I know I have been missing in action since the Jade Fire (my second in two weeks), but Voices of Monterey Bay’s founding editor, Joe Livernois, asked me to do a story on these winter fires and the role of climate change, a rather research intensive subject. I have loved doing it. I learned so much.
In doing my research, I went through some of the other articles I wrote for Voices on wildfire ( I cannot believe this new one is my 7th), and ran across one that seems so appropriate to repeat here, in light of the last few weeks. This is one I wrote in August of 2019 about a fire I barely remember.
“This fire was blessedly short, unlike the ones I cut my teeth on, so on Day Five of the Mill Fire I was able to post this on my blog:
“This will be the last day I provide updates on this fire, unless there is a drastic change. One of my neighbors stopped by and said, ‘They get an A+ on the way they handled this fire.’ Yes, they do. There are so many to thank for what they did, but I was not ‘on the line,’ so I may not know the whole story, but it seems to me, the ICs (Incident Commanders) on this fire for the first 3 days deserve a lot of credit. They are the ones making the decisions, putting in the request for resources, and leading the effort. There were 2 ICs for the Mill Fire for those first critical 3 days — Tony Zavalla was the day IC and the night IC was Pete Harris of the USFS Nacimiento Station. Tony & Pete, you both did a terrific job.”
Besides Tony and Pete, we had the most cooperative agreement I have seen in my 30 years down here — USFS, Big Sur Fire, Fort Hunter Liggett, and Cal Fire working in coordinated effort, like a well-oiled (and trained) machine. While good weather played no small part (no wind, fuels still moist), it is the professional men and women who put everything on the line each fire and each season that make the difference along with the dedicated volunteer professionals who worked side-by-side with them.
There are some lessons to be learned and shared from the Mill fire of 2019, and I hope they are. Working together there is nothing we can’t accomplish. Team Big Sur — I salute you and tip my hat to your long hard hours of training and perseverance, and for caring so much.
No one person can patrol all of Big Sur every night, but if we all chip in and do what we can, instead of waiting for some government agency to handle it, we can make a difference. Other neighborhoods have “neighborhood watches,” and we can establish neighborhood fire watches. Set up a meeting in your portion of Big Sur and set up fire patrols. Remember, polite and respectful works wonders with the uninformed. Feeling empowered and feeling safe is a wonderful feeling.
This is our home. No one cares as much as we do, and no one takes care of it like we do. Let’s band together and take care of the problem. Education and knowledge are the answer. Educate in every contact you have with our visitors in a respectful manner. You will get the message across better if people listen and hear you, and they won’t listen if they are not being respected and honored. We got this, Big Sur.”