You can find it in this book available on Amazon:

15 thoughts on “Fire Monks

  1. They are in such better shape this time around! Trained, fuel mitigation up the wazoo, well organized, so many good firefighter relationships and of course the Buddha way!!

  2. The time to “fight” fire is before it arrives. It usually arrives before the flame front. Airborne burning material carried on the wind . . .

  3. Thanks for the Fire Monks shout-out Kate! I wish the story wasn’t as relevant as it still is, but I have just as much faith in Zen mind and the preparation and groundedness of the folks at Tassajara as I did in 2008. They have used the time between these fires well. Thanks for your unwavering generosity in keeping us all informed

  4. Time for another re-read!

    And I was just down there working on the trails. <3

  5. I didn’t know about this book. Thank you. I remember standing in front of the old Monterey Herald bldg on Pacific Street, a cluster of Herald staff had stepped outside and were scanning the sky. I asked and they pointed out the first visible stream of smoke from the Marble Cone fire. Scary times. I’m comforted that these times are better prepared.

  6. Thank you, Kate, for your invaluable information and kind heart, and thank you all who hold Tassajara’s safety in your hearts and minds. I’m so glad to see this reminder to people about Colleen’s amazing Fire Monks book and the story it holds.

    Vicki, I was one of the ones who was there for the Marble Cone in 1977, cutting fire line, clearing brush, and eventually helping set backfires (under the direction of the Calfire crew of three who were there with us) at Tassajara. Preparations this time have been informed by all the past fires, ever more frequent, those that reached Tassajara and also those that haven’t–may this one be one of the latter, and the Dharma Rain system dowse any wind-blown sparks!

    And: THANK YOU Forest Service and CalFire for bringing personnel to support Tassajara’s own fire crew this time, and for every bit of the work you do, ground and air, past present and future.

  7. Fires in the Ventana Wilderness that grow to 2000 + acres are rarely controlled before reaching tens of thousands of acres and costing multimillion dollars by repeating the same tactics and strategies that have proven unsuccessful in controlling these fires in the past, instead wasting money “buying time”, and needlessly exposing firefighters and residents to unsafe conditions and unnecessary safety risk.

    Below is a link to some tests made over twenty years ago at Fort Hunter Liggett to prove the viability of using Forest Service approved fireline explosives and helicopters to create mineral soil fire control lines like those now being constructed by firefighting hand crews. When Mark Linane, a highly respected Los Padres National Forest Hotshot Supervisor suggested these tests be made, fire suppression costs had not skyrocketed to the enormously wasteful levels of today, and we did not have the number of Type I heavy air attack helicopters, and DC 10 and 747 fire bombers capable of supporting this level of operation. Now with the ability to rapidly pretreat the chaparral brush with these state of the art aircraft, using aerially applied fireline explosives is feasible and cost effective.

    There will be those naysayers who will point to the risks involved, the permits and hassel of transporting and storing explosives, and the usual reluctance to change inherent in bureaucracy and a fire suppression culture that famously is described as “150 years of tradition unimpeded by progress”. There are plenty of resources in the agencies and military veterans to do accomplish what’s called for and needed.

    Threat of wildfires and changing climate necessitate a fresh look at the impacts of the “same old same old”. Give the best and brightest professional firefighters the motivation and will to get it right, and they will. Making excuses will not.


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