Big Sur Fires, 2008

I have created this separate page as a chronological, easily accessible place where all posts I created during both the Basin and Chalk Fires can be found. My blog began on July 5, 2008. The entries below are exactly as written at the time, including typos,  and include the photographs I posted, both mine, and others. It was a accurate as I could make it at the time, and I have not since made any corrections, as this is a recordation of history as it was lived, rather than as it was remembered. As with my posts during the fires, the more recent entries are at the top, and the first is at the bottom. I hope everyone who wants to research these fires finds this collection useful. Remember, all photos are copyrighted and may not be used for ANY reason, even personal ones. Thank you.

October 28, 2008:

Shared Photos, the Hermitage

A couple days ago, Rick Lesser of the Hermitage, and Skee Stanley, of Cachugua Fire sent me some photos to share with my readers, but I haven’t had time until now (at 3 am) to post. 

First, Skee’s shot. This is a closer look at the Hermitage from a perspective only a dozer operator would have.

And here is one from Rick Lesser taken from the Hermitage Road that demonstrates that peace has again descended on the Hermitage.


Skee Stanley sent me some others, not of the Hermitage, that I will keep for the archives of the Chalk Fire. With rain expected this weekend, and the Chalk Fire finally contained, this momentous Summer of Fire is finally over. Fall has arrived, and with it, winter preparations.

I took a short trip to The City this past weekend, to present at a seminar for other lawyers. I drove out the back way (N-F Rd) as when I left Friday morning, Highway One was still closed by rock slides from the Fire. I came back via Highway One. These two routes have both been extremely impacted by the fires of this summer, and will present significant challenges in keeping them open this winter. So what has been a life-changing summer will segue into an interesting winter.

I plan on keeping this blog “alive” throughout the winter, to both document and record the antics of Mother Nature as she laughingly brings us together as a community, and yet separates us into enclaves without access.

At some point, however, I hope to redirect this blog away from catastrophe reporting, and morph it into something more uplifting and spiritual, to reflect the beauty of this place called, “The Big South.”

~ by bigsurkate on October 28, 2008.

October 25, 2008:

Say goodnight, Gracie …

Tonight, I leave you with a photograph I took on January 1, 2007. I call it “Fairy Habitat.” It is what I see and feel here on the South Coast of Big Sur. That magic that Mother Nature shows us, if we are paying attention.

At last, it seems as if the Chalk is finally done with the South Coast. We are 97% contained, no real growth to speak of, and I am just about ready to put this baby to bed … at least until winter rains. 

But before I do, I have a few last things to say, and one more photo to post, sent by my friend, Skee Stanley of Cachagua Fire. 

First, I want to say it has been an honor to be able to serve my community by way of this blog. With the Basin Fire, there were a number of people and organizations who were able to share information. With the Chalk Fire, not so many. We are few and far between down here. Despite that, we are close. 

So many people have visited this blog since the Chalk Fire broke out on Sept. 27, 2008, almost a month ago, and so many people shared information and photos with me so that I could share them with you. I was oft times just the conduit. I have tried to mention them in the body of my blog all along, unless they wished to remain anonymous, but this blog was truly a community effort. That community encompasses so many more than the few people who actually live here on the South Coast, as we all know.

Our BSVFB has to be specially recognized. These men and women are all volunteers who have families and jobs. Their abilities were tested to the maximum with too many fires to even list, if we go beyond the “big” ones. 

Our local organizations, CPOA, Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, Pelican Network, and others, showed their support for their neighbors to the south in so many ways. We cannot thank you enough! CPOA has been a moving force at raising money to support those who were affected by both the Basin and the Chalk Fires. 

And the firefighters … ah, the firefighters. These men and women, whether on the ground, in the air, or in engines, they worked all summer and well into fall for us. I feel a special kinship to all of them. They have always been heroes. I just feel the need to let them know, whenever and wherever I see them.

I ran into a fire fighter on South Coast Ridge Rd. yesterday. I was chasing him down, as he was driving a Jeep with Colorado plates, and I worried we had another ding bat in the closed portion of the forest. He got out, in USFS ff uniform, and I apologized and introduced myself. “I am bigsurkate,” I said. “Hey, my mom reads your blog all the time,” he said. And my heart jumped. I think I have connected to more firefighter moms and dads than anyone else, and to them, I say, “Your sons and daughters are a special breed. I know you are proud of them. We are, too.”

Dave Potter, our Monterey County Supervisor, John Laird, our State Assemblyman, and Sam Farr, our U.S. Senator, have all been instrumental in gathering support for our plight in the political arena, and we are so very grateful for your support and care.

The Hermitage and the Zen Center, have both been impacted, tremendously. They have lost most of the income which sees them through the year. They both have support groups outside this small community, and I know all of you are helping them through these tough times. Please support them in whatever way you can.

We will need each other again, as the winter rains isolate our 90 mile community into pockets. We are preparing for physical isolation, but we know we are not alone. We are part of a grander and larger community that will be there for one another. I have always felt as if Big Sur was a microcosm of the larger whole. We will have the opportunity to demonstrate that this winter.

Please support your favorite branch of the Big Sur Community in whatever way you can. 

And, here is another community “sharing” by our favorite dozer operators, courtesy, Skee Stanley. This was taken on Wednesday up above the Hermitage. You can actually see the Hermitage in a way *I* never have!! Thank you for sharing this, Skee!!

And with that…”Goodnight, Gracie.”

bigsurkate, signing off.

~ by bigsurkate on October 25, 2008.

October 24, 2008:

Road Opened, Closed, & open again!

So, what this tells me is that when Cal-Trans is working, dawn to dusk, the road is open. Once they go home at night, all bets are off, and you travel at your own risk. PLEASE be careful if you come through after dark. This is a highly volatile and dangerous situation!

Highway 1 is open!  This information came from Danny Milsap, Caltrans Supervisor for south coast, as of 7:35 AM this morning – Saturday, October 25, 2008.

Highway Closed again tonight until tomorrow. Another rock slide. So, boys and girls, this is a touch and go situation. 

MONTEREY COUNTY – Caltrans will reopen a three-mile section of Hwy. 1
between Nacimiento-Ferguson Road, about 27 miles south of Big Sur, and
Lucia, about 23 miles south of Big Sur, at 3 pm today, Friday, Oct. 24.
This section had been closed due to the Chalk fire since 7 pm on Wednesday,
Oct. 22. 

Provided there are no other fire incidents/adverse conditions, the road will
remain open but is subject to traffic control or closures if conditions

Here are some photos supplied by Cal-Trans:

The Volcano!! Connie got a great shot of this the other day, but unfortunately, her computer ate it!

Look where the rocks are in relation to the yellow line!

And lookey here … we have fire sliding down onto the road!!

Kudos to Cal-Trans for sharing these, and for getting the road open today. Thanks, Danny, Richard, Angie, Phil, and Mike!!

And tonight, it finally looks like it is over. Of course, I remember I said that once before, but this time, I really mean it! Now let’s see if Mother Nature agrees with me!!

Here is part of tonight’s inciweb report:

“Crews will continue mop up and improve existing line along the Hermitage Road to Highway 1. Mop up around structures and improvements in Limekiln State Park. Begin to clean up and remove hose. The Evacuation Warning for Hermitage has been down graded to and Evacuation Watch as of 6:00pm tonight. The Evacuation Watch for the Harlan Ranch and Morning Glory area was lifted as of 6:00pm on October 23, 2008″

~ by bigsurkate on October 24, 2008.

Chalk Update, 10/24/08, Day 28 & Winter Prep Meetings

Okay, here’s today’s report on the Ever Ready Fire. From my perch, all is very quiet. I saw no “glow” last night, anywhere, and this morning, there is no smoke, to speak of. Very quiet, peaceful day. From what I can tell from the Cal-Trans and CHP sites, Highway One is still closed as of 9:00 am this morning, but expected to open by this evening. Maybe we’ll be lucky, and it will open sooner.

Quick Facts

  Acres burned:  16,269
  Miles of fireline to build:  1.5
  Date started:  9/27/08 (evening)
  Percent contained:  93%
  Expected containment:  10/28/2008
  Firefighter injuries to date:  19
  Structures threatened:  49
  Structures destroyed:  0
  Suppression cost to date:  $21.9 million
  Crews:  10
  Engines:  32
  Helicopters:  9
  Air tankers:  0
  Dozers:  2
  Total personnel assigned:  667

Current Status:  Yesterday’s firing operation in the Limekiln area was very successful.  In the morning, the fire was moving very slowly, and rocks and debris were falling onto Highway 1, resulting in the closure of the highway. Had the fire been allowed to move at its own pace, Highway 1 would likely have been closed for another 5 days.  The Incident Commander decided to introduce fire to speed up the completion of the burn so that the highway could be reopened sooner.  Caltrans expects to reopen the highway by the end of today, providing there are no other fire incidents or adverse conditions.  Last night, no fire activity was observed and crews kept a watchful eye on all constructed lines north of Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.

Today’s Objectives:  Provide for firefighter and public safety, keep the fire east of Hermitage Road and hold the fire on the ridge south of Gamboa Ridge.

Evacuations: On October 17, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department issued an Evacuation Warning for Limekiln State Park north to the New Camaldoli Hermitage.  Approximately 9 residents are within the evacuation area. This stage of Evacuation Warning is given for affected areas where there is imminent threat to life and property. Persons who receive notification of this warning should evacuate in accordance with the direction given to them by Sheriff’s Department Deputies who are on scene.  This Evacuation Warning is still in effect.

The Evacuation Watch for Lucia north to Lopez Point was lifted at 6:00 p.m. yesterday.

And from Dave Potter’s Office:

Supervisors Dave Potter and Simón Salinas

urge your attendance at one

of three community meetings being held

so you can learn more about what you need

to know, and do, as a resident of the affected burn areas.

Len Nielson of CAL FIRE,

and the

Team Leader on the

preparation of the SEAT Report,

 will be present to answer questions.

Federal, state and local officials will also be in

attendance to give information and to answer questions.

The Big Sur Area meeting will be held Wednesday, October 29, 2008 at the Big Sur Lodge from 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm. Refreshments will be served.

This is the agenda:

1.  Welcome   Sup. Dave Potter and Sup. Simon  Salinas        

2.  Introductions

3.  Presentation of SEAT Report on Basin Complex Fire  Len Nielson,            

And Impacts to Community from Winter Storms                       CALFIRE 

4.  Brief Presentations on Winter Storm Preparedness by:

·      Monterey County Office of Emergency Services

·      Monterey County Sheriff’s Department

·      National Weather Service

·      Monterey County Water Resources Agency

·      American Red Cross

·      The SPCA of Monterey County

·      Monterey County Resource Management Agency

        5.   Questions and Answers

That’s all folks. I’ve got places to go and people to see. 

~ by bigsurkate on October 24, 2008.

October 23, 2008:

New fire & Road Closure Details

It is being reported by a north coast friend that there is a new fire at Apple Pie/Captain Cooper School. For goodness sake, what is left to burn???

From Debbie at Blaze Engineering: “Did you hear about our new fire up here?  Bombers flying overhead as I type.  It’s in some pine trees not far from Captain Cooper School.  Martha Karstens hiked in after it was reported.  Must be 100 degrees there.  Geez.  Lots of bombers now.”

I am hearing (but have not confirmed) that it was only 2 acres.

Gosh, Martha and the rest of the BSVFB must be EXHAUSTED!! I am, and I’m only reporting, not fighting fires!!

Dear Lord: Make it go away!

4:00 pm – just spoke with Paula Martinez, USFS PIO, ret. Anticipating road will be closed for a couple days while fire burns out, and rocks stop falling. Originally, it would have been approximately five days, if they had left the fire to burn out on its own, in terms of threat to the highway, so they decided to speed it up by doing a burn-out operation. Decision made this afternoon. The idea is to speed up the process, in order to get Highway One open as quickly as they can.

6:00 pm – Cal-Trans is reporting they hope to have the road open by tomorrow, Friday, evening.

If you would like to see some great photographs Connie McCoy took, please see my prior report on today. They are well worth your time.

As for me, looks like I might get to bed before midnight, as I have finished this horrific brief I have been frantic about since Tuesday. Who knows? Maybe I’ll even get to watch a little television! That’s certainly been a novelty for me, lately.

~ by bigsurkate on October 23, 2008.

Chalk Update 10/23/08, Day 27-Highway One closed

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 23, 2008, 8:30 am.GOOD MORNING! See Connie’s amazing photos below!!

Here are a few photos of the situation I took around noon today. I ran out of cigarettes, and have a LONG night ahead of me, so had to go down the coast. And, of course, once down, I had to get as close to the fire as they would allow. Moth, I guess. They are not letting anyone through, even locals, so far. I spoke with the USFS PIO, Rick, and this was Cal-Trans’s call. He thinks it will be open in the morning, but I would check both Cal-Trans and CHP sites for verification before starting on what could be a very long detour. The USFS wanted to keep it open. It is burning down to the highway on some very rocky slope, so I can understand the concern. 


This was taken just south of Mill Creek. You can see Limekiln Bridge on the far left, and the trail of smoke, right on the highway. I have a closer shot of that fire right up to the highway from a different point of view.


The highway cuts across right below that flame. This is south of Limekiln, and clearly 100% slope, so nothing to do but let it burn, and it is burning with low intensity, so that is a good thing.


This is a closer shot of the flames further up. Robert and I stood on the side of the highway here and watched these trees go off. No winds, so should just burn itself out.

9:45 am – Most recent CHP info seems to indicate road to be closed all day, and will be reevaluated tomorrow morning. 


I am keeping last night’s post going so more of you have a chance to see last night’s photos from Connie McCoy. Lots of smoke and significant plume at Limekiln this morning. Please scroll down the see the incredible shots Connie McCoy took of the fire at Limekiln last night around 9 pm.

This morning’s USFS report indicates acreage up to 16,094, containment at 89%, personnel at 732. “Current Status:  Very little fire activity was observed overnight especially in the Limekiln State Park and Hermitage areas. Firefighters will continue to improve containment lines and begin mop up efforts today in these areas.   Rolling rocks and debris caused the closure of a two-mile segment of Hwy 1 last night in the fire area.  Caltrans expects to reopen the highway later today.”  HUH?? From Connie’s photos, it looks like Limekiln was VERY active last night!

And here are a couple more from Connie that she took this morning. Awesome, aren’t they? Wish I could drag myself away from a brief due tomorrow to also take some shots!

                                                                     Connie McCoy

                                                                     Connie McCoy

10/23 8:30 am – CHP website reports:

6:34AM PER LOG 55, DOT HAS A HARD CLOSURE AT THIS LOC AS OF 2002 HRS                       

Cal-Trans website reports same as last night:


10/22 9 pm -Due to rolling debris, the fire, and rock slides, Cal-Trans is reporting Highway One closed from 2 miles south of Lucia to Lucia tonight. I suspect they will be out around 6:30 or so to clean it up, and hopefully, get the road back open. Sounds like it is between Limekiln and the Hermitage, where the burn out operation has been taking place the last couple of days, to me. Jon Michael did note a lot of looky-loos on the highway around 2 pm this afternoon.

Well Connie McCoy came through the “road closure” after about 8:30 pm, and the fire personnel knew nothing about a closure. Maybe that is why CHP took it off their website, but Connie sent me some spectacular shots. Since it is almost midnight, and I really must have my first cocktail and only cocktail of the evening, and curl up in bed, I will only be posting one of the four she sent, but every one, including the one Robert took of her in the darkness of Limekiln bridge, looking into the flames, is spectacular!!

                                                                      Connie McCoy

I love the reflection off the water there. Okay, these are so good, I just have to post one more!

                                                                    Connie McCoy

Uh, oh. Midnight. I turned into a pumpkin, again.

Good night, all.

~ by bigsurkate on October 22, 2008.

Chalk Update, 10/22/08, Day 26

Quite a plume coming up from behind Limekiln this morning. Unfortunately, my camera battery is dead, so I either have to find my back-up (in Jeep?) or get this one charged. I’ll post a shot when I have a shot.

Winds still quite active this morning. They have been blowing all night long, up here On Top of the World.

This morning’s update from the USFS. No change in acreage, containment up to 83%. Containment date still 11/1/08.

“Current Status:  The fire was active last night especially in the Limekiln State Park area.  Burning debris from above the marine layer is rolling downhill and igniting unburned fuels at lower elevations.  Crews will continue to work this area today.   Little activity was observed on the north flank during the night.  Crews and aircraft will work today to connect the dozer line and hand line from Twin Peak to Gamboa Ridge.

Today’s Objectives:  Overall objectives are to provide for firefighter and public safety, keep the fire east of Hermitage Road, hold the fire on the ridge south of Gamboa Ridge, and not to introduce fire, but allow natural progression of the fire in the Limekiln and Hare Canyon areas.”

There are a few other factors which are not provided to the public, but issued to firefighting personnel only in the form of a 209. This morning’s 209 adds some salient details to the above. 

The total acreage is 15,568. Projected incident movement/spread 12, 24, 48, and 72 hour time frames:

12 hours: Fire is expected to continue moderate interior burning in Lime Kiln Canyon. Fire also has potential for small roll outs North of Twin Peak on Gamboa Ridge. Growth potential to the North driven by terrain, low humidity, and rolling material.
24 hours: Fire is expected to continue moderate interior burning in Lime Kiln Canyon. Fire also has potential for small roll outs North of Twin Peak on Gamboa Ridge. Growth potential to the North driven by terrain, low humidity, and rolling material.
48 hours: Fire expected to hold on Gamboa Ridge.
72 hours: Fire expected to stay within containment lines.

32: Today’s observed fire behavior (leave blank for non-fire events):
Moderate interior burning with rolling material threatening control lines in Div A and Y.

38: Actions planned for next operational period:
Div Y – Mop up and improve existing line from Div Y/Z break to Twin Peak. Div Z – Hold and mop up along the dozer line that runs from the Y/Z division break to Highway 1. Structure Group – Protect structures in the Hermitage and Lime Kiln State Park.

42: Remarks:
Block 43 Committed resources is not working at this time. Incident has added 1 USFS CRW1 for a total of 8 crews and an incident total of 674.                    

And here is the kicker: “ Growth Potential – High”

Just last week, growth potential was low, then it was elevated to medium, and today, it has been elevated to high. The winds from yesterday and last night continue today, and are predicted to continue through tomorrow. 

Uh, oh… Large dark plume coming out from behind Limekiln. 

Here is the current:


 Also, Rick Lesser reported that the BSVFB asked the remaining skeleton crew at the Hermitage to evacuate this morning. Rick is down on the highway, and cannot get back up. He thinks several of the monks stayed behind, but has no way of knowing.

3:00 pm a report from the Jon Michael Cappadona at the Hermitage, with some photos attached:

“I just read in your blog that Rick is  unsure whether we are still up here at the hermitage.  We are still here, and feeling the heat, literally.

The fire quickly moved south and the west behind the hermitage driveway overnight and today.  The concern this morning was that the fire would pull a u-turn and start heading north and cross the driveway heading towards the retreat trailers and then on into the cloister.  Thankfully, the winds shifted onshore and things are looking much better from our perspective.

Attached are some pics taken today around 2pm.  I was able to get fairly close shots as the fire burned to the south of the driveway.  There was lots of sightseers pulled over on HWY 1 looking up.”

                                                 Jon Michael Cappadona

                                                     Jon Michael Cappadona

Jon Michael, thanks for the update, keeping all of us informed, and the photos to share with everyone. You would have no idea how many oblates are watching the news here, and praying for everyone at the Hermitage, and for the place itself.

One question I, and others have, is how many of you are up there? Also, I understand you have structure protection crews in place? How many, and who? Drop me and email, and I’ll post your response here for everyone to see.

6:00 pm – report from Jon at the Hermitage:

We received word this morning that the fire a some real potential of jumping the line to our south and east.  Luckily, it appears that imminent danger has subsided.  To answer your question:  there many many USFS engines up here (its difficult to say exactly because I know there are some engines in the woods to our northeast) and BSVFB was here this morning when it was most dangerous.

The hermitage crew rolled out our own fire hoses early this morning and strategically set them up around spaces we want to protect.  We’re definitely ready to protect this place if need be.  It seems that the worst is over, yet we’re leaving the hoses full and ready until we know for sure.  

~ by bigsurkate on October 22, 2008.

October 21, 2008:

And so it glows …

Taken 10/21/08 at 11:30 pm by bigsurkate.

Good night, all.

Chalk Update, 10/21/08, Day 25

See evening update at bottom of this post.

Here is the photo from the Hermitage from yesterday morning approximately 3:30 am that I was unable to post last night:

Thanks,  Jon Michael Cappadona who both took this, and last night’s two, and who teleported it across the canyons a few miles to Top of the World, via cyberspace. Sometimes technology is a great thing! Jon Michael said he would send more photos today, if the opportunity arose.

The fire is reported as 15,359 acres and 80% contained. (No change from last night’s report.) Costs are up to $19M. Whew, hope they catch the person who started this!

The projected fire movement is: 

12 hours: Fire expected to move across Lime Kiln Canyon and tie in with the Burning Operation. Fire is also expected to continue slow movement North of Twin Peak to Gamboa Ridge. Growth potential to the North driven by terrain.
24 hours: Fire expected to hold at Dozer line adjacent to The Hermitage Road. Fire is also expected to slowly move North of Twin Peak, to Gamboa Ridge. Growth potential to the North driven by terrain.
48 hours: Fire expected to hold at Gamboa Ridge.
72 hours: Fire expected to stay within containment lines.

I will post any additional photos I get today from the Hermitage, or from my view On Top of the World, if we get any decent ones. I am heartened to know that oblates from as far away as Austria, are following the situation with the Hermitage. (see comment on About BigSurKate)

Mark Readdie, of Big Creek Reserve reports this morning: “Three helicopters are looping to the ocean and back up to the fire. They are coming down over Highlands Ridge, right over my house in the canyon and picking up water at Oystercatcher Pt, Potter’s beach and Gamboa Pt. Then flying up Vicente Canyon. They come over about every 8-10 minutes.” Dr. Readdie’s Big Creek blog is linked in my blog roll to the right.

Inciweb was updated around 10:30 am, despite claims it would only be updated once a day, in the evening. This is a part of what is being reported:

“Continue firing operation along the Hermitage Road to the south. A coastal buffer zone of natural vegetation (minimum of 300′) is being left in order to protect Highway 1 from future winter storm activity. Contingency dozer line at the north edge of Lime Kiln State Park is being completed today. This line will protect the Hermitage and Lime Kiln areas. Preparation for possible burning along this line continues to progress. Approval received for the construction of dozer line from apex medi-vac helispot north to Gamboa ridge.

Hold the fire along dozer line adjacent to the Hermitage Road. Complete dozer line from apex medi-vac helispot north to Gamboa Ridge. Construct handline from Gamboa Ridge east to natural barrier at Twin Peak. Prepare dozer line in DIV Y for possible firing operation from apex medi-vac helispot west to Morning Glory. Protect structures in the Hermitage and Lime Kiln State Park. Monitor fire movement to the north of Cone Peak in order to protect line from Cone Peak to Twin Peak.”

Here is a photo sent to me this afternoon by Rick Lesser of the Hermitage. This is the Twitchell Flats line, going up toward Twin Peak.

This is what Rick said: “Here’s more for you if you can use ‘em. I just came up the Hermitage road before  noon and took these shots from the lookout point. Twitchell Flats has a burn going west of the break the crews put in last week up to Twin Peak. Lime Kiln Canyon much less smoky than yesterday when they did the burn along the wide break above and east of the Hermitage that they’d first cut last June. The burn, well controlled, went all the way down the break to, and then below, our road. Crew members and captains all say the burn is going very well and as planned.

Thanks for the great job you’re doing for us all.
Rick Lesser” 

USFS EVENING UPDATE: “Today crews were challenged by three spot fires on the north flank of the fire, but line was completed around all of them.  The firing operation on the west side of the fire was completed today and crews now have the opportunity to build control line immediately adjacent to the fire.  At the lower elevation in Limekiln State Park, higher humidity has slowed the fire’s movement and crews are monitoring the fire’s progression. Tonight crews will continue to hold and mop up any hot spots. Structure protection will continue in the Hermitage and Limekiln State Park areas.”

And here is one from the Hermitage taken today around 11 am, also by Jon Michael Cappadona. He says: “The attached images are of a fire moving up from Limekiln toward Cone Peak.  There was a lot of fire activity between Cone Peak and the hermitage driveway today, as well.”

~ by bigsurkate on October 21, 2008.

October 20, 2008:

Notes from the Hermitage

While I was at the meeting, Gordon McKendry had three photos sent to me that were taken from the Hermitage early this morning, around 3:30 am and later this afternoon. THANKS GORDON, and Jon Michael C who sent them on. These are truly spectacular!! Unfortunately, the one with the cross silhouetted against the fire, came through as “null.” Whatever that means, but the two below are still outstanding!!

Oh, and Gordon wants everyone to know, the fire was NOT as close as it looks in these photographs.

Chapel Fire

Driveway Burn

And as I drove by to check on the Hermitage after the meeting, I found this at the bottom of the highway. I could see, but not get good photographs, of the fire trucks on the road up to the Hermitage.

And here is the view of the firing operation from On Top of the World:

And finally, tonight’s update.


Fire Statistics


Acres burned: 15,359

Miles of fireline to build: 7.5 

Date started: 9/27/08 (evening)

Percent contained: 80%

Expected containment: 11/01/2008   

Firefighter injuries to date: 17

Structures threatened: 49   

Structures destroyed:  0

Suppression cost to date: $18.8M 


Firefighting Resources


Crews: 6

Engines: 28

Helicopters: 12   

Air tankers:  10 

Dozers: 5

Total personnel assigned: 633



Current Status: The firing operation along the pre-existing dozer line just east of the Camaldoli Hermitage, continued today as planned and was very successful. As of 6:00pm this evening, the firing was down to about 200 feet from Highway 1. In the Limekiln State Park area, the fire continues to back down slowly.

In the northern peak of the fire, permission was requested and granted by the USDA Forest Service Regional Office to allow a dozer line to be constructed in the wilderness. This request was made in order to tie in the upper portion,   where the firing operation began, continuing in a northeast direction along a ridge ahead of the fire and tying into the Gamboa Trail. The dozers successfully completed the line at 6:30 this evening.

Tonight crews will continue to hold and support the firing operations. Structure protection continues in Limeklin State Park and the Hermitage.Firefighter and public safety continue to be the highest priority.

That’s it for tonight, folks. I’m going to have dinner, enjoy a glass of wine, and watch a movie. Have a good evening!

~ by bigsurkate on October 20, 2008.

Chalk Update, 10/20/08, Day 24

MEETING TONIGHT: 4:30 pm at Community Center. USFS, BSVFB, and others for update and management issues relating to the Chalk Fire. NO LONGER a BAER meeting. I need to have coffee and start generator before I can post more for today’s update. I’ll be back….

There isn’t much to see or photograph today. It is VERY smoky. Perhaps it will blow out later and I can see what is going on. I will post updates as soon as they become available. Also, see new thermals uploaded by Coast Communications.

Inciweb finally updated around 9:45 am.  Acreage is only up to 14,865, but listen to what else USFS is reporting:

“Fire Behavior  

Moderate fire behavior observed over night. With continued creeping through fine fuels. Heat concentrated from the Twin Peak area.

Significant Events 

Continue Firing and Holding Operation along Hermitage Road. Prepare Dozer line for possible Firing Operation from Div Y/Z break West to Morning Glory. Monitor fire movement to the North of Cone peak in order to protect line from Cone Peak to Twin Peak.

Planed Actions 

Continue Firing and Holding Operation along Hermitage Road. Prepare Dozer line for possible Firing Operation from Div Y/Z break West to Morning Glory. Monitor fire movement to the North of Cone peak in order to protect line from Cone Peak to Twin Peak.”

Sorry, folks. I can hear tankers, but I cannot see anything due to smoke. Even Prewitt Ridge is hidden from my view this morning.

11:30 am. Just called the new hotline number, and spoke w/ Helen Target (?) USFS, PIO. They are very optimistic about the firing out operation and how it is going. The operation is NOT going on from the Hermitage Rd., as reported on inciweb, but continues from the dozer line I was watching all afternoon, yesterday. They are re-opening the dozer line on up to Morning Glory as a contingency, but at this time, they don’t think they will need to use it. NO new evacuation watches or warnings have been issued since Friday. Sounds like it might be a good day on the Chalk Fire, even though I am sitting up here blind!

Gordon reports from the Hermitage, that the southern end of the dozer line does hook up with the Hermitage Road, and that it has been very exciting there today. He hopes to be able to send me some photos to post. I will post them when received, taking into account this afternoon’s meeting.

~ by bigsurkate on October 20, 2008.

October 19, 2008:

Necklace of Fire

I am no fire expert, by any means, but what I witnessed today, the burn-out operation north east of the Hermitage really looked good today. I watched and photographed all afternoon, and posted a few of them to show what was going on today. Tonight, I post one final photograph of what the firing out operation looks like, and still lookin’ really good. The Hermitage is looking very well protected. As I said, I am not a fire expert, but I sure would like an “honorary” nomex jacket with bigsurkate on it. Anyone know where I could get one?

Tonight, the USFS is reporting the acreage has gone up, the containment has gone down, slightly, and as I posted earlier today, containment is not expected until 11/1/08 now. Here are the stats:

  ”Chalk Fire Update – Oct. 19
– 8:00pm

  Fire Statistics
  Acres burned: 14,666
  Miles of fireline to build: 7.5
  Date started: 9/27/08 (evening)
  Percent contained: 79%
  Expected containment: 11/01/2008
  Firefighter injuries to date: 17
  Structures threatened: 49
  Structures destroyed:  0
  Suppression cost to date: $18.2M

  Firefighting Resources
  Crews: 8
  Engines: 25
  Helicopters: 11
  Air tankers:  10
  Dozers: 4
  Total personnel assigned: 601

Summary: Current Status: The firing operation which started about noon today was successful.  Crews started from the dozer line approximately 2 miles north of the New Camaldoli Hermitage and burned south along the dozer line. As of this afternoon the firing had almost reached the Hermitage.  Crews will continue with the firing operation into this evening as long as there is still opportunity to burn.  Crews supported by helicopters and air tankers worked to hold the ridge NW of Twin Peak parallel with the Carizzo Trail. In the Limekiln State Park area, the fire is backing down slowly.

Tonight crews will continue to hold and support the firing operations. Structure protection continues in Limeklin State Park and the Hermitage. Cool temperatures and good relative humidity with light winds should result in minimal perimeter growth.”

~ by bigsurkate on October 19, 2008.

Chalk Update, 10/19/08, Day 23

First light visual indicates the thick marine layer present last night is still with us, which hopefully kept the fire quiet on the Western Front last night. No night shots last night, as the fire was burning on the north side of Twin Peak and Cone Peak. Of course, on the eastern front it has just about burned itself into the Indians, and on the northern flank, the Basin Fire. Morning thermals indicate no new hot spots. *sigh of relief*

Here is this morning’s “fire” shot. You can see the smoke plume coming from behind Twin Peak on the north-west side. I have also marked the approximate location of the Hermitage. I cannot really see it through the haze, even with my binoculars, and without my usual visual clues from Ruth’s house, I cannot be certain. You can also see the heavy dozer line above it and to the right. I have also marked Twin Peak, and Limekiln, which is tucked behind that ridge, and thus not visible from here.

Gordon from the Hermitage reports below in the comment section. I am hoping he will be able to continue to report on conditions there. As I wrote him, thousands are praying for the people who remained behind, and the physical well-being of the place itself. I have direct line-of-sight, as Michael will attest, having witnessed it first hand, and will be watching throughout the day.

Inciweb is reporting no increase in acreage, and no increase in containment. A portion of the report states:

“Significant Events  

Fire established in the West fork of Lime Kiln Drainage.

Planed Actions 

Prepare for Firing Operation from reopened Dozer line for the protection of Lime Kiln State Park and the Hermitage Monastery. Protect structures North of Lime Kiln and Hermitage. Monitor fire conditions North of Cone peak in order to protect line from Cone Peak to Twin Peak.”

There is currently a burn out operation going on behind that back ridge north east of the Hermitage. 

Here is the start of the burn out operation, from my perspective. The burn out operation is the small skinny plume in the center of the photograph. I am still trying to put Gordon’s shots in a format my programs will recognize:

From inciweb: “Chalk Fire Update @11:15am

Crews may begin firing operations this afternoon along an improved section of dozer line east of the Hermitage. Burning operations will begin 2 miles north of the Hermitage and continue to the south along the dozer line.” 


I am busy watching the runs from the firing out operations. I have taken LOTS of photos, but I am too busy watching and photographing. The firing out operation seems to be going well, making its way down the inside the dozer line, making its way down into the canyon. Lots to see, lots to report, and I am multitasking beyond my abilities, considering the margaritas with the “ex.”

Gordon, from the Hermitage sent me photos taken around 1:30 pm from his perspective. While I can view them, I cannot seem to convert them from plaintext to jpg so that I can upload them. 

Here is a close-up of the burn operation. I wish I could get better shots, and I may have one or more. I have just been shooting all afternoon, and have to find which are best. Here’s one to start. So far, it looks like a great operation. Can’t wait for the night shots, unless it gets down under the ridge.

Here is a slightly better one:

Okay, maybe not better, just another view of the flames.

And here is another view of the line of fire going down from the dozer line. Lookin’ good!

~ by bigsurkate on October 19, 2008.

October 18, 2008:

Simmering Sunsets, and other stories …

Tonight’s inciweb report indicates the fire grew quite a bit, despite the 1/4 inch of rain, last night. It is now up to 13,410 acres. Also, containment has been downgraded to 80%. In 3 days, we’ve managed to go from 97% contained down to 80%. Chalk — the ever ready fire!! Movement is expected to continue in the Hare, Limekiln, and Gamboa Canyons for the next 72 hours. Most recent (8 pm) update indicates 6.9 miles of line to build. (Huh? Not 7?) Remember for days now, miles of line to build has been n/a.

Driving down the coast late this afternoon, I witnessed an odd phenomena. The coast was shrouded in fog. Out in the ocean, the sparkles showed me a small opening in the fog, from which the sparkles came.

To me, the interesting or more concerning bit of smoke is there, coming out of the fog. My guess is that is the smoke I photographed from Limekiln Bridge.

Another interesting phenomena tonight. This was a reflection of the already-set sun in the sky. The only thing I can think of which might reflect back like this is moisture of some sort.

If I can get a decent night photograph, I will post it this evening. If not, reporting will continue tomorrow.

~ by bigsurkate on October 18, 2008.

Chalk Fire Update, 10/18/08

MONDAY’S meeting w/ the USFS has been changed from a BAER report to a Fire update and fire management issues meeting. Please pass the word all thru the South Coast. I won’t be sending a mass mailing, so please email everyone on your list who might be interested. 4:30 pm at the Community Center at PUSD.

I will be heading back down the coast this afternoon, but what I have gathered so far, is that the fire has gained a few hundred acres; the containment is down to 93%; personnel and equipment on the fire has increased, and like I suspected, the hand line the Monterey Hot Shots put in was over run by the fire, and the burn out operation could not happen.

Connie McCoy, fellow photographer, was there last night, and she sent me the following photographs:

This was taken from Jade Cove around 5 pm looking north at the fire.

This is Stone Ridge from the Harlan Ranch.

This was taken from Limekiln Bridge.

Thank you so much, Connie for sharing these with us!

Did I mention I am REALLY tired of fire, this fire in particular? Three weeks, now.

Apparently written last night:
Posted by Margie Whitnah
From the Hermitage:
“The fire is just at the top of the ridge next to ours and if the fire retardant etc works, then we will be safe. If it doesn’t work, we are in big trouble. Most monks are evacuated and I must leave in the morning. There is a small window of opportunity that we may be back here mid week. I would love to hear from you if you wish, say a prayer for us, for our firefighters, and for our safety and saving of our hermitage. … I may be gone from here tomorrow morning. All dates or arangements I have made for the next week must be abandoned due to the uncertainty of the fire situation. We are being evacuated to the same place as before, St. Clair’s Retreat Center in Soquel/Santa Cruz.”

Posted on inciweb at approximately noon: “The Chalk Fire was active last evening in an area between Twin Peak and Cone Peak, even though approximately inch of rain fell along the coast. Light rain continued this morning in some areas of the fire. Firing operations which were planned for today, are now being re-evaluated. The fire has continued to creep towards the outer edge of Lime Kiln State Park in a mixture of grass and some heavier fuels. Pre-existing dozer lines above the New Camaldoli Hermitage are being re-opened and the area is being prepared for a possible firing operation if it should be needed.”

It rained?? Not here in town. Nada.

~ by bigsurkate on October 18, 2008.

October 17, 2008:


12:00 pm

Los Padres National Forest


Monterey County Sheriff’s Department has issued an EVACUATION WARNING
in effect for the Limekiln north and the New Camaldoli Hermitage. This
warning is given for affected areas where there is imminent threat to
life and property. Persons who receive this notice should evacuate in
accordance with the direction of the deputies on scene.


An EVACUATION WATCH has been issued by the Monterey County Sheriff’s
Department for Lucia north to Lopez Point. This order is for areas
where a threat to life and property exists. Persons issued this notice
are not required to evacuate but should be prepared to evacuate should
an Evacuation Warning be issued.

Significant resources (handcrews, engines and dozers) are engaged in
structure preparations.

The fire was very active last night and spread north towards Twin Peak
into the west fork of Limekiln Creek testing contingency lines. .

Air tankers and helicopters making retardants and water drops to reduce
fire intensity and slow the fire’s spread and crews are working direct
where possible. Fire fighter and public safety remains the highest

This was taken from the Limekiln Bridge, about 1/2 hour before the evacuation orders were issued. It is quite different being on the ground, rather than up on my perch, where I have a much better over all view.

These guys and gals were parked on the turn out right across from Twitchell Flats at around 11:30 am.

NOTE from Kate: Well, I was trying to figure out what all those speeding MCSO cars I saw going south around noon, south of Esalen were doing. Now I know! Red lights, sirens, the whole thing. What I suspect is that the fire crossed that last ditch line the Monterey Hotshots spent several days earlier this week putting in, as a contingency. Either that, or it has approached the line and they are worried about it not holding.

~ by bigsurkate on October 17, 2008.

Consumed by Fire

As my friend firefighterblog
has reminded me, Big Sur has been consumed by fire this season. Frankly, I did not remember that we had a small fire on April 17, 2008 in the Dolan Ridge area that closed Highway One, for a time. Then, of course, on June 8, 2008, the Indians Fire started. While it was burning, the Gallery/Basin fire started on June 21, 2008. It was not contained until July 27, 2008. Ah … and then a welcomed respite for two months to the day, until the Chalk Fire started. Tomorrow will be three weeks. I thought it was over before the Jade Festival, but Mother Nature was simply taking a break so we could put on our show. The day after the Jade Festival, it started acting up again, and yesterday, it came unhinged, as the photos I posted yesterday and last night demonstrate.

Here is today’s view:

And with that, I will sign off. I have a girl’s night out with a LIMO, no less! I am escaping the fire, at least temporarily.

Okay, having lunch in town, totally wireless, and Kimball informs me that they brought back Jim Smith, the Type II IC. Not surprising, considering what I have been reading and seeing. Also, Kimball has posted some new thermals, as of 1 pm this afternoon. See them at: Coast Communications

The drive to town was like driving through a war zone. First the Chalk Fire, which really is not impacting the highway too badly; then the rehab, reconstruction, desperate attempts to save the highway from gravity this winter. Lots of stoppages from Lucia north to Andrew Molera. Add 1/2 hour to your town run time, if coming from the south coast.

Remember, firing out operations for the next few days in an attempt to get a handle on this unpredictable dame!


~ by bigsurkate on October 17, 2008.


October 16, 2008:

Chalk Fire, Night Photos

Here are some photos I just took at 9 pm. I was hoping I could not see this, but alas, sleep will not come easily to me tonight, once again.

This first shot shows two different burn areas. It is one photograph, showing two different burn areas. The one on the right is up toward the top of Cone Peak on the west side. The second area, I am not sure about, but I would venture a guess that it is below Vincente Flats, somewhere, up above Limekiln. I have no idea whether this is a burn out operation, and will not be able to confirm until tomorrow.

This is a zoom of the fire on the west side of the top of Cone Peak. The exposure is 10 sec. so the flame really is bright.

This is an image of the lower fire with minimal zoom.

And here are a couple of the show I took at 11 pm tonight:

The one above is of the “glow” on the lower fire. You can also see the flames at the top of the ridge. Compare this one with the one Connie McCoy took, below, at the same time, looking UP canyon. The one below, is the fire at the top of Cone Peak.

I must say, with practice, I am learning how to operate that piece of sh** tripod, and I think my night photographs are improving. ;-)

And here is a night shot by my friend and fellow photographer, Connie McCoy. Interestingly enough, last night, she was on the Limekiln Bridge taking photos UP canyon, while I was on my deck taking them DOWN canyon. Her shot shows the flames on the ridge, as does mine above.

THANKS, Connie!!

And this is what one wildlandfire ff said around 10 pm tonight: “Some talk of an IMT being ordered if conditions don’t moderate over the next day, or if contingency lines don’t hold. The original concern was brought forward by the LPF FFMO on Tuesday as fire conditions were changing significantly on the incident. Concerns were based upon reports from the Type 3 IC and his “team” and forwarded upwards to “the Line Officers” for decision. Several ground resources from SoCal fires reassigned to the Chalk Fire today, including an aerial armada including ten airtankers, multiple helitankers, helicopters, and aerial supervision. While the line officers waited, the fire made the ultimate decision, necessitating immediate fire management action.”

This report issued by the USFS at 11 pm on 10/16/08: “Tomorrow a firing operation may be initiated to strengthen hand line and retardant line that was established along the top of the fire from Cone Peak to Twin Peak and southwest from Twin Peak towards Highway 1. The firing operation will be completed in two phases. Because of the rugged terrain and to minimize risk to fire fighters, the first phase may be completed by helitorch. The second phase will be by crews hand firing from Twin Peak towards Highway 1. The firing operation may take several days to complete. There is no immediate threat to Limekiln, Lucia, Lopez Point or the Hermitage, however, residents should stay alert to the fire’s activity in their area. If evacuation steps are needed, the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department will issue the notice.”

One last thing before I turn into a pumpkin…Paula Martinez, ret USFS PIO announced a BAER meeting regarding the Chalk Fire for Monday, October 20th, at 4:30 pm at the Community Center at PUSD. See the announcements page for the flyer.

~ by bigsurkate on October 16, 2008.

Chalk Fire Update, 10/16/08

This morning, considerable smoke and plume in the Hare Canyon area. Here is the visual. I will try to obtain further information, as well as check on the Cove fire from yesterday, as soon as I am able, and will post here. We have winds going on down here.

A couple photos of the Cove Fire yesterday, show it started in an area that had been back burned during the Basin Fire, which is a good thing. Also, the CHP is not reporting any road problems in that area. Here is a link to the Cove Fire photos:
Cove Fire Photos

From my vantage point, there appear to be two separate plumes. One, higher up on the Hare Canyon side, and one lower, possibly in the Mill Creek drainage. It is hard to tell on the second one. Here is a photo I just took. There also is at least one “spotter” or fire engline on top of Prewitt Ridge. Paula Martinez, ret. PIO is on her way over from King City to the PV Station. I expect a phone call when she arrives, and will post what she has to say.

And only a few minutes later, looks like a blow-up. Still occurring, so more photos might be forthcoming.

From my vantage point, this is spooky as hell. I just took another shot, that clearly shows two separate blow-ups, and possibly a third in between the other two. Winds are playing a significant factor here. Okay, it is much more clear to my naked eye about the two separate blow-ups, and possible third, but the photo follows.

10:35 am – I just spoke to Paula Martinez, ret. USFS PIO. She informs me that the fire is up at the top of Hare Canyon, making its way up toward Cone Peak. There are both helicopters and air tankers working. Also, while the tankers are here, they will be laying retardant down the contingency line from Cone Peak to Twitchell Flats. She is still on Ft. H-L making her way to the coast, and can see what appears to be two plumes, also, but feels they are not quite as distinct as I make them out to be. Could be. I can hear the tankers, although I have yet to really get a good look at them. The fire being higher up is good for tanker retardant drops.

Here is a map of the hotspot, courtesy of Kimball, aka coast communications, listed at the right in “blog roll.”

It only shows one hotspot, but it looked like two, to me. The second one may have not shown up, or flared after the satellite pass, or my eyes are not what they used to be, or all three!!

And here is a closer look at where it is in relationship to Cone Peak Rd. Technical difficulties on the blog upload end. Will post as soon as I can. Okay, not cooperating. Let’s just say it is quite close to Cone Peak Rd. on the west side. The good news seems to be that the winds are dying down. Lots of smoke, but no threat at this time.

Wlidlandfire reporting: “They are firing out and using the tankers to support their operation. Not out of control as far as we are hearing….” Also, a little over an hour ago: “New order for 6 Type 1 A/T’s. Hmmm…” A/T’s typically stand for air tankers.

1:30 pm – Here is the latest photo taken only moments ago. Lots of tankers working it today.

Chalk Peak has now disapeared behind the smoke. Same angle and point of view as others earlier.

2:30 pm – AND here is an hour later. My, oh my. what a sight.

4:00 pm – just got a call from Paula Martinez, ret. USFS, PIO. She is back in KC, having toured the area. She informs me that all the activity is going uphill in the Cone Peak area, away from the Hermitage. The fire has reached the Cone Peak contingency line, but ff feel relatively confident they can hold it there, as the line seems to be holding at this time. Tankers will continue to fly the rest of the day, and will probably be back tomorrow. I shared my thoughts that this fire will probably NOT be declared contained tomorrow, as originally anticipated, and she agreed that is likely. We won’t know until the 209 comes out tonight around 6 pm, after which inciweb should be updated. Camera battery recharging, and I am going to do the same. Will be back around 6 pm with more photos and info, if available. As of 1/2 hour ago, 2 more tankers in route.

Inciweb is reporting: an increase in acreage to 11.760; a decrease in containment to 94%; an increase in growth potential to “medium”; and pushed back the containment date to Monday, October 20, 2008.

I am hoping this is the last photograph I post this evening, and that I do NOT see any spectacular flames which I feel compelled to photograph. Also, one last note for the evening: See Skee’s comment re: USFS calling out two of the Cachagua Fire dozers this afternoon. *sigh*

Here are a thermal and google maps, provided to me by Kimball earlier this afternoon. Thanks, Jim!!

Click on the maps to see them larger. There are six new hot spots showing on the google map.

~ by bigsurkate on October 16, 2008.

October 15, 2008:

TWO new Fires- Correction, THREE!!

When does it end? Today, two NEW fires started. Let’s hope they get resolved fast. One is at Clear Ridge, and seems to be under control, and the second is at Partington Cove, started by a downed power line. Highway One IS closed due to this incident. (My original report was made around two. A review of the CHP site, indicates the road was closed at that time, and opened intermittently approximately 1/2 hour later. See below for subsequent developments.)

Reports on Highway One closure are conflicting. Stan Russell insists the highway is open, USFS, PUSD, KUSP, and scanner traffic indicate it is closed for a couple hours. I am attempting to confirm with the CHP and/or Cal-Trans the status.

As of 2:34 pm, according to the CHP website, Highway One is closed intermittently in the NB lane due to this new fire. OR, to state it in a more “politically correct” manner, the Highway is subject to intermittent delays, JNO of J-P Burns State Park. All delays, closures, openings, etc. subject to change according to current conditions.

4:00 pm, got a report from Kimball, who was stuck at the Cove Fire for almost 2 hours, during the “delay.” He reports from the ground, and scanner, that there is/was a fire on the Tin House Rd. at about 1200 ft. A helicopter was doing bucket drops when the bucket clipped the power lines at Partington Cove, which started the fire. The helicopter doing the drapery work on the highway had to land on the highway to avoid creating problems with the water-dropping helicopter, as there was no traffic control handling both copters. Kimball reports the Cove fire was flaming up hill toward Partington Ridge Rd. when he went by, approximately 2:30 pm, when the CHP opened the highway, intermittently. “Thousands” of cars had been backed up by that time. I don’t have any further information on the Tin House Rd. Fire, but the Clear Ridge fire was cleared up relatively fast, but the accident did cause burn injuries to one individual. An elderly person was taken by ambulance from the Cove Fire. NFD.

At 3:57, the highway was closed. At 4:13 pm, Cal-Trans was escorting traffic through, as allowed by fire activity. CHP plans on having two officers present doing a “round-robin” throughout the evening.

Obviously, this is a dynamic situation, subject to change moment-to-moment.

At 7 pm, CHP reporting both lanes open and signs posted. Also, a note from the CHP site, a blood draw was requested from the vehicle accident on Clear Ridge. Huh, oh. DUI suspect?

And tonight, wildlandfire is reporting: “Partington Cove on Off Highway 1 Also when forest serrvice copter arrived on scene his buckect broke. Thats when 902 from Bear Valley responded to fire. I[t] was minor fire but it just kept skunking around on them thats why they wanted CPTR. It sounds like tomorrow they will have 1 engine on patrol.”

So, it looks as if it all ends well, this evening. Whew. Really. I am SO tired of fire this season. I have other things to do with my life than report on fires!

Reply With Quote

~ by bigsurkate on October 15, 2008.

Jade Photos #2

Before I get to the photos, a comment on the Chalk Fire. It had a little activity last night, around 50 acres, I am told. The flare-up is below Vincente Flats, working its way up toward Cone Peak, and down toward Limekiln State Park. No threats, however, still within containment lines, and being monitored. There were to be helicopter drops, but I have not heard any. Maybe I am not in the flight path. I would note that there may be intermittent closures of Highway One due to fire traffic, and perhaps rolling debris.

Here are a few more photos for your viewing pleasure.

“Chinook” is a 9 year old female “Peales” Peregrine Falcon. She got hit with West Nile virus a few years ago and is partially blind. Her owner/falconer is Chad Carvey, former Principal/Superintendent of Pacific Valley School.

A wooden hawk on a beautiful Jade pedestal.

~ by bigsurkate on October 15, 2008.

October 14, 2008:

Chalk Fire Update

Many of you have noticed the smoke from the Chalk Fire, and some of us saw the flames last night. I spoke with Paula Martinez, ret. PIO, who informed me that the fire did in fact become active last night, and they are working on “knocking it down.” While it is still within the containment lines, it appears to have crossed Hare Canyon, but the good news (from Kimball scanner traffic) is that it only crossed in one spot, right across from a rock outcropping, so spotters are feeling optimistic. There are plans to open up the contingency lines from Twin Peaks to Twitchell Flat, and re-lay the hose lines down to Limekiln, if necessary. Helicopters will be flying it as soon as the smoke allows. Paula also told me that there are “pockets of green” in the Dempsey Flats area that are being monitored. Fire crews are standing by, if needed. Fresh troops are on their way, if needed, also.

I specifically asked if there were any evacuation warnings contemplated, and she said, “No.”

Inciweb will be updated once a day, in the evening, with the stats and summaries.

Now, I have a work-related fire to extinguish, so I am off to Cambria. I will check back in this evening.

Tonight’s smoking sunset from Plaskett Ridge Rd.

Inciweb will be reporting shortly after 6 pm each evening. Tonight’s summary is:

“A hot spot occured across Hare Creek last night as a result of rolling rocks and debris from the fire. The spot fire is reflected in the 100-acre increase in the fire’s acreage. Water dropping helicopters were delayed this morning due to smoke but were able to fly again when the smoke lifted this afternoon. Today crews worked to reopen and improve contingency lines established earlier on the Chalk Fire from Highway 1 to Twin Peak and from Highway 1 to Limekiln.

Evacuations: None.

Highway, Road and Area Closures: Highway-1 is open. Nacimiento-Fergusson Road remains closed, as well as South Coast Ridge Road from Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd to Willow Creek Road.

Weather: Predicted weather: Wind Speed 3-6 mph, Temperature 75 degrees, Wind Direction NE, Relative Humidity 12-19 percent.

Agencies: The incident is currently being managed by a U.S. Forest Service, Type-3, Incident Command Team.

Note: The Goleta Fire Information Center (805-961-5770) will provide a recorded message regarding general information about the fire and Inciweb will continue to be updated daily at 6:00pm, or sooner if there are significant changes in the fire’s behavior.”

Sand Dollar at smokey sunset.

~ by bigsurkate on October 14, 2008.

October 13, 2008:


10/13/08 PM – There is a flare-up, possibly up above Limekiln. From here, it looks to be north of N-F Rd. Kimball indicates it is higher than his elevation (2000′) and estimates it at 2700′. From my perspective at 3200′, I would put it a little lower than that, maybe 2500′, but what do I know. USFS and the CHP at Nacemiento are both aware of the flare-up, and state that it is within the containment lines. I can see flames with my unaided eye. I will check it out more thoroughly tomorrow, and report back anything I learn, but tonight is a night of peace and quiet, I hope.

Garnered from the scanner, Kimball writes: “Possibly 2 flareups, best guess.
1-Charlie (C16) is looking into Mill Creek at some fire visible from N-F some what of a drive below the summit (10 minutes) and a patrol is headed down in that area (Noc) to size it up. 45 Minute travel time…
2-Active fire about 50 acres no threat to anything at this time. (Might be the on north of N-F coming up from Hare or Limekiln.)”

Monterey hotshots report this as being in the Hare drainage. Sweet photos and reporting on the Chalk Fire from our own local hotshots. Great job, Tony!!
See their post here: Monterey Hotshots

10/14/08 – AM UPDATE: Lots of smoke. Helicopters to fight the flare-up have been delayed due to the smoke, and no wind to dissipate.

JADE FESTIVAL PHOTOS delayed, while we keep an eye on the flare-up. Life getting in the way of plans, as usual. -)


~ by bigsurkate on October 13, 2008.


From my heart to yours …

Such a delightful treat I had today. Remember the firefighters that came to my rescue on Friday? Brian and Bryan? Well, Bryan’s mom saw his photo and my thank you and wrote me. His birthday was this weekend, and he was away from his wife and two kids, but they got to “see” him on his birthday because of this silly little blog, and my passion for recording events. Bryan is heading home, in time for his son’s birthday in a few days. This world just got a little smaller and a little friendlier. And I feel as if the South Coast Family and the Firefighter Family just got a little closer. Thank you, Penny for sharing your son with me and my community!!

And only a few hours after I wrote this, Bryan and Brian came through my property, and I was able to thank them again, and wish Bryan a happy birthday, glad he was getting home in time for his son’s. For what you did, not just for me, but for my community, I cannot thank you enough.

BIG hugs from bigsurkate

~ by bigsurkate on October 13, 2008.

October 12, 2008:

Sunset on the Jade Festival

17th Annual, and the sweetest yet. I have so many photos, and so many stories … I will tell them, as I can. I will post photos, as I can. But I am one tired woman, after reporting live for … how many days on the Chalk Fire, and then sequeing straight into the Jade Festival? I am one tired lady.

So, tonight, it is sunset on the Jade Festival.

There are SO MANY people to thank for the success of this year’s festival. I will mention a few tonight, and mention others in the days to come. I must admit a bias, in those I thank tonight. But others, I hope to remember tomorrow. I beg you to remember, I am brain-dead, after almost two weeks of non-stop reporting for the Chalk Fire and the Jade Festival. If I forget someone, please email me so that I can report their contributions. We are family, and we ALL contribute what we can!

The main “dudes” are Kirk Brock, of Rock Solid Jade, who made the vendors happen. The booth fees they pay are our major source of income; and Sid Carr, our music director extrodinare, and his second in command, Dan Singer, who line up incredible music to bring people in to experience our Jade. These guys provide the backbone and structure to our “happening.”

Two other “dudes” that are usually “behind-the-scenes” and who provide unbelievable assistance are Gary and Steve. Gary makes sure the main booth (mine) is set up and taken care of. Steve makes sure everyone has what they need. I love you both, guys!! Oh, and Todd, who has done the announcing for us for several years now. He also makes sure he is available to help out where needed.

Among the women, we have Lisa , paying the bills and arranging permits; Mollie, supporting the main booth, and one of the original founders; Cat, who has arranged the raffle for many years running, and Avis back after being gone for a few years to Ohio, to help support Todd in the announcement category, and my support team this year — Mollie and Mary.

This year, our BSVFB was incredibly supportive, especially, Warren Doyle and his crew!! You guys and gals rock!! I asked Warren where he got his energy. God knows he could bottle it! After almost two weeks of fighting the Chalk Fire, only 2 months after the Basin Fire, these volunteers show up at the Jade Festival, and support us, handle an emergency, and still have energy to dance. How do you do it? I swear, we could make a fortune, if we could bottle it!!

There are many, many people who worked hard to make this Jade Festival a success, including all the people who showed up to support us. Alabama, who shows up every year, and had to make plans, not knowing if it was going to happen or not. Kansas, who was in the same boat. And MOM from England, who came because her son was one of the many, many firefighters who are our heroes. We can never thank you enough for what you did for us.

Now, this tired Big Sur Mountain Mama, is REALLY tired, and needs to recoup some energy. I’ll post in a few days with photos and commentary, unless life gets in the way, which is likely. ;-)

~ by bigsurkate on October 12, 2008.

October 11, 2008:

Jade Festival, Day 2

WOW! What a day. Lots of great food, music, and the crowds were phenomenal! But the JADE … ah … the Jade.

Here is one from the Big Sur Jade Company – a gorgeous piece of vulcan, contrasting so beautifully with what appears to be an apple jade base. (Sorry, KC if I misidentified the base!

I will post a wrap-up, and more photos, after the Jade Festival ends. I might need a day or two, to “recover.” It is a lot of work for very few. Thanks to Sid, we had sufficient volunteers to help with details, but it is still a lot of work for the main “cadre.”

~ by bigsurkate on October 11, 2008.

October 10, 2008:

Jade Festival Day One: Firefighters to the Rescue!

Great first day, albeit a little cold.

My friend Mary and I had a bit of an adventure on the way down, however. My brand-new tire was punctured by some rock or something. Well, Plaskett Ridge Rd. is closed. No traffic. My jack is missing its pump bar. Not good. Mary and I discuss…to drive on the rim on the dirt, or no. Hmmm…

While we are trying to figure out what to do, who comes by but a couple firefighters. YAY!! These guys go above and beyond. Their jack works, They change the tire. I HAVE to get their photo.

These are the two wonderful young firefighters: Bryan R. of the Tahoe National Forest and Brian E. of the El Dorado National Forest. Thanks, guys for EVERYTHING!! Without you, we might still be stuck on the mountain top instead of enjoying ourselves at the Jade Festival!!

YOU ARE THE BEST!!! Mary & bigsurkate!

Oh, and I MUST add a great big thank you to the ex, who ran the shredded tire down to Morro Bay for me, and picked me up a new tire, as well as a very fancy floor jack, ultralight, so I could handle it myself, and an LED system on the head, so it lights up the bottom of the Jeep, so I can see where I am placing it. A little expensive, but just think, I can open up my own floor jack rental business! LOL

~ by bigsurkate on October 10, 2008.

October 9, 2008:

Chalk & Jade

Chalk Peak, after which this fire was named, and Jade Cove, our local lapidary depository, are the title for today’s blog. Place names around here tend to relate to physical characteristics (I really did find sand dollars on Sand Dollar Beach, when I first got here, almost 20 years ago), or to the original homesteaders, like Plaskett. Many locals call my place, Top of the World. That’s what it looks like. But I digress.

Jade Festival Countdown: 1 day! Oh, so much to do and so little time! My friend Mary from Gilroy will be here tonight to help me finish my prep, which means today, I need to prep for her visit.

There were reports by neighbors that there was fire activity on Nacimiento yesterday. It is unclear from the reports which side of the summit she was witnessing, but probably on the east side. It appears that Nacimiento will NOT be a way to get to the Festival this weekend, so plan accordingly.

The Chalk Fire is now 74% contained, with no increase in acreage. No structures are threatened, and all containment lines are holding strong. We’re in good shape, just in time for the Jade Festival!! THANK YOU FIREFIGHTERS!! And Mother Nature, who worked with us, this time.

And this, from inciweb: “A Red Flag Warning has been issued for today through Saturday. Temperature 70-78 degrees; relative humidity 7-17%; 20-25% below 1500 feet near the coast; upslope winds 3-5 mph; becoming erratic 4-9 mph in the afternoon; ridgetop winds north 5-10 mph with gusts to 15 mph, increasing to 10-15 mph with gusts to 20 mph after 11:00 am.”

See many of you this weekend, and I, for one, am really ready for the music, and dancing, good food, and great jade exhibits!

~ by bigsurkate on October 9, 2008.

October 8, 2008:

Jade Festival Countdown – 2 days

Are you ready? Have you made your plans? It is ON!! We got the official word from the USFS yesterday. I had to wrap up the Chalk Fire reporting, and now that I have (unless something comes up with these winds), the South Coast switches gears to the 17th Annual Jade Festival.

The 17th Annual Jade Festival is the ONLY fundraiser for the South Coast Community Land Trust. With the funds we raise each year, we sponsor climbing equipment and other equipment for the South Coast branch of our local fire brigade. We sponsor summer enrichment programs for the students of Pacific Valley School, and we sponsor field trips for classes. We also helped purchase a combination Community Center/classroom at the school. I will be suggesting to the Board, that the SCCLT act as a donation conduit for those who have been impacted by the Chalk Fire and need assistance rebuilding water systems, recovering lost wages, etc. If you want to donate, I will provide details AFTER the Jade Festival is concluded. CPOA is also soliciting donations on the surfire2008 website. While we are greatly appreciative of all the efforts of the CPOA board, and the generous offer of a $300 cash grant to those impacted, as was done in the Basin Fire, we are investigating whether the SCCLT is willing and able to provide donation and distribution services more easily to our specific community than our generous brothers and sisters to the north. Thank you for everything, CPOA!

The Jade Festival provides three days of music, food, vendor booths, in the beautiful setting of Pacific Valley School. I look forward to seeing people from Mississippi who come every year, and others from all over the country who plan their vacations around the Jade Festival. Come join us while we celebrate our South Coast Jade, and this year, the end of the Chalk Fire. We honor all firefighters at this festival, and particularly our own BSVFB, who will be present.

Friday the Festival begins at noon and ends at 6 pm. Saturday we are open from 10-6, and Sunday, from 10-5 pm. Stop by the Main Information Booth near the flag pole and make sure we have your current address for our post card announcement mailing, pick up vendor maps, music line-ups, and to purchase your souvenir t-shirt – we even had a few left from last year, if you did not get yours. Don’t forget to purchase your raffle tickets at the booth next door, too!! You do not have to be present to win!

If you are coming from the north, remember, there are still fire equipment and men and women in the area, finishing containment lines, mop-up, and rehab, so drive slowly and carefully. If you are coming from the east, you will need to cut through to the coast at 68 in Salinas, or 46 in Paso Robles, as Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. is closed. The fire is still quite active there today, per my sources. Also, if you are camping out, please remember, NO CAMPFIRES, NO BBQ, NO HIBACHIS. NOTHING BUT PROPANE STOVES, EVEN IN DEVELOPED CAMPSITES!!

I hope to meet many of you in person that I have met these past two weeks online. There were so very many of you!!

~ by bigsurkate on October 8, 2008.

October 7, 2008:

Sunset on the Chalk Fire

Tonight, we bid adieu to the Chalk Fire. I do not know what the “official” stance is, but for the South Coast of Big Sur, it is over. We were very blessed in so many ways. As I have said before, we did not lose any houses, all injuries to firefighters were relatively minor, as far as I know, and the weather was our best friend. The men and women who fought this fire gave it their all, and their all was more than enough. Their family and friends should be very proud of these young men and women. We are. Neighbors and friends came together in phenomenal ways. It is our strength. The dance of this fire is the stuff of legends, and it will be told to those who can hear.

This fire was different than the Basin Fire. There is not enough bandwidth for me to recount the ways. We are a smaller community, and a tighter community. As Mary said, we have lived together for 20 years or more, and helped to raise each other’s children. As I say, we are the way Big Sur “used” to be. In Big Sur “proper” there are still pockets and enclaves, but it is not as it was. Money has moved in. Town has moved in, and with all that, the values have changed. Not so here.

Personally, I have many, many people to thank for their input, advice, geographical corrections (there were many!) and support. If I list names, I am sure to forget someone. And some, wished to remain anonymous, which I have always respected. But rest assured, I will never forget. It is because of so many of you that this site was often more accurate than the “official” information.

And now, a personal note: this blog came about as a result of the Basin Fire, so it was already in existence when it was needed here. I am blessed to live on the “Top of the World” with forever views, 24/7 cell phone reception, and 24/7 internet, unlike most of my neighbors. This position and access is what made me feel I had a responsibility to my community. I feel blessed to have had a useful role. I hope I have fulfilled my obligation. We all contributed, in ways we could, and that is what makes the South Coast of Big Sur so unique. There are so many people who contributed to this event. Most will never seek acknowlegment, but we know who you are, especially me. The midnight food, gas, supplies runs that came through my front yard were too numerous to count. They did not ASK what was needed. They knew, and they brought. There were dozens of heros in this story, in this small community. People ask me how I can practice law here; how I can live so isolated. This is why. There is a sense of community here that exists no where else I have ever lived. After 23 years in Big Sur, 19 of them here on the South Coast, I am home. I am accepted. I am loved and I love. This is community. This is home.

This is the last “official” evening summary:
Tuesday October 7, 2008, 8:00 PM

Goleta Fire Information Center: 805-961-5770 (8am-8pm)

Fire information online:

Fire Statistics

Acres burned: 11,189

Miles of fireline to build: 13

Date started: 9/27/08 (evening)

Percent contained: 69%

Expected containment: 10/17/2008

Firefighter injuries to date: 13

Structures threatened: 9 residences; 15 outbuildings

Structures destroyed: 0

Suppression cost to date: $11.9 million

Firefighting Resources

Crews: 26

Engines: 61

Helicopters: 10

Air tankers: 2

Dozers: 7

Total personnel assigned: 1,322

Current Status: The fire activity was very low today. Crews continued to hold and improve lines in all divisions of the fire. Firefighters rappelled from helicopters on the east flank of the fire and constructed hand line where possible. Tonight crews will work along the southern section of the fire to the east of South Coast Road and Prewitt Ridge to extinguish some interior hot spots. Firefighter safety and structure protection remain top priorities.

Evacuations: There are no Evacuation Warnings. An EVACUATION WATCH is in place for residents in the following areas: the immediate fire area west of Chalk Peak and South Coast Ridge Road (Alms Ridge, Dempsey Flats and Prewitt Ridge areas), Lucia, Mill Creek, Hare Creek and Limekiln State Park. Persons issued this notice are not required to evacuate but should be prepared to evacuate should an Evacuation Warning be issued.

Highway, Road and Area Closures: Hwy 1 is open, but subject to traffic delays up to 20 minutes. Vehicles must travel slowly and watch for debris and emergency equipment and crews. Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd is closed. South Coast Ridge Rd is closed from Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd to Willow Creek Rd. Limekiln State Park is closed. Mill Creek Day Use area is closed due to emergency equipment in the area.

Weather: Temperature 70 degrees; relative humidity 13%; northeast wind 5-10 mph.

Agencies: This incident is being managed under Unified Command with the U.S. Forest Service and Fort Hunter Liggett. The Incident Command Post is at Fort Hunter Liggett. Media access to Fort Hunter Liggett is restricted. Contact the Goleta Fire Information Center for assistance.

NOTICE: This will be the last evening update for the Chalk Fire. Starting Wednesday, October 8, there will be one update per day, issued at approximately 8:00 a.m. The Information Center will be staffed from 8:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. daily; a recorded update will be available after hours. Inciweb will be updated twice daily.

Picture of Chalk Fire Perimeter – 10/07/08

Chalk Fire Perimeter – 10/07/08
Credit: USFS

view pictures || view maps
Basic Information
Incident Type Wildland Fire
Cause Under Investigation
Date of Origin Saturday September 27th, 2008 aprox 07:30 PM
Location 22 mi southwest of King City, CA
Incident Commander Jim Smith / Alan Courier
Current Situation
Total Personnel 1,322
Size 11,189 acres
Percent Contained 69%
Estimated Containment Date Friday October 17th, 2008 aprox 06:00 PM
Fuels Involved

4 Chaparral (6 Feet) Large volume of dead and down material in fire fuel bed. Oak woodland and pockets of timber.
Fire Behavior

Smoldering with some down dead and snags openly burning.
Significant Events

Crews began fire suppression rehab in addition to continued mop-up. Weather conditions transitioning back to warmer dryer conditions over the fire area.
Planed Actions

Current efforts focus on containment of northwest and southeast corners. Continued mop-up on west and southwest flank. Crews continue the arduous task of seeking opportunities for direct line construction.
Growth Potential

Terrain Difficulty


Unified command of the fire will end at 6:00 a.m. on Wednesday, October 8. Good progress constructing direct fire line on large fingers, continues in extremely steep rugged terrain, making overall containment a slow process.

Tomorrow, I will switch from the Chalk Fire to the Jade Festival countdown.

~ by bigsurkate on October 7, 2008.

Chalk Fire, Day 11

LOCAL UPDATES FOR TODAY: Heavy rehab at Prewitt/Alm’s Ridge area, so getting in or out may be difficult, if not impossible today. Also, I encountered a grader between Plaskett & McKern Rd. and could not get around, so I just came home. (Remind me to tell you this story OFF line!!) Also got an email from Geri. N-F Rd is closed, EVEN to locals! She got out, says it is not bad, but they won’t let her come back through, so she has to drive all the way around through Monterey from the Salinas Valley to get home from work!!

MORNING UPDATE: Still dark. Still quiet. No more midnight or 6 am traffic, thank goodness. Sleep comes easier. I’ll be taking a run to the back to check on the road work that has been done over the past two days and the fire on the east, and will report back before I leave for town today, along with acreage and containment figures. Maybe a photo or two.

Only two days to finish preparations for the Jade Festival. I have two friends that have heeded my calls for help — to bring all the little things I am likely to forget this year. Mollie and Mary, thank you both.

Oh, yeah, Pendoodles (see comment below) such a Peaceful, Easy Feelin’

Today’s inciweb report is EXACTLY the same as last night’s. No change in acreage, personnel, containment, and planned actions, and it just posted 5 mins. ago. Let’s see if this is a mistake and a new one is issued soon.

9 am- a new summary just issued. Still no change in acreage, personnel, or containment, but for today, this is the plan: “The fire activity overnight was very limited. Today crews will continue to hold and improve lines in all divisions of the fire. Firefighters have done remarkable work in extremely steep and rugged terrain and now have the upper hand with 67% containment. There are still sections of open line and crews will concentrate on those areas building direct line where possible. Firefighters will monitor the general fire area to address hot spots. The weather is returning to a warmer and drier pattern. Firefighter safety and structure protection remain top priorities.”

I agree. Firefighters HAVE done a remarkable job. If you see a firefighter, where ever you are on this planet of ours, would you tell them, “bigsurkate says, Thank you?”

I’ll post more this evening. No mid-day report. Have a good day, everyone, and while we are 99% certain the Jade Festival will be happening, the USFS is expected to give us the formal go-ahead by noon, saying, “No news is good news.” I know this is going to seem obvious to most of you, but those coming, there are NO campfires, EVEN in the campground! Propane stoves, ONLY. No charcoal stoves!!

~ by bigsurkate on October 7, 2008.

October 6, 2008:

Chalk Fire, Day 10

Scroll to the bottom of this post for the evening update.

7:30 am -This morning’s inciweb report indicates no gain in acreage, still sitting at 12,168, as I suspected after yesterday’s drive-about. Containment has doubled and is listed at 67%. “Current efforts focus on containment of northwest and southeast corners. Continued mop-up on west and southwest flank. Structure protection remains a priority.” Two injuries were reported from last night, one burn on the lower leg, and one from a falling tree branch. Both ff were treated and released from the hospital. The South Coast sends its wishes for a speedy recovery for both of you!

Please be safe, everyone. The ex and I experienced a “roll-out” on N-F Rd. yesterday. A flaming log had rolled onto the road. There are areas back in the black which are a little spooky, particularly along JP’s driverway, where burned trees could easily drop limbs, and smoldering stumps are quite evident throughout the black areas.

I will only be posting twice a day. This am as I collect any available information, and then again this evening. I will be getting back to my “real” job, starting today, day 10. I need a little crazy normalcy.

See a few photographs I posted on Chalk Fire, Night 9: a trip through the black zone.

PM UPDATE: Oops, sorry, I got distracted. Tonight’s report will be relatively short, as I am working with others, including those in the “black zone” on other projects. One, involves CPOA and another is more personal. I am preparing a DVD slide show set to music, of 75 of my fire photos, which I hope to have available at the Jade Festival on Friday. While the high winds could bring some challenges, we feel the USFS is supporting us in our efforts to go ahead with this festival. In 1996, we had to cancel the Jade Festival due to the “Wild” Fire.

Inciweb just updated, and the acreage is slightly reduced, at 11,189 and containment at 67%. The report also indicates: “Reduction in “fire line to build”, reflects a change in fire suppression tactics. Earlier in the fire, crews had to construct indirect line because of active burning conditions. As a result of the rain on Saturday, and its affect on fuel conditions, firefighters are now able to construct more direct line, closure to the fire’s actual perimeter. Reduction in “acres burned”, is the result of more accurate mapping by crews on the fires perimeter in the deeper drainages.”

Also, a grader came through today, after yesterday’s “brush out” to grade Plaskett, back to McKern, I am guessing. I could not go out to check, as he was working, and I CERTAINLY did NOT want to get in his way on this project! He only graded to the start of the dozer line down Home Ridge, so the lower portion of Plaskett Ridge Rd. is still the mess that it has been since the USFS last graded it in 2000 after the Plaskett II fire.

Life demands my attention, so I will probably do a short report tomorrow morning, then I have to run to town to take care of lawyer-like business. Then, I’ll be shifting into high gear to finish all my responsibilities regarding the 17th Annual Jade Festival!!

Hope to see and meet many of you then!
bigsurkate, signing off for the evening, early, for a change!!

bigsurkate, signing off for the evening.

~ by bigsurkate on October 6, 2008.

October 5, 2008:

Chalk Fire, Night 9: A trip through the black zone

Ah, today was a good day. I made the rounds. Saw much. Talked to many. Feel really good, while tired.

Tonight, I offer you some of the photos I took today. This first is iconoclastic. It is the sign for the Nacimiento USFS Fire Station, just before one reaches the summit. You will note that the sign is completely burnt through on the right side. There is a burnt tree behind it. This is on the south side of N-F Rd. The part that is burned off, used to say: “1/4 mile.” It is gone, now.

Here, we have a firefighter making his way up Alms/Prewitt Ridge Rd. He is swinging his shovel in front of him to maintain the rhythm of his pace. Most of the faces we saw in trucks, on hand crews, in equipment, were very tired. These guys and gals work so very hard, for long hours, to sleep in tents, eat MREs, and stay dirty for days and weeks on end. Not a job I would want! God bless you!!

This is on the north side of N-F Rd. There are whole areas that are denuded, like this one. I see slide problems this winter on both N-F Rd. and So. Coast Ridge Rd, particularly on Chalk Peak. I had a slide specialist with me, who confirmed my opinion. I have given my gate combos to Betty, Rocky, and Sarah. Make sure you have it, and carry it in your vehicle this winter, in case you need it.

Mother Nature and her critters informed me that She is okay. In one of the creeks on N-F Rd., the water was still running, and the fire had burned down to the banks on both sides, but it still flowed, and the critters still came to drink. I stopped to photograph the phenomena, and was gifted with a sighting of this doe, and her 2 almost grown fawns, which I photographed separately. Look at how she looks at me. Such a blessing amid all the devastation! Thank you, Mother Nature!!

There was a lot of helicopter action on the west side, near the highway. I was very fortunate to be able to capture some great shots — helicopters so close, you could ID the pilot, dipping water out of the ocean, and dropping on top of the ridge. It was very difficult to choose one that was representative of these efforts. I used a dart board to pick these two:

That’s Kirk Creek Campground in the background, and here is the drop:

And that, my friends, is tonight’s blog and photo offerings. Enjoy.


Chalk Fire, Day 9

6:30 am = Day 9? Groan… Initial visual and weather. Cold, clear, and no wind. I have my window to the world back, and cannot see any plumes, at the moment. I’ll check again in an hour or so, and see what is visible and where. I’ve GOT to have a couple cups of coffee, first. Inciweb should report a pretty quiet night.

7:00 am – NO increase in acreage last night!! Still sitting at 12,168 acres. Containment is 37%, and all mandatory evacuations have been LIFTED!! YAY!! Evacuation watches still in effect. Growth potential has been downgraded from the “high” it has been listed at for 8 days, to “medium” currently. CDF crews have gone home, but engines are still here, personnel is down to 1253. All good news on the home front!

Of course, weather is heating up during the course of the week, so we are not out of the woods, but I do think the worst is behind us, and that the Jade Festival will be able to proceed as planned! Make sure you drop by the SCCLT Main/Information booth at the “front” entrance by the flag pole and say, “Hi.”

9:30 am – here is your morning visual, ladies & gentlemen. Isn’t it the most gorgeous thing you have ever seen? NO plumes!!

That is Cone Peak on the right, and Twin Peak on the left. There are still a contingency of fire trucks parked at the top of Prewitt Ridge.

10:00 am – the ex just called, and wants to be my driver, so I can go out and catch some “after” shots. Sounds like a good way to spend the day, to me. Despite rumors to the contrary (what WOULD the South Coast be without its rumors?) the ex and I are NOT involved again. He just likes to drive, get out, check things out, and right now, I am a good excuse! He misses being on the road and in the middle of the action, now that he is retired. The dozers are coming through here in the next hour or two, and will be “brushing” out Plasket.

9:00 pm – Tonight’s update:
Chalk Fire Evening Update – Oct. 5

Fire Statistics
Acres burned: 12,168
Miles of fireline to build: 21
Date started: 9/27/08 (evening)
Percent contained: 37%
Expected containment: 10/17/2008
Firefighter injuries to date: 11
Structures threatened: 9 residences; 15 outbuildings
Structures destroyed: 0
Suppression cost to date: $9.697 million

Firefighting Resources
Crews: 22
Engines: 61
Helicopters: 10
Air tankers: 2
Dozers: 9
Total personnel assigned: 1,208

I will post more, when I know more, but I am probably going to take most of today off, coming back with reports around 4 pm. It IS a beautiful, sunny, Sunday! 8-)

~ by bigsurkate on October 5, 2008.

October 4, 2008:

Chalk Fire, Night 8: Misc. Photos

Ah, so peaceful today, and restful. I have not left, and cannot see, so tonight, I thought I would offer some photos I took that I have not yet had a chance to post.

But before I do, let me recount the salient details of tonight’s inciweb report. Personnel is decreasing, and acreage is increasing. The current stats released at 7:30 pm are:
Acres: 12,168 Personnel: 1,319 Containment: 30%
“Current efforts focus on containment of northwest corner and holding southwest flank. Structure protection remains a priority.” Huh, oh, guess I better go check this out tomorrow – both flanks.
At 8:30 pm, Kathleen Good, PIO, USFS, reports there are 21 miles of fire line to build. Hmmm. there were only 20 miles at the beginning of this fire. Interesting.

Here are some prior photos, with dates and places taken:

Taken Sept. 29, 2008 at 1:19 pm on South Coast Ridge Rd.

This was taken on Sept. 29, 2008 at 4:00 pm in my front yard. Ron was driving this dozer. He was here in 1996 and did most of the work setting up the southern dozer line along my property in the Wild Fire of 1996. Yeah, Ron!

Sept. 30, 2008, 7:00 am – Dawn – from my back deck.

The original “Big Blow Up” occurred in 1910 in Idaho. In it, Ed Pulaski (the inventor of the now famous firefighter tool) led 45 firefighters to safety by hiding out in an old mine shaft he knew about. This is a much smaller Chalk Peak version. It happened east of South Coast Ridge Rd. on Fort Hunter Liggett on Sept. 30, 2008 at 10:45 am.

These firefighters were on South Coast Ridge Rd. on Sept. 30, 2008 at noon.

This is a couple of USFS firefighters I found near the intersection of Prewitt/Alms Ridge and Coast Ridge Rd. on Sept. 30, 2008 around 12:15 pm.

Red Hats, Blue Hats. I saw white, yellow, green, red, and blue. As I understand it, each colored hat stands for a different national forest. Please correct me if I am wrong. This shot was taken Sept. 30. 2008 at 12:30 pm at the intersection of Prewitt/Alms Ridge and South Coast Ridge Rd.

Depending on what happens tomorrow, I have some additional bomber shots I would like to post tomorrow night. Connection seems much faster at night, making uploading photos much easier. Whether it is because of my broadband, the internet traffic on my blog, or the internet fairies, I haven’t a clue.

9:00 pm, and I am signing off for the evening. More updates tomorrow.

Chalk Fire, Day 8

7:00 am – Good morning, everyone!
Well, the rains did come last night, there is still a VERY light drizzle. My rain gauge indicates I received only 1/4″ up here in the mtns. Good for the Valley, as THIS will certainly not trigger any debris flows. Of course, it could have been higher in the mtns. further north. This ought to slow the fire down, at least.

Low clouds and mountain fog prevent me from seeing anything today. At least it is not smoke!

Oh, and XT’s theory re the flames last night are that they were at the top of Hare Creek.

7:30 am – just got a check-in from my friend, Debbie, in Big Sur Valley. They received LESS than a 1/2 inch. There has been NO change in the Big Sur River, so this rain was just right for up there. YAY!~!

Inciweb is reporting the fire is now up to 11,968, and 22% contained. It reports: “Dempsey Flat, Biere (Baird) property, Macaruby (the Noc) and Alms property (Peter, Katie, et al) have been removed from the list of areas/residences threatened by the fire.” Also, “The main containment effort continues on the west flank to protect structures and minimize impact to Highway 1. Current weather may hamper suppression efforts for the next 12 hours.” Inciweb reports 9 injuries in the last 12 hours from 3 traffic accidents, but ALL 9 firefighters have been released from the hospital. Thank goodness. All of us on the South Coast send you wishes for a speedy recovery, and our thanks for your sacrifices. The rest of you, please be safe!!

I got my first call from someone coming to the Jade Festival next weekend regarding the status of the road which is open, and Plaskett Creek Campground, which was open for business, both, as of last night at 6:00 pm. As we know, many people come up to a week in advance to guarantee a camping spot at Plaskett. As far as we know, the Jade Festival is continuing as planned, unless the fire changes behavior between now and next Friday.

8:00 am – It is raining, again, and there are erratic winds. Seems to be a decent rain, not just drizzle. All dogs have decided to come in. They don’t like getting wet! While I don’t mind, when it is warm, I do not like a cold rain, which this is, so I’ll be staying in. Probably no photos today, friends.

9:00 am – Yesterday’s 3 and 8 pm inciweb reports stated: “On the south side of the fire, crews completed burning operations along *Willow Creek Rd* and McKern Rd to improve existing line.”

This is an error on inciweb’s part, as I was back there last night between 5-6 and saw no evidence of this. All burnouts were north of McKern Rd. I drove 1 miles south on SC Ridge Rd. and took photos. If there were plumes in the Willow Creek area, I would have seen them and panicked. I did neither.

Also just got a note from Geri re local rumors re Plaskett. Electric Bill came through around 8:30 am. Stopped and talked to me. He reported NO problems with the road. As always, my gates are open to LOCALS and FIREFIGHTERS only. I love all you guys, and I want to make life easier, not harder on my neighbors and friends. Of course, when the fire is contained, and all dangers cease, I’ll go back to being the bitch that I am. ;-) This applies to LOCALS only (the road part – the bitch part applies to everyone.) Tourists and Looky-Loos are definitely not welcome. Don’t make me sic my four dogs on you!

10:00 am – The morning report has been corrected to show the burnout operation successful at McKern, north to the intersection w/ Prewitt/Alm’s Ridge Rd. Willow Creek has nothing to do with anything in relation to this fire. USFS is reporting Willow Creek Day Use area closed, but again, that is yet another error. Mill Creek day use area was closed as of last evening, but Willow Creek day use area was OPEN. Sorry, but the USFS is putting out inaccurate information. The burn out being listed south to Willow Creek was a serious one, the day use camp, a minor one, in my opinion. Can’t even count on google earth, who has Gorda where Pacific Valley is!! Jeez.

Remember, above all, stay safe, everyone!!

11:00 am – This is an email I got from Mary that she allowed me to share. it is so beautiful.
“hi Kate
thank you for being there giving me the update on the fire through all of this. I’m so glad I was never stopped in my efforts to bring in food and supplies. I actually made it home that night when all hell broke loose. I had no idea that it was a back burn that I was driving through. When I got home I was all ready to fight this dragon. My boys then informed me we were riding safe. The boys said that they saw the smoke coming up the ridge and were getting ready for the battle when out of the blue comes a bulldozer cutting a line all the way over to Peter and Katie’s. Then another bulldozer follows behind doing the same thing. The planes dropped a line of retardant just on our side of the double wide bulldozer line. Then just when I was driving up from the bottom of your road, that’s when they started the back fire. We were so grateful! At first our upper water tank was empty with no water coming in. Jesse got a trickle going finally but we needed water now! When I got home I saw the weirdest collection of water collectors the boys had filled at the lower spring and brought them to the upper property around the little cabin.When the back fire happened we did have 600 gallons in our tank, but it was just the boys and I. Once again the fire brigade was called off duty, just like our 96 fire. We were told firefighters would not come to defend our property but that they would do all that they possibly could to prevent the fire from coming over the ridge. They did just that. It was GREAT! Finally we got lucky. These firefighters really knew their stuff. Kate, I was so proud of both my sons during this time. Monte’s 8 years with CDF really paid off! Ruth could not believe no homes were lost and I told her this fire was different. This community have lived here with one another for 20 years or more. We have helped raise each others children, helped with projects on each others land and we are one large family. During this fire everyone stayed to defend their property. I was able to bring in supplies and we were able to help our neighbors. We also had someone at each structure that was knowledgable with fires, like CDF, etc… We worked together, what a concept! I wish people would know how amazing this fire was. Everyone on the Mill Creek side live in a heavily wooded area and they made it, with a little help from their friends. Thank goodness we have Alms Ridge above us. Once again Kate, I want to thank you for your part in helping inform friends and family of what was going on. You were an asset!
much love, Mary”

At some point, I would like to start a separate page for the Chalk Fire stories. Please, EVERYONE who lived and is living through this, please be thinking about your story, and what you would like to share, photos, to, if you have them. Not just the residents, but the firefighters, the pilots, the dozer operators, the volunteers, the supply runners, all of us. Write them up and email them to me, marked “Chalk Fire Stories” and I’ll begin the compilation of all the stories of the fires. When you send your story, I will assume it is for publication on the Chalk Fire Stories page, unless you tell me otherwise. Also, please indicate if you want me to edit it. I would like the stories to remain true to the teller, so I anticipate providing only minimal editing to the process.

5:30 pm – It has been blissfully quiet today, very little traffic through here, no bombers or helicopters, and I managed a nap, on top of a good night’s sleep last night. I can report little, as I cannot see through the clouds, and have really not felt up to driving to the back or down to the coast today. Tomorrow is another day, and hopefully, I will have my window to the coast back. Have a good, safe, and peaceful evening, everyone.

I’ll post more, when I know more, but I intend to slow it down a bit in the next few days, and reclaim my life outside this blog. ;-)

~ by bigsurkate on October 4, 2008.

October 3, 2008:

Chalk Peak, Night 7: Cone Peak

7:20 pm – I don’t know where this is, other than out if front of Cone Peak. I’ve lightened the shadows, so you can see it is out in front of Cone Peak, south and east. I do not recognize the ridge in front of the fire, and it is not visible in the daytime version posted below.

Now, compare that to this daytime shot I took a couple days ago from almost the same perspective. You can see the same pine tree on the right hand side, and you can match up the “notch” on top of Prewitt.

Anyone out there able to help me identify EXACTLY where this fire is?

Inciweb is reporting only a small gain in acreage today, up to 10,659 acres. It also reports: “Majority of containment effort continues on the west flank to protect structures and to minimize impact to Hwy 1. Forecasted weather may hamper suppression efforts for next 12 hours.”

I just heard from the parent of the injured firefighter. I was told that he is home and doing fine, other than bruised and sore. They wish to thank all fire personnel for their quick response and assistance to their son. He posted his comment on Night 5, if you’d like to read it. So glad to hear it!!

That’s it, folks. Movie night.

Chalk Fire, Day 7

4:30 am – I cringed when I typed Day 7. A week … a week that has been longer than any other. Sleep is hard to come by, not just to me, but to everyone I have seen or talked to. Sleep came to me at 11:30 pm, but the smell of smoke woke me at 2 am. Strangely, despite seeing all the smoke, I haven’t smelled it much up here. But early this morning, it was strong enough to wake me. Then, the cold woke me up, and I had to get my silk long-johns on. That’s a good thing. I love silk long-johns! I dreamed of rain this morning, too much rain. A blessing for us, but a nightmare for our neighbors to the north. Let’s hope it was just my anxieties working themselves out during the dream state. It is so quiet and peaceful at this time – no traffic, no bombers, no helicopters. I am tempted to stay awake and enjoy it. I think I will resist that temptation.

6:30 am – This morning’s visual is gray — completely gray. I cannot see across the canyon – either one. No Prewitt Ridge visible, no Willow Creek top visible. I cannot see anything. No wonder I woke to the smell of smoke at 2 am. It is everywhere. I’m in a gray-out, so have little to report, EXCEPT, officially, the fire is now at 10,073 acres, creeping south to containment lines. (WHICH southern containment line, I would like to know, there are at least three!!) We are still sitting at 20% containment. 32 homes threatened, and 45 outbuildings.

7:00 am – We do have cool temps in the upper 50’s and no wind of any sort, and reports are still indicating a storm this evening. One concern, of course, is erratic winds. Oh, and K.C., if you are reading this, E.Z. has been calling every morning at 7 am to check on things.

Inciweb actually issued an update at 7 am. I’m impressed! In addition to what I reported at 6:30 am, I would add this from inciweb: “Continue to construct and improve line, contingency line construction, structure protection. Continue to engage in direct attack where it can be done safely. The majority of work will be concentrated on the west and south flanks.” Expected containment, October 17th, a week later than originally reported.

Won’t be any air show today, unless the smoke blows out of here.

9:00 am – Just to bring some levity, here is this morning’s visual:

Can’t say I don’t call ‘em like I see ‘em. I TOLD you there is no visibility up here!!

9:30 am -Additional offical information re weather: “A Pacific storm will approach the area late this afternoon. As the cold front nears, winds will increase, shift to the west and southwest and become erratic in the canyons. Fire activity is expected to increase. Some rain is expected after midnight. Winds will shift back to the northwest as the front passes. NOTE: a rereading of the report indicates *19* miles of fireline to build. Yesterday, it was down to *9* What happened?

Also a note for visitors, the Pheiffer State Park is closing its campgrounds Monday morning, October 6, 2008, for the entire winter in anticipation of the winter storms. They are taking out two bridges to prevent debris flow damage. It is expected to re-open again for the Memorial Day weekend, if not before. The Lodge will remain open during this time.

10:20 am – BSVFB just came racing through here like a bat out of hell. Usually, they are respectful about raising huge dust clouds. I do not like the implication. Can’t see anything, so don’t know why they were in such a gawdawful hurry!

I can hear bombers, but I can’t see anything. How can they?

Here is an interesting operations map released by the USFS at 6:00 am. Note the detail of the dozer lines.

From the CHP page: 11:57AM 1039 27-S2
11:52AM **CHALK FIRE**
11:51AM 1097 W/CALTRANS
11:50AM CHP Unit On Scene

Sorry, I am late getting this up. I am really beat. Was trying to rest. Note, there have been no updates on the CHP page since 11:57 am which says: 1039 27-S2 (It is code to me!)

5:00 pm – Just got back from a field trip to Highway One, and then back toward McKern Rd. with photos. Basically, it looks pretty good to me. The winds have picked up, and up here, at least, they seem to be coming out of the north.

This is pretty typical behavior of the fire I saw on Highway One, between Kirk Creek on the south and Limekiln on the north. There was a strong marine layer, cool and moist, and the fire was for the most part, creeping along the ground. It is right up to the pavement, in a few areas, but lots of crews, engines, water tenders, Cal-Trans, and CHP around. The next one, is a little less typical.

There were several instances of this type of fire behavior. All were at the top of the cliff face.

Back by McKern, things looked well under control. If anything, it may not have been burning as well as they would have liked. A caveat: I could not see the summit of McKern, up by South Coast Ridge Rd., however, I did not see any ominous plumes from that general direction.

6:00 pm – NOTICE; MODIS IS SHOWING A MYSTERY SPOT ON THE SOUTH SIDE OF PREWITT. I went and took visuals from two separate locations, and can see nothing, and no suspicious plumes. I also got ahold of PV Station, and they had seen the same MODIS spot, had checked it out, also nothing. One of MODIS’s infamous hallucinations, it looks like

Also, while out, I noticed that Plaskett Creek Campground was filing up for the weekend, and that Plaskett Ridge Rd. was still open to the public, so I called John Bradford, District Ranger. I actually reached him at the District Office. I said, “John, we have a problem.” “Oh?” “Yes, the campground is filling up for the weekend, and Plaskett Ridge Rd. is open. I will have to close my gates, if the public is allowed up here, and I’d really like to keep it open for the firefighters. So, if you agree that you want it open to firefighters, I suggest you close it to the public. You have a burn out going on in the back, and don’t want the public back there, anyway.” He agreed, and was to make some phone calls and pull last month’s barricade out of storage, or wherever it was. Thank you, John. I have to wonder, though, why did I have to be the one to think of this?

6:00 pm – Rich Phelphs, PIO, USFS just called, the sandwich boards are up, Plaskett is closed to the public.

I will post more when I know more.

~ by bigsurkate on October 3, 2008.

October 2, 2008:

Chalk Fire, Night 6: The Glow of Prewitt

8:00 pm I have heard from Betty, who is coming home tomorrow, and I got an email from Katee, all is good, so far, Mary Wargo just came through with a food run and will go as far as allowed, AND, Geri just wrote the following and asked me to post it:

A great big thanks to the BSVFB from the Baird Family. Thanks to JC Corley’s stubbornness, we were assigned engine 7834.
These guys ROCK!!!!!!!!!!! Everyone was so helpful and awesome. We still have a home because you guys stuck by us. I am certain in my heart, that had you left as so many “officials” wanted you to do, we would have burned. Instead we got air support. (Thanks Boone)
A Special thanks to Tom Greis, John Knight and Randy of the BSVFB. They stayed the entire time, and to Kerri Frangioso, Mary Wargo and also Keith Harlan for all his help, entertainment and support.
I know that I am forgetting people. Please do not be offended, I have eternal gratitude to all of you who helped spare Rocky, Shelagh, Kelson and myself the grief of losing all our dreams yet again.

And Kenny Jordan from he Sierra Hotshots- you are always welcome in our home!

Everyone in this community really pulled together on this and as a result, to this moment we all have our homes. Some of us have no water systems, some have foam in their systems, some have trashed yards but man we all still have our homes.

Geri Kavanagh-Baird

Geri is right. Our BSVFB has gone above and beyond what we could even hope for. Structure protection has been phenomenal. Six days and nights of madness, and we have not lost a single home!! Without the dedication and hard work of our volunteers, working along side the professional firefighting crews, the many wonderful dozer operators, and the phenomenal air support we have received, we would have been lost. Hey Geri, if you want to know the names of the pilots who laid retardant down by you, give me the Tanker number, and I can give you a name and number!!

and this is what is happening as I type up on Prewitt Ridge. Mary watched with me for a few minutes:

8:30 pm -Latest report indicates we are up to 9170 acres. 32 residences threatened. Containment at 20%. Current conditions – “The fire continues to be most active on the southeast flank. On the west flank, the fire is approaching Highway 1 between Pacific Valley and Limeklin. Cooler temperature and higher humidity will help fire fighters to hold the line at Highway 1. Crews will continue to provide structure protection on Prewitt Ridge and in the Pacific Valley and Limeklin areas. On the north east flank, the fire continues to progress slowly with a moderate rate of spread in the Ventana Wilderness. Extra caution is advised while driving on Highway 1 in the area of the fire, due to debris and the deployment of emergency equipment and crews.” Tomorrow, the fire crews intend to put their efforts on the southern and western flanks of the fire.

Here is a blow up of the same image. It could b possible flames to the right of the vehicles, just on the other side of the ridge, but it could also be headlight glow from a vehicle just over the ridge:

BTW, Santa Claus, if you are listening, I want a tripod for Christmas. Mine is a piece of crap. (LOL)

So, that is tonight’s report. Now, I will turn off the computer (but not the phone), climb in bed, and watch the first t.v. I have seen in almost a week. Get some sleep, and take care of yourselves, and above all, be safe!! We still have another day to face tomorrow.


Chalk Fire, Day Six

4:30 am -I am up WAY too early, but hope to catch another hour. Is it really only Day 6? I swear it has been at least two weeks!! In the mean time, Connie McCoy sent me a photo last night that is quite dramatic. It is was taken last night, around 9:00 pm from the Lucia cabins, looking south to the ridge above Limekiln’s south side, perhaps called Escondido Ridge. (Neither Connie or I are sure of its name-I’ve GOT to find my topo!!.)

THANKS, CONNIE — What an incredible shot. Stay safe, everyone, and as the thermals and modis last night indicated (See firefighter’s blog (Point of View) and Coast Communications in my blogroll to the right), and this photo proves, the Chalk Fire has reached the coast. If anyone hears that Highway One is closed, please let me know. As you can tell, I rarely sleep!

It will be interesting to see what the morning report has to say about the size of this fire, as this fire was going OFF on the south east side, and the north west side as the sun set.

7:00 am – a quick look outside and I see smoke in all the canyons, even Willow Creek. NOTE: NO FIRE IN WILLOW CREEK, just residual smoke. It is looking pretty knarly to the north of me. Current status of fire, as of 6:00 am is that 7,079 acres have burned. It is 20% contained. “Fire continues to move outward in all directions at a slow/moderate rate while containment and contingency lines are being constructed and strengthened. Fire has moved through many of the residential areas. Reports of successful protection efforts in Dempsey Flat/Nacaruby, Alms Property will be reflected at 1800.” There are currently 1473 personnel on the fire.

From the Plaskett Ridge perspective, the fire is north west of me, north, north east, and east, but still a safe distance. The rains should be here, before I am facing any threat.

Okay, now I have to have my COFFEE!!

8:30 am – This is the view this am. Prewitt Ridge is in the foreground.

9:00 am – We’ve got 3 helicopters, one Chinook, dipping water out of the ocean, and making drops. I will try to get some good shots of them this am.
Here is one, with the bucket trailing:

9:30 am – Here you can see three separate plumes coming from the other side of Prewitt Ridge. I cannot be sure where they are, but look like Wild Cattle/Mill Creek drainage areas, perhaps by the Noc. They “might” be burn outs, as the 6 am report indicated two things that lead me to this conclusion: One, that burnout operations were possible today, to protect structures, if conditions were right; And two, that they expect to be able to declare structures in this area as safe at the 6 pm report.

There is still quite a contingency of fire trucks at the top of Prewitt Ridge, as evidenced by this photo.

Here’s a shot of the Chinook in the Prewitt drainage. They are NOT making drops there, it is just the route they are taking.

A main concern, right now, is Highway One, and keeping it open.

10:30 am- just got a call from Phillip Darnell, Air Tanker Operations in Paso Robles. He wanted me to know that those absolute AWESOME tanker pilots flying T-23 and T-25 are respectively: Brent Connors and Bill Waldman. I cannot express my appreciation to these guys enough. If you’ve ever watched these bomber pilots, they are the gutsiest pilots I have EVER seen, all of them. Thank you, Phillip for the names of these guys. I will also post the correct pilot’s name on that page.

Here is a photograph of Tanker 55, being piloted by Dale Dahl taken yesterday of the drops on McKern. Look at that awesome roll-out, huh?

11 am -NEWS FLASH – JUST SPOKE TO RICH PHELPS, USFS PIO. THE WORD IS THE ROAD WILL BE *IMPACTED* NOT CLOSED THIS AFTERNOON, as Lindsey reports in the comment section. It will be necessary to proceed with caution, as the debris from the fire is falling on the road particularly between Limekiln and N-F Rd. 4 pm – Just spoke w/ John Bradford, USFS MD Ranger. NO plans to close highway, at this time. See below for full report.

NOON: i am not taking a field trip to the back at my usual time. Most of the areas of concern for me and my neighbors are to the north west, so I want to stay and keep an eye on it. Also, I am really beat, and am hoping to catch a short nap before the afternoon traffic picks up. Okay, one more note before I break. Scott Bogen, Mid Coast Fire Brigade, just posted a VERY timely warning and caution for us about fire behavior with the incoming storm. Winds are going to be a factor, which could change everything. PLEASE take a moment to read his comment below.

1:30 pm – a nap is not in the cards, apparently. Bombers flying over, dropping retardant just on the north side of Prewitr Ridge. I captured one. You can see the fire trucks on the right. Also, Ventura just dropped 2 firefighters off at the start of the dozer line down Home Ridge with all their gear for a little walk-about. Poor guys. At least they are going down hill!

Okay, I give up. I cannot get the Ventura Firefighter photo to show up. I’ll try later.

4 pm – The bombers are still flying over me. Cannot tell where they are dropping retardant. There are no longer three distinct sets of plumes behind Prewitt. It is all one big smoke screen. The clouds are building up behind Cone Peak. Here is the shot I just took. For those of you not from the South Coast, that is Cone Peak in the center. The ridge at the bottom is Prewitt Ridge. By now, most of you know the smoke is in the Alm’s Ridge/Mill Creek area. You can see several fire trucks spread out on the top of the ridge. The pine tree on the right, is on my property.

4:30 pm – Just got off the phone with John Bradford, the District Ranger for the Monterey District. At this time, the fire is creeping slowing down the hill. It is approximately 1/4 of a mile from the highway at Hare Canyon, across from Kirk Creek Campground. They actually expect it to reach Highway One, as there is no where else to stop it. USFS, CHP, and Cal-Trans are working closely together and have no plans to close Highway One. The most they expect to have to do, is to close one lane to clean up rolling debris, and they do not expect that to happen until tomorrow. On the east side, the fire is about 1/2 mile from McKern Rd., although it seems to have reached the summit portion. That is the containment line. The winds expected to proceed the storm, are expected to push the fire east, back in on itself.

XasauanaToday has acquired a copy of the USFS probability map. I can see why they would not want to release this to the public, but private citizens surely can, right? Of course, this was prepared 2 days ago, and this fire has not performed according to probabilities.

And please, if you get the chance, read the sweet comment posted in the comments section by one of the children, Allison Toombs, who was evacuated from her home at the beginning of this fire.

I will post more when I know more.

October 1, 2008:

Chalk Fire, Night 5

Second firefighter injury reported the past 12 hours. “Reported shoulder/neck injury from a tree limb, FF transported to hospital.” We send our wishes for a speedy recovery for this firefighter.

Please check out the thermals and maps on Coast Communications and Firefighterblog (Point of View), both in my blog roll to the left. The fire looks like it has reached the coast, everyone. This is NOT good!!

Nothing left tonight, I am afraid. This everyready bunny is runnin’ low and needs to recharge. Will try to post photos starting tomorrow morning.

Take care everyone, and be safe!!

~ by bigsurkate on October 1, 2008.

Chalk Fire, Day 5

7 am – Ready for another busy day, boys & girls? I will go outside and get a visual in a little while. In the mean time, I received this at 12:12 am: “well, it looks like the worst is over up here at JP’s. From about sunset until just a bit ago we had fire on three sides of us but the wind was at our backs which kept the smoke and ash out of our faces and also kept the flames meek (relatively)—-We just fired up the grill to have a late meal and will sleep well after!!-”

Offers of help are flowing in from the north coast. Joyce called yesterday and said she would do anything for anybody who needs help. She will run to town, whatever. We cried together when I read her Shelagh’s message last night. Kurt has offered to help in anyway he can. Mike Caplain offered brush-cutting and 150 gal. water pumping. He’s self-contained. EZ offered to gather friends and come assist. I’m sure I am forgetting someone. So, if anyone needs anything, get word to me, somehow, and I’ll post it on this page, and volunteers can sign up to bring them down in the comments section. (Thanks, Scott of Mid-Coast Fire Brigade for the idea!)

NOTE: Dave Allen has volunteered to pick up absolutely anything in town north tonight and bring down. See comments.

Resources have been increased to 1410 personnel on the line; fire is officially at 3760 acres, containment at 13%, and the threat to property has increased from 12 to 18 structures. The Nacimiento Station was saved. The Lutz property is expected to be threatened in 48 hours.

Visual this am is difficult, as there is a lot of dispersed smoke. Photographs will not be of much good, today, unless the winds shift.

8:30 am – Got word from Wild Cattle. Very smoky, can’t see across the canyon, but everyone okay there. Was relieved to get the update on JP, so thanks everyone for keeping us all informed! As Katee said, she KNOWS that when the time comes, she can count on BSVFB to be there helping protect structures. THANKS BSVFB!! You guys and gals are awesome!!

I am having the most delicious organic pear for breakfast, thanks to Billy and his friend who came through late last night on a food run for those in the fire’s path. Thanks, guys!

9:00 am – weather reports predicting possible rain, Friday night to Saturday. Let’s pray the predictions are correct, for once!!

11:30 am – had to get some work ready for the ex to overnight for me, so I could stay here, and take care of business. Andale to the rescue!! YAY!! Thanks, Ralphie (of course, those who know him, know he made me promise a certain sex act! Ha, ha.) Anyway, this is an email a ff at the Nacimiento Station sent to his mom. She gave me permission to post it:
at the station tonight
we had to burn out around it so the fire wouldn’t make any big runs at it and potentially burn it up
pretty crazy here so far
good thing yall saw it when you did because it is all scorched now …
… been working some seriously long shifts, so i am pretty tired
gonna keep this message short and get some much needed sleep
will try to keep in touch whenever possible”

One of the Santa Barbara bosses came here to check out the dozer line, where it is, where it goes, to confirm how many houses up here, etc. Contingencies, I know. Gotta be ready.

NOON update – I am not going on a field day, today, as there is too much smoke, and while I have enough gas for the generator and to get to Cambria, I don’t have any spare. Ralph is picking up 10 gals for me, so I’ll be set for tomorrow, and will go out, if we aren’t completely blanketed by smoke, like today.

12:30 pm – Kimball reports, from the containment lines and the current thermals that thing are looking better on the south end, but worse on the east end.

1:30 pm – Monte just came through. He had been at Rocky & Geri’s house. My guess is (and it is only a guess) is that things are relatively safe at their house, now.

2:30 pm – The smoke has cleared, allowing some visibility. I am posting below two photos of Prewitt Ridge. One taken last night around sunset, the other, taken moments ago. USFS came through here a short while ago, to check the dozer line. That’s twice today. He did say they are not expecting the fire to get here, nor for my road to get graded. Oh, well. To me, it appears the smoke is moving west. Also I note, that the fire trucks are still there, only they are spread out along the ridge, not bunched in one area. My guess is that they are spotting.)

This one was taken just moments ago. Just before I took this shot, there was a flare-up right at the beginning of the column on the left side of the photo. Most fire trucks are gone, I can see only one, way back on the east side, well out of this photo. The fire is definitely traveling in a westerly direction in this part of the fire.

This is a helicopter over the ridge. You can see the red bucket hanging down, in front of the smoke.

Wild Cattle reports aobut a 1/2 hour ago: “a crew from kern county just showed up…2 little pumper trucks and 2 cars, about 10 guys to help out a little and get the lay of the land….I doubt if they will stay long…but they are clearing around Grace’s house…they don’t want to get trapped. Like I said before, I know the volunteers will be here at the right time.”

6:00 pm – There is a very worrisome red spot showing up on the thermals south of the Noc. Check Coast Communications listed in my blog roll. I saw flames, earlier behind the top of Prewitt, that per Jim, are not the same spot. Helicopter drops were working in the area, this afternoon, but I could not see where they were making their drops. Also, I drove out back this evening and just got back. I watched the bombing of McKern, and got some more retardant drop photos I will post, on a separate page again, later this evening. A big blow up appeared to be happening to the east of South Coast Ridge Rd., on Ft. Hunter-Leggett. I have quite a few photographs I want to post, buy I have been trying for an HOUR to get just one up. I will continue to try to get them up, but if the internet doesn’t cooperate, I may have to just give up, as I need some sleep. Mike Gilson sent me some photographs, too, and as they provide a completely different perspective, I would like to post one or two of those, also, but probably not tonight.

9:00 pm -The fire is now up to just over 5,000 acres, per the official evening report. This is of concern:

“Current Status: The fire was most active on the northwest flank today. There was also activity on the southeast flank. Crews worked through the day improving and constructing control lines and keeping Nacimiento-Fergusson Road clear of falling snags and rolling debris. Humidity levels are predicted to increase up to 40% this evening which will aid suppression efforts.

Crews and dozers will continue to construct and hold direct lines on both the north and south sides of Nacimiento -Fergusson Road. They will provide structure protection on Prewitt Ridge and will be preparing for structure protection in the Pacific Valley and Highway 1 area. Burning out operations will occur only when necessary and when crews feel the conditions are favorable. Firefighter and public safety will remain the highest priority. ”

With that bit of dismal news, I bid you good night. I want to have pleasant dreams of sugar plums and fairies, and cool green spaces, with lot of moisture bathing my skin.
I’ll post more, when I know more — tomorrow, not tonight.

~ by bigsurkate on October 1, 2008.

September 30, 2008:

Chalk Fire, Night 4: Air Show

There were several planes and a spotter up this afternoon. I wish I could post them all, but I need some sleep. I chose this series, as i had the most sequential shots of this run. It was like watching the most orchestrated ballet. It was visual poetry. You pilots put on quite a show. I am grateful I was provided a front row seat. Thank you!!

I got a call today, Thursday, October 2, 2008 from Philip Darnell, who runs these guys out of Paso Robles, who informed me that the gutsy pilot in T-25 is Bill Waldman. What a treat I had, Bill!! Thank you. Also running the same line, doing the same thing in T-23 was another gutsy pilot, Brent Connors. Wow!!

I also got some shots of you guys yesterday laying down line back at McKern Rd. You probably saw me standing up in the bed of a Toyota Pick-up truck, taking pics and waiving? That was me.

~ by bigsurkate on September 30, 2008.

Chalk Fire, Day 4

7:00 am – Early morning visual. Smoke plumes quite visible, much more so than yesterday morning, more like what I saw during the day, so it appears the Chalk Fire was active last night, but don’t know the details. You can compare this morning’s plume with yesterday morning’s plume, in Day 3. Last truck through last night was midnight. First one through this am, 6:30. Also, got a call from a former student of mine. Grew up down here, knows everyone and has hiked these hills all his life. Left a message for his dad, Chicago Kid, which I will deliver when I see him.

This morning’s plume.

Betty did not send her usual evening update, last night, which is worrisome. Hopefully, I will hear from her today.

Inciweb should be publishing around 7:30 am. We’ll see what they have to say, but of course, it has not been particularly accurate re estimated acreage. Weather is no wind, 60’s and clear. And so, day 4 begins…

8:00 am – We are up to 1100 personnel on this fire. YAY!! Next 12 hours, it is expected to move south. 11 people advised to evacuate in Dempsey Flat area, and Beiar Property. Oh, and Dempsey Flats is where my friend and reporter, Betty, lives.

BSVFB member just came through and informed me that the fire crossed Mill Creek and is coming up on the houses. It is between JP and Ted’s places and is getting closer to Rocky & Geri, everyone over there is in danger.

8:45 am – Keith just came screaming through to go to Rocky & Geri’s. This from their daughter, Shelagh, an email she sent her brother:

chatting with mom at 7:40. They are still at the house. The fire is running up the canyon now. JP is gelling his house right now and Ted managed to save his last night (YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!) Ted and Surge are holding the line at the Knock but the fire is in our spring and below us, at Al’s, and to the north side, and it’s below Peter’s trailer to the west.

Someone (brigade, forest service?) is bringing foil to wrap the house up later this morning, which is really good news, too. They are also going to start gelling as soon as the sun rises (around 9 or 10) if the winds shift. No one is leaving unless they are forced to but it probably won’t come to that. New estimates are that the fire will come through our place today but not sure when. It’s still creeping. There is lots of constant communication between our place and the Knock.

Bob is heading up from the coast to refuel Volunteer engines, including the one at our house. He is bringing another leaf blower up from Pt 16 and they’re going to back burn in front of the house this morning. Not sure how much back burning they’ve done already…

They are smoking a LOT of cigarettes (this seems to be my mission up here in Seattle… that and cookies!) and Warren was able to get over the ridge on his ATV last night and bring in supplies. I’m not sure whether you can get in through Nacimiento but I know the Plaskett route is passable and Kate has her gate open.

That’s all I know. I’ll send you more later. Hope you’re doing okay out there.


REMINDER: I have NOT confirmed that Ted’s house is saved. In fact, the BSVFB member told me the fire was BETWEEN JP and Ted.

9:00 am – This just shot of Alm’s Ridge. You can see the fire spotters and trucks on the right. All the places that “she” (Shelagh) reports on in her email are just over that ridge. Busy day.

9:45 am – just confirmed w/ LPNF ff, no homes lost. Oh, and Lycia, I sent a message to the newlywed on TNF, that his wife says “hi!” (I figured out what the “T” stood for — duh!)

10:30 am – Here’s a better, and current, shot of the plumes behind Alm’s Ridge. Look at all the red and green on the ridge!! Lots of air support this am, too, although I haven’t seen the DC-10, yet. It came in very late, yesterday, too. But boy those bombers are workin’ it!!

For those of you not familiar with the area, that is Cone Peak standing tall in the background.

11:00 am – significant increase in plumes. It is taking a run. Photos to follow.

JUST received this from Wild Cattle: “Thanks Kate for the updates. It really helps. The support we are getting is unheard of in this area….very grateful that it is happening.”

Confirmed with a local who spent the night at the Noc that the fire burned around Ted’s place. Also confirmed that Betty is fine. This new run was happening as the local was arriving, and he did not know about it, as he was driving away from the area. He watched from my deck. The three photos above were taken back by the launch road on my property.

Today is critical. I’ll be taking a field trip at my usual time (noon). I’m going to leave a little early, and take a little longer, to see how far I can get, and what I can see. I will be back around 1:30 or so. I have a friend bringing me more gas and those nasty cigarettes that I seem to be going through at a record rate. Stress?? What’s that?? So, everybody reading today, particularly if you find yourself “glued” to my reports, take a breath. Get something to eat and take care of yourselves — particularly if you have friends or family whose houses are threatened, or if you have loved ones on this fire. Remember what Wild Cattle said, we have unheard of support for this area. They are providing a record number of assets for this small mountain community. We are very, very fortunate.

1:30 pm – I am back from my field trip. Before I get into my more factual reporting, I would like to offer an emotional one. Seeing the huge plumes and knowing I was driving into them, was quite eerie. For several miles, I did not see a single human being, except through the telephoto lens, at a long distance from me. The road I was traveling was desolate, not just in terms of human sightings, but also in terms of the dozer work done yesterday. I was not frightened, or even anxious, as I knew I would run into a roadblock if I got too close to the action. But there was an aloneness I rarely feel even when I am alone.

Now for the factual account: Not as much action on the South Coast Ridge Rd. today as there was yesterday. The “run” I witnessed is on the east side of SC Ridge Rd. near Rocky & Geri, who are in the most immediate danger, but there is lots of support for them at their house, so we will be keeping them in our thoughts all day.

The USFS would not let me up Alms Ridge this afternoon. Too many men, equipment, dozers, and many bombers making runs. They are painting the entire Prewitt Ridge with fire retardant, from the top to the ocean. Seems to me the DC-10 could lay down a line like that in just one or two runs. They are also putting in a dozer line on the east, on a ridge that comes off the south side of McKern Rd. right at SC Ridge Rd., which is good news for me. However, no work has been done between McKern and Plaskett.

Wild Cattle had this to say, just a short while ago: “All is good here. No fire visible, just smoke coming out of the Noc. We are preparing for it to come through. My last visitors, 2 guys a couple of hours ago, said the best thing for me is to stay put….I am in a good position if it comes from the top…If it comes up the canyon I am not so good…..I figure we may have 24 hours.”

I did take photos and will post a few shortly.

3:30 pm – Sorry, a friend came up to visit and bring me supplies to support my blogging efforts, and she and I got distracted by the great air show happening on Prewitt Ridge. The best seat in the house was on my deck. Wow!! Laying down some red!! More photos, but first I’ll start with the ones from my “field trip.”

This is the dozer work going on on the ridge which comes off of the intersection of McKern & South Coast Ridge Rd. The one with the black top is from Cachagua Fire, Skee Stanley’s crew!! You guys are awesome!!

I’m having trouble uploading my photos, so bear with me, I will get them up just as soon as I can.

This is another view, taken about an hour later of this morning’s run. It is to the east of SC Ridge Rd, I have heard it placed in the general area of the pond near Rocky & Geri’s gate, but have not confirmed that. I DID confirm that it was part of the main fire, not a burn out operation. This shot was taken from Plaskett Ridge Rd. before it hooks up with SC Ridge Rd.

This is part of a hand crew working Alm’s Ridge Rd. at the intersection with SC Ridge Rd. There were hand crews up Alm’s Ridge Rd. as far as I could see.

4:10 pm – As to the firefighter injury, I just got official word that the injury was minor. It was either a rolling branch, or falling branch, but the firefighter was evaluated by the medical team, and as far as USFS knows, is back on the job. Good news. No other injuries reported. So, all your loved ones are still okay.

Other immediate news: the plumes visible from my place are extending further south than they were earlier today. Two USFS trucks with smaller crews (5-6?) just came through my yard. Packs tossed into the beds of the trucks. Until now I have not seen any real “crews” come in this way. It has been the bosses, a scout, dozer supervisor, those types. Not the real-on-the-ground hand crews that I just saw.

Here is one from the air show this afternoon. It was unbelievable to watch, and even better to photograph. These guys are one of a kind — really gutsy. My father flew (crop dusters, at one point), my first husband flew, I was a unicom operator. Pilots, just like firefighters, are a breed apart. It is no wonder they come together like this. If anyone reads this and knows the pilot. Tell him or her, I had a great afternoon watching the best show on the coast!!

Isn’t that beautiful?? I have a whole series, from start to end of drop, and I will upload them tonight in their own post.

Bombers still bombing, but I cannot tell where. Going for a look. I cannot be sure, but it appears they may be bombing McKern in anticipation. A friend on the other side of the Santa Lucias called this evening, and he has a clear view of the top. From his perspective, McKern road sits at 12 o’clock. The fire, sits at 2 o’clock. However, he is more worried that the fire, which is close to the top of Alm’s ridge is going to hit the top some time tonight. I will be keeping my eyes open, that is for sure!!

6:45 pm – here is an update on Rocky & Geri I got from Shelagh around 5 pm. I thought I had posted it, but don’t see it here. “Hi Kate, Thanks for the posts! I just talked to Bob Milton, who was up at our place a couple hours ago, and he reported that the fire had burned through our spring and up the hill toward the Coast Ridge Road from the house, missing our house! I talked to him around 5:00 pm but he said that report was a couple hours old but our house was still there when he looked back from the summit. Also, he reported that the house (Baird) had been wrapped in fire blankets, so there they had to take solar panels, etc, down, which is why Kelson and I have been unable to get in touch with them. This is very relieving news for the time being! Weird stressing about your parents… ) Anyway, I just wanted to say that I really appreciate the posts and the pictures and all the good wishes. Big Sur is awesome!!! What an amazing community we have! Thanks again! Love she”

I spoke with a LPNF official who was on site all day today, and he informed me the fire is everywhere. It is spreading down N-F Rd. on both sides toward H-L. It is spreading down N-F Rd. on both sides towards the coast. It is on both sides of S.C. Ridge Rd. spreading towards Alm’s Ridge. He also informed me that he believes a burn out operation may be planned for the east side of SC Ridge Rd, from Alm’s Ridge to McKern. But organizations, like small rural communities, are prone to rumors, too. So, I wouldn’t bet on it until it is official.

8:30 pm – Okay, I really, really AM going to post that series of bombing runs tonight, but first some “official” updates from some “unofficial” sources:

First: Current acreage – 3,453 acres & 8% containment.
The winds have transitioned and are now from the NE, this should assist in securing the fire’s western perimeter. Crews made good progress in cutting direct on the northwest corner of the fire near Nasciemento & Cone Peak Roads. If conditions are favorable they will attempt some burnout tonight.”

And here is the official inciweb report, in pertinent part, as the acreage and containment are as stated above:
The fire became active earlier today than on previous days. Crews constructed and improved control lines all day. Burning out operations are occurring only when necessary and when crews feel the conditions are favorable. The fire has the potential to move extremely quickly and erratically tonight. Crews and dozers will continue to construct and improve lines tonight where possible and provide structure protection in the Dempsey Flat area. Firefighter and public safety will remain the highest priority.

An Evacuation Warning is in effect for the immediate fire area south of Chalk Peak and South Coast Ridge Road. This warning is given for affected areas where there is imminent threat to life and property. Persons who receive this notice should evacuate in accordance with the direction of the deputies on scene. Approximately 7 homes, the Forest Service Nacimiento Fire Station, and 4 outbuildings are within this Evacuation Warning area.
An Evacuation Watch is in place for the Lucia, Mill Creek, Hare Creek and Limekiln State Park. This order is for areas where a threat to life and property exists. Persons issued this notice are not required to evacuate but should be prepared to evacuate should an Evacuation Warning be issued.

Firefox is right, our BSVFB is doing a TREMENDOUS job!!! They are the ones who probably saved Rocky & Geri’s house today. They deserve all the support we can provide. I have spoken to many volunteers over the past 4 days and honor each and every one!

9:30 pm – just got off the phone with PIO Rich (sorry, can’t remember last name). I was very happy with the sharing of information. We are both on information overload, so I don’t want to misquote him, but the sharing was great. Neither of us was sure about where the late bombings or “laying down of retardant” was occurring, so we compared notes. We spoke of possible burn outs tonight, and as he explained, it is such a changing situation, it is hard to predict. He felt that tonight would primarily be in relationship to structure protection, but that if a fire approached a line, like the one made at McKern road today, too fast or too hot, then a burn out would have to occur to protect the line. I really felt as if we were having a conversation, rather than I was being fed the “party line.” Thanks, Rich. I’d love to meet you!

I’ll post more when I know more. No more tonight. I am putting up the new post with the bombing run.

~ by bigsurkate on September 30, 2008.

September 29, 2008:

Chalk Fire, Night 3

So, at 6 pm, the super tanker flew over me. I could hear him coming. I scrambled to get my camera, which was still connected to my computer, downloading photos, I quickly disconnected it, ran outside, aimed, and he flew below the height of my trailer. I rapidly walked to the front, and shot off a quick one, only to have it focus on the pine trees, and not the plane. Damn. I missed it. Oh well, there is always tomorrow!!

I still have a few shots from my field trip today, that I would like to share, so I will upload a few more, before the sun sets. Netflix arrived via my ex who brought me cigarettes, gas, and milk, so I will be taking the evening off, I think, to watch movies. ;-)

Buddies, helping one another out.

What bothers me about this shot is that this is toward the bottom of the Mill Creek drainage, and the fire is progressing downhill, apparently. I am far from an expert, a mere “C” student (if that) in fire behavior, but judging on the barren hillside ABOVE these flames, I would say it is moving downhill, toward the creek.

To all the worried mothers and fathers out there, whose sons and daughters are on the fire line (and I know there is at least one who is reading this blog) I think I can speak, gratefully, for the entire South Coast of Big Sur in thanking you for supporting their decision to enter this difficult and dangerous work. These young men and women are dedicated, hard-working, and service-oriented people who may never even know those whose property they defend; whose lives they have touched. But we do. And we honor you. We thank you for who you are and what you do.

I’m multi-tasking, watching a movie, while paying attention to fire info. Here’s tonight’s release from the USFS. I reproduced the entire public release here:

Fire Stats

Acres burned: 1708 acres
Fireline to build: approximately 9 miles
Date started: 9/27/08
Percent contained: 5%
Expected containment: None
Injuries: 1
Structures threatened: 12
Structures destroyed: 0


Crews: 31
Engines: 13
Helicopters: 9
Air Tankers: 8
Dozers: 9
Total Personnel Assigned: 830
Suppression cost to date: $1.2 mil

During the evening of Saturday, September 27, a fire was reported in the vicinity of Chalk Peak and the South Coast Ridge Road in the Monterey County portion of Los Padres National Forest. Initial response was by the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Department, Fort Hunter Liggett Fire Department, CalFire, and the U.S. Forest Service. On Sunday, a Type 2 Incident Management Team was ordered to manage the Chalk Fire; the team took command of the fire at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, September 29.

Current Status: The fire continued to be very active today with spotting and intense uphill runs. Crews and dozers worked through the day constructing control lines. The fire has high potential to move quickly and erratically tonight. Crews tonight will continue to construct hand line where possible. Fire fighter and public safety is the highest priority.

Evacuations: The Monterey County Sheriff’s Department has issued a Mandatory Evacuation Order for the immediate fire area south of Chalk Peak and South Coast Ridge Road. Approximately 7 homes, 1 commercial property and 4 outbuildings are within the evacuation area. An Evacuation Advisory is in place for Lucia, Mill Creek, Hare Creek and Limekiln State Park. The advisory warns residents to be prepared to evacuate should an order be issued.

SPCA for Monterey County Disaster Response Team is available to assist residents with emergency animal evacuations. Please contact The SPCA at 373-2631 or at 646-5534 (after hours) for information or assistance with evacuating pets and livestock. For disaster preparedness information and a listing of pet-friendly hotels and motels in the area, visit

Highway, Road and Area Closures: Highway 1 is open, but Nacimiento-Fergusson Road and South Coast Ridge Road are closed.

Weather: A cooling trend will continue through the first half of the week with a deeper marine layer. Temperature: 78-84 degrees; relative humidity: 15-25%; winds: southwest 4-8 mph; marine layer to
1500 ft.

Agencies: U.S. Forest Service and other cooperators under Incident Commander Jim Smith (USFS), of Central Coast Interagency Incident Management Team 7. The Incident Command Post is at Ft. Hunter Liggett. Media access to Fort Hunter Liggett is restricted. Contact the Goleta Fire Information Center for assistance.

~ by bigsurkate on September 29, 2008.

Chalk Fire, Day 3

NEWS FLASH!!! Kevin, of the H-L Fire Dept. just stopped to talk to me. He has three dozers coming in from the bottom of Plaskett to put in a line!! They’ll be running the dozer line down as they did in the Wild Fire of 1996 and the Plaskett II fire of 2000. Kevin is hiking the line. They are still hoping to stop it at Prewitt, but this is the back up. Kevin also informs me that they will punch all the way through to South Coast Ridge Rd., so my road will be graded!! As anyone who has driven it lately knows, THAT is good news!!

Chicago Kid came through to check on me around midnight. He had heard about the guys in the truck by my back gate, and someone had heard on the scanner that the truck was reported stolen, and he wanted to make sure I was okay. The jungle drums of rumor work better on the South Coast than anywhere else in Big Sur. I’ve got an email out to USFS law enforcement to confirm or deny that. Let you know if I hear back.

Anyway, I had parked in the middle of the road to prevent the truck from coming through here, but CK convinced me that confronting them, alone, in the middle of the night, if they DID decide to come through here, was probably NOT a good idea. Considering I left my 4 dogs and my gun inside when I came out to see who was trying to get through, I agreed with him, and moved my truck.

7:00 am – Initial visual report: Temps in the 60’s, no wind, fog bank quite high, and smoke is “laying down.” Looking g-o-o-d!! Mother Nature seems to be helping us out this morning.

7:30 am – report from Betty: “good morning, no action yet. Fire has moved to the south and downhill in the canyon, not yet to the creek. smoky”

Fifteen minutes later, I am hearing airplanes.

8:00 am – inciweb reports, in part: “Continue to hold and burn out the South Coast Ridge Road. Burn out dozer line constructed from Highway 1 from Prewitt Ridge west to Highway 1.”

9:00 am – no air support, so far today. The plane I heard earlier must have just been a spotter. Jim has a nice thermal posted at his site:
Jim suggested I take another look at the topo on Chalk Fire, Night 2. The “X” in particular. Is that the estimated point of origin? If so, our initial reports that it started between Apple Camp and Chalk Peak were in error. No confirmation re what the “X” represents. Click on it to view it larger.

It has been SOOO peaceful this morning, without the air support, without all the neighbors coming through. I’m torn between enjoying it and missing all the action and on-the-ground reports. Almost eerie quiet.

10:00 am – traffic has started back up, again. More investigative phone calls re the truck I saw. Fire moving south (towards me) but slowly. Here is the current plume, which is more toward the east than the plumes yesterday. Haven’t heard anything re burn out operation.

10:30 am – Still quiet, only one truck passed through, so far.

Will the REAL Apple Camp, please stand up?? Turns out that the “Apple Camp” listed on the topo has had another name historically. It is by the pond, but the long-time historical Apple Camp is north of Chalk Peak, where an old homestead used to be. Got its name because one of the old apple trees from the homestead survived, even though the old homestead did not. That is the approximate location of the “X” on the topo map. So, if the fire originated between THIS Apple Camp and Chalk Peak, it started further north than I thought. Getting it straight takes some effort. Still don’t know that the “X” is the origin of the fire, though. **JUST GOT CONFIRMATION FROM USFS. “X” MARKS THE POTENTIAL START OF ORIGIN!! (Note added later. I meant to say “Chalk” Peak, I thought, “Chalk” Peak, for some reason, typed Cone Peak. Sorry, brain fart. Thanks Barbara for pointing it out.)

YAY, air support is definitely back!! At least one plane. There’s more! And see NEWS FLASH at the top.

11:00 am- recent update for USFS is posted on inciweb, so I only include the critical info, and I do think it is critical:

Current Status: The fire continued to be very active last night with spotting and intense uphill runs on the northeast side. Crews worked through the night constructing control lines. The fire has a high potential to move extremely quickly and erratically and the terrain is very steep. Today crews will continue to construct hand line to keep the fire north of Prewitt Ridge, west of Del Venturi Road, south of the San Vicente Trail to San Antonio Trail and east of Highway 1. Crews will be supported by helicopters and air tankers.

2:30 pm – just got back from my field trip to Alm’s Ridge to check out the fire’s progress. LOTS of work going on on South Coast Ridge Rd. Looks like a war zone, which, in a way, it is. LOTS of men and equipment. I lost count of the number of dozers working on the west side of South Coast Ridge Rd. I took LOTS of photos, so I’ll spend the afternoon uploading them, so you can see for yourself what is happening over there. Turns out, I had better than Press Credentials. Whenever I introduced myself to the “bosses” – they already had my name, location, and phone number on their clip board. Dozers aren’t up here, yet, still working the Home Ridge.

That is Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. that cuts through the front of that ridge. The ridge top is painted red with retardant, which is only hinted at in this photo, but the fire is on both the west and east side of the ridge.

This is an example of the dozer work working on the west side of South Coast Ridge Rd. (I think it is actually a north west slope in this photo) All dozer work being done on the ocean side, and hand crews were cutting down all the standing dead trees on the east or H-L side of the road.

A spotter plane as it flew over Alm’s Ridge, almost performing aerobatics. These pilots are gutsy.

3:45 pm – YAY!! The first dozer just made it up Home Ridge, and is parked on my road!! I heard it before I could see it, so I was ready with my telephoto and Nikon D-70. God, I love these Nikons!! Here it is arriving. Oh, the dust!!

Not too many people can say they had a D6R XL stop in their front yard, have the operator step out, come over and shake my hand, introduce himself (Ron) and tell me he remembers being here on the Wild Fire of 1996 and doing all the dozer work around my place!!

5:00 pm – busy day. All three dozers are through, and went out the back, they’d been called to work back there. My guess is they will take care of the area between Plaskett and McKern Rd. where the others started their route north. Ron said a blade had been ordered today, so it should be here tomorrow.

Mystery Fire?? I took this photo from my property, from the road to the launch point, looking toward the east north east. I cannot identify this ridge any more specifically than that. When I took it, I thought I saw a spot of red. When I downloaded it, again, I saw the spot of red that I’d forgotten about, so I zeroed in, and blew it up. The quality is not that good, but the flames are clear. It is indeed flames on top of the ridge, in an area *completely* different from the main fire over in the Mill Creek drainage. These flames are south east of the Mill Creek incident. I have NOT heard anything official about my sighting. I am posting 2 photos, one the blown up one, and one the full shot, for reference.

Wait a minute…are those trucks on the right? They ARE, and one is a USFS truck. Looks like South Coast Ridge Rd? Anyone willing to help me with this one, I would appreciate it. With the two trucks there, and the road, I am betting on a burnout operation. Kimball suggests McKern Rd. But I really don’t think it could be that far. It’s only a 300 mm lens. OTOH, McKern makes sense, based on what I saw today.

Time to switch to Chalk Fire, Night 3.

~ by bigsurkate on September 29, 2008.

September 28, 2008:

Chalk Fire, Night 2

As the glow of the last rays of the sunshine turned the plumes a pinkish hue, the wonderful air support we enjoyed all day, dropped their last loads, and went home.

Here are Betty’s words on that: “It is now quiet after a full day of the most radical air support ever! just at sunset the supertanker came flying in a line directly toward us and dropping red, in the red glow of the late afternoon, and the fire under its belly. so brave, and so overpowering to see such a display. it’s the sort of thing you never want to see again! however, probably more excitement than we thought, already. Please, let’s not get used to it…Well, that’s it. Need some rest and will report again in the morning.”

And here is my photograph, to go with her words. What a team, huh?

At the end of the day, a quiet settles in. The battle zone of airplanes overhead and many, many people coming through my front yard has ended. The end of the day, and its beginning, often offer the best photographic shots.

Here is one:

And can you say, “Almost eye level with a DC-10?”

10:00 pm-And here is tonight’s official word from the USFS:

Our information is still limited, but this is what we know:

The Chalk Fire started at approximately 7:30 p.m Saturday, September 27 in
the upper Mill Creek drainage area of Los Padres National Forest in
Monterey County. The fire is about 22 miles southwest of King City and
about 2 miles east of Highway 1. It is primarily south of Nacimiento
Fergusson Road which connects Fort Hunter Liggett to Highway 1.

The fire has burned approximately 800-900 acres in oak and brush in steep,
rugged terrain. There is very little to no wind on the fire and it is
primarily slope and fuel-driven.

Earlier this afternoon the fire reached and crossed to the north side of
Nacimiento Fergusson Road; it is also on both the west and east sides of
South Coast Ridge Road.

Residents of three parcels of private land within the national forest in
the Prewitt Ridge, Alms Ridge and Mill Creek areas, were advised to
evacuate earlier today. The fire is approximately 2 miles from the nearest

All National Forest campgrounds along the Nacimiento-Fergusson Road, South
Coast Ridge Road and Prewitt Ridge, have been evacuated.

An Evacuation Advisory has been issued for residents along Highway 1 in the
Limekiln, Hermitage and Harlan Property areas. This advisory is a
precautionary notice that people in these areas should be prepared to
evacuate if an evacuation order is issued.

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

Road closures: Nacimiento Fergusson Road is closed at Highway 1 on the west
side and at the national forest boundary on the east side. South Coast
Ridge Road is closed at Nacimiento Fergusson Road and Highway 1 at Plaskett
Creek. Highway 1 is open.

Draft map, acreage approximate, use for general location purposes only:

More detailed information about the location and status of the fire and the
resources assigned will be available after 7:30 a.m. Monday. Inciweb
( will be updated by 7:30a.m. Monday. The Goleta Fire
Information Center will open at 7:30 a.m. Monday.

The information flow from the field to the Goleta Information Center should
improve Monday with additional field PIO’s. Thanks for your patience.

Kathy Good
Public Affairs Officer
Los Padres National Forest
10:30 pm – I have information from reliable sources that this fire is expected to last a couple weeks at a predicted cost of $20,000,000. Predictions are that they have 20 MILES of line to build!! Oh, my! In just over 24 hours, the costs thus far have been $750,000. The cause of the blaze is still under investigation. A burn-out is planned for sometime tomorrow.

I just went outside to check for glow. While there is some, it is much dimmer than last night, and primarily to the northeast, which is good for all of us.

Good night, everyone. I am aiming for about 6 hours of sleep tonight.

~ by bigsurkate on September 28, 2008.

Chalk Fire, Day 2

6:15 am-I just woke up, after a few hours sleep, looking for information. At this point, I can again see the plumes. The Chalk Fire is being reported on wildlandfire, initial attack. Have not found anything on inciweb, yet, and no new reports from my neighbors to the north.

As with last night, I am posting events and reports throughout the day, chronologically, so scroll down to see the most recent information.

Had Monte, and one other vehicle come through early, after 2 am, but quiet since.

Taken around 6:30 am from my back deck:

7:15 am – Call from Lee. He related that he spoke to MCSO and mandatory evac issued. Said Sarah and kids evacuating, but Ted staying. He is preparing to go over to help.

NOTE: Reports include source and time, and will continue to do so throughout the day, so that the reader can evaluate the accuracy of the information as it becomes available.

7:30 am – reports from Betty that at 3 am evacuation order issued, but Knock is staying. Weather reports for area from CDF Ret. Fire Capt Mike: “Looking at the wind and weather it is unfavorable if this decides to run, today at least. 97 degrees in Nacimiento today and wind from the S/E at least this am.” The good news is, no other fires, so we should be able to get the support we need. Heard, but have not seen, air support.

8:45 am – L&L just left, after watching from my deck for a while. Initial attack reported 4 minutes ago: “LPF WildCAD reporting;
15 Acres
10 Engines Committed
3 Chief Officers Committed

No information shown about commitment of Crews and Helicopters.”

8:45 am report from Betty: “some slowmoving aircraft heard recently, could not see. ridge road is blocked by fire, and crew working to open it so they can get here for anchor support. Fire still in north fork of mill creek, sounds like this watershed will burn and they want to use prewit for the fireline. it is not moving fast.”

9:00 am – Tom just came through. As we discussed, this “ain’t no 15 acre fire.” Estimate 100 acres. Low flying aircraft definitely here and flying.

9:30 am – initial attack reports LP hots spotted headed this way early this am. Also reports: “BEU sent 1 engine strike team, 2 single increment engines, 3 crews from Gabilan Camp, 1 chief officer, 2 air tankers, C-406. Good header showing from King City with drift smoke going to the north. Mid 90’s expected today. Fire is on the south side of Naciemento Ferguson Rd. off the South Coast Ridge Rd, both sides of the South Coast Ridge Rd. have fire on it. Last update I heard was 20-30 acres. Smoke column looks like it might be a little larger than that.”

10 am – lots of traffic going through this morning, all locals looking to help neighbors. I haven’t seen this many of my neighbors in one day since last year’s Jade Festival!! Grand Central, directing traffic.

Recent plumes

Modis map posted on Kelly O’Brien’s site, on blog roll at right. Modis is reporting two separate hot spots, confirmed by ff Jim 911, about 2 miles apart.


Two reports from Frank Pinney: “FYI, we are standing by at this time on the South Coast with structures threatened by a 200-300 acre active fire near Pruitt Ridge, just about to South Coast Ridge Road. USFS has crews on it since about 9PM last night and incoming resources this morning.
Frank” and: “As of 1020 hours Sunday AM Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade has committed 2
water tenders on scene, Chief Martha Karstens on scene at the ICP, Engine
7834 and personnel are standing by ready to be assigned by IC (Mike Kremke). Numerous resources from USFS on scene or on the way. Frank”

10:30 am – Kimball notifies me that he has posted thermals and modis on his site, Coast Communications, link to the right.

11:00 am from Initial attack: “Jim Smith’s Type II Team has been activated. Camp be at Fort Hunter Liggett. Reports from flights this morning 200+ acres. I will get back to the group with other updates and info as I can.” And an eyewitness report from Betty states: “the air is full of planes. two dozers are going down Prewitt ridge opening the road for contingency firebreak. hearing reports that we will have engines here soon.”

I have decided to take a short trip over there, to see what I can see first hand and will report back, perhaps with photos.

1 pm — Back from a viewing from the top of Alm’s Ridge. I don’t see a lot of equipment, yet, other than plenty of air support. However, I am hearing we have plenty either on site, or coming, and as they are coming over N-F Rd, from the H-L side, they may be on the other side of the fire, as I understand it has cut off SC Ridge Rd. and they are trying to open it up. One or more dozers came up McKern road, as evidenced by their tracks. Went down Prewitt, while I went up top. Saw JC, Warren, and Tom of the BSVFB doing spotting, and witnessed a run up the ridge toward Chalk Peak. Quite a sight. Here are two photos.

I have been informed that Plaskett will become part of the “Big Box.” Not unusual, as I usually end up being a staging area, but so far, no equipment through this side.

This is a photo of what look like “spot” fires coming down the south slope, to the west of the “run” (and I am not using that in a technical sense, as I don’t the technical terms).

2:00 pm – as Z notes, inciweb has now posted the Chalk Fire. It states: “The Chalk Fire started at approximately 7:30 p.m last evening and has now burned 500-600 acres. The fire is located just to the north of Chalk Peak, approximately 22 miles south west of King City, in the Monterey County section of Los Padre National Forest. The fire is burning in oak and brush west of Chalk Peak and South Coast Ridge Road and is on both sides of South Coast ridge Road. By 1:00 p.m. this afternoon, the fire had crossed Nacimiento Ferguson Road and is currently burning on both sides of the road. The fire is currently very visible, as it is generating a large column of smoke.

Cause of the fire is under investigation.

Road closures: Nacimiento Ferguson Road is closed at Highway-1 on the west side and at the forest boundary on the east side. South Coast Ridge Road is closed at Nacimiento Ferguson Road and Highway-1 at Plaskett Creek.

Evacuations: As a precautionary measure, 3 national forest campgrounds southwest of the fire have been advised to evacute. Other rural residences and private inholdings may need to be evacuated.

Resources either on scene or ordered: 7 helicopters, 8 air tankers, 1 lead plane, 1 air attack aircraft and 10 engines.”

And this just in from the PO: “The Chalk Fire is now on Inciweb. Info from the field is sketchy at this
point, but should improved later this afternoon/early evening when the
arrival of the Type 2 Incident Management Team and additional PIO’s. We
have a field PIO (Rich Phelps) in the area right now, however cell phone
coverage is poor. We have only two phone lines open in the Goleta Information
Center so would prefer everyone check As we receive new confirmed information we will post it on Inciweb….

Kathy Good
Public Affairs Officer

2:00 pm – just spoke w/ Kathy Good. Jim Smith and his Type II IC team is on the way, and additional information should be available once the situation is evaluated.

2:30 pm – Roberta, of the USFS is asking all children to leave the area, according to Alicia. Keith Harlan reports an evacuation for Lucia and the Hermitage.

2:45 pm – Bob & Joey just came through. Incident w/ suspicious squirrel hunters by my back gate and on my property. I’ve called 911 to report suspicious persons. Glad I have dogs!

4:00 pm – major air traffic. Frank Pinney came through about an hour ago. Fire has grown quite a bit, today, but resources on the ground, I understand. RH was reported at 18%, temps mid-90’s. This fire really took off today. Let’s hope it lays down and behaves tonight. Miss Sarah just evacuated with a pack of dogs bigger than mine!! Couldn’t see any kids, but they are probably with Embree.

Please note the comments below, also. For example, Ken reports that SO is stating the Chalk Fire is on BOTH sides of N-F Rd. as well as both sides of So Coast Ridge Rd. It ain’t getting any better, folks!

5:00 pm Luke of USFS and Crystal of the BSVFB report that the Hermitage and Lucia are on 48 hour notice, NOT mandatory evac. Both confirm fire is on both sides of N-F and S.C Ridge Rd. Confirmed fire at *800* acres. It is grand central to the max this afternoon. I have a party going on by my front gate. Should have popped the popcorn for this afternoon’s show!! Oh, and got some great shots of the jet super tanker I will try to put up!! Yay, the BIG, BIG BIG guys are here!!

Another photo:

A Ventana Wilderness guy (I with hold his name, in case he doesn’t want it posted) and his friend came through about 1/2 hour ago and disagrees with the “official” reports. He thinks the fire is much bigger than reported. He was over helping Bill, down by Peter & Katie. He reports it is almost 1/2 way up Cone Peak, on both sides of Cone Peak Rd. He also disagrees with the assessment that the single blade dozer cut down the Prewitt Ridge will hold anything back. He also reports that it has climbed the ridge from the north fork and is moving down into the middle fork.

I cannot seem to post any more photos here, so I will start a new post on Chalk Fire, Night 2.

Will post more as I learn more.

~ by bigsurkate on September 28, 2008.

September 27, 2008:

Chalk Peak Fire

At 10 pm tonight, I had a report from Betty Withrow of a fire on the Mill Creek drainage area. Early reports are sketchy, and may not be accurate. One report is that it is at the 6 mile marker of N-F Rd. Another report is that it is closer to Apple Camp. Yet another report has it on both sides of the road. about 20-25 acres. USFS Fire Engines are on scene, per my local sources. Follow the chronology of reports below:

Alicia Lutz just came through on her way home, so we know Peter, Merritt, and Katie will be notified. Serge is on his way down from Monterey and will be coming through. Also my gates are open, and my Jeep out of the way. Kerri is on her way, also. Rocky and Geri know about the fire.

I can see the glow, but no flames.

11:15 report from keith harlan: “just got a call from warren and he reports that 30 min. ago the battalion chief was reporting 15 acres for the “Chalk Peak Fire” backing down Mill Creek Drainage and east from the ridge road.”

11:25 report from Big Sur, sirens going by in Valley.
11:25 report from Betty, “reports are that there are planes and dozers on the way.” (In the morning.)

12:00 – drove to front gate, quite a glow from that perspective. Going to be a long night.

12:30 am – This from Geri: “it is on So coast rdge between apple camp and chalk peak both sides of road can be seen from our house.”

12:45 am- Keith reports that he & Mary on their way up to help Rocky & Geri, Monte on his way from Paso.

1:00 am – Serge came through on his way to his mom’s and has two friends coming up to help tomorrow. Gotta love the way the South Coast mobilizes to help one another. I certainly do.

1:15 am- Kerri came through on her way to help Rocky & Geri.

1:45 am- Keith & Mary came through. I also just checked the glow from the perspective of my front gate, and it seems to have lessened. I’ll see what the morrow brings.

2:00 am- hopefully this is the last person to come through until dawn, so I can grab a couple hours before I begin a long day.

I will continue to add information as reports come in. For those of you not quite familiar with the area, Kimball has posted two topo maps on his website, Coast Communication, linked in my blogroll to the right.

~ by bigsurkate on September 27, 2008.



July 30, 1008:

Fire Monks Story — The Day the Fire Arrived

Part II of David Zimmerman’s masterful account of the Tassajara Five’s courageous bid to save the Tassajara Zen Center has now been posted. This is where it is found, it is also linked in my blog log.,209&pageid=1313

Part II of the LA Times article on California Wild fires came out yesterday, and can be found here:,0,5666042.story?page=1

~ by bigsurkate on July 30, 2008.

July 27, 2008:

100% Containment!!

From the summary on inciweb tonight:

“The Basin Complex Fire, which started on June 21, was declared 100% contained at 6:00pm today, July 27. The fire has burned 162,818 acres to date; however, the final acreage will be somewhat higher due to the continued burning of islands of vegetation within the fire’s interior.

Approximately 560 firefighters are still assigned to the Basin Complex this evening, but heavy demobilization of resources is underway. Some crews will remain in the area to continue mop-up and to rehabilitate fire control lines and roads.”

~ by bigsurkate on July 27, 2008.

July 23, 2008:

Smokey, smokey, and smokey …

**NOTE** Inciweb seems to be up and working with very accurate, thorough information under the new IC. MCSO’s Oakley’s name had not been on this am’s report, but is added, along with Boone on this evening’s report.


The psyche, I am discovering, has an interesting way of copping with events of great magnitude. Eventually, one gets numb. I woke this morning to the sights and smells of unusual amounts of smoke. Nothing. No concern, no curiosity, no cares. I already knew some significant back burning operations were continuing, and I did check all my usual internet sources, just to be sure. I am not concerned that I do not seem alarmed, or nervous, or even curious. My emotional barometer decided to take the day off. OMMMM … perhaps I can get back in balance, today. The rest of me is following suit. No phone, no visitors, no interruptions. Now, if I can just get the dogs to stop barking at the wind!

In case you haven’t noticed, I created a new page of misc. fire photos. See page link on right.

Here is today’s comment from xasauantoday: (for the maps, click on their link in my blogroll)

“10:00AM July 23 Update:

Overnight thermal imaging indicates that the backfire moving into Miller Canyon has really flared up. We hope the structures there were adequately protected. We didn’t think there could be anything left to burn near the MIRA observatory, but it appears they have been backfiring from there as well, with some of the fire spilling into the Piney Creek headwaters. The marine layer has burned off very quickly this morning, so this fire will probably continue to be active for as long as there is fuel for it to burn[.]“

~ by bigsurkate on July 23, 2008.

July 17, 2008:


**UPDATE**Read the incredible account of the Fire Monks! Blow-by-blow, takin’ names, and kickin’ well, you know what. What a story!! It brought tears to my eyes. It is a very detailed compassionate account, like no other. It is listed below, but the fastest way to get to the story is to click on the link in my blog roll. Please take a moment to read this first installment.,209&pageid=1298

**Damage assessment forms (all businesses and self-employed) as well as homeowners damage forms and other OES information now posted on** Still no word on disaster vs. emergency classification for FEMA assistance.

So far, the vote is 2 to 1 for a USFS meeting on 7/31 in the early afternoon. So, unless I hear otherwise, I will call Bradford on Monday and suggest an early afternoon meeting.

Much to do before spring, boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen, and not-so-ladies, and almost gentlemen. Remember what it can be like again? A reminder below.

July 16, 2008:

Ret Capt Mike’s comments re departing Deitrich

firefighterblog has a wonderful wrap-up on the quiet departure of IC Commander Mike Deitrich from the Basin Complex Fire leadership, and some of his public relations blunders, including the Apple Pie incident and the Tassajara Zen Center abandonment. I highly recommend that you take a look, if you have not done so, yet.

** Rehab Meeting Thurs. 7/17 **

This just posted: “USFS BAER Team Leader Kevin Cooper, BSVFB Fire Chief Frank Pinney, and Danny Marquis from NRCS will explain the plan for rehab of burn area to the community Thursday, 6PM at the Multi-Agency center in Big Sur. This will be an important meeting for anyone interested in seeing what, if anything, can be done to avoid the mudslide problems that plagued the Big Sur valley after the ‘72 fire.”

That’s Thursday as in TOMORROW! I cannot go, but am looking for someone who will, and take notes to email me, and get contact info for these people. TIA

USFS Negotiations & Blaze Thank you

After notice of the opening of Pfeiffer Beach, I called the USFS and the gal who answered the phone (sorry, I broke my own rule and did not get her name) said that negotiations are under way to open Pfeiffer Beach, Plaskett, (I think she means Sand Dollar)& Mill Creek Day Use Area, but NO current plans to open the rest of the Los Padres Forest in the Monterey District, due to active fire, and increased fire danger. No word on campgrounds, which do not seem to be included at the moment. Official notice tonight or tomorrow. Trust me, I will be calling once or twice a week to stay on top of this, so that I can keep my gates open in case of emergency, and I will post here what I learn.

Still no call backs from Bradford re community meeting for south coast landowners. Robert spoke with Farr’s office, who will help arrange this.

Oh, and a handy new website I found that has downloadable copies of all the official notices (in case you need them for work, like I do) can be found here: (it is a posted link in the blog roll to the right)

Today’s photograph was sent to me by my friend, Debbie Reed, Office Manager of Blaze Engineering. She has no idea who erected the sign. In our thoughtful thank-yous to the firefighters, we often forget those civilian dozer operators who cut the lines for us. So, this is for them, and all the crew at Blaze, McQueen, etc. as well as those crews we don’t even know. Without the triad of the hand crews, the dozer crews, and the air support working together, this MONSTER would have been worse than it is!! A Big Thank YOU!!

~ by bigsurkate on July 16, 2008.

July 15, 2008:

Adrenaline, the drug of 2008

I did not do many drugs in the 60’s. I was a whuss, then. In the 80’s I did my share. But now? In 2008? I swear, adrenaline is the drug of 2008. I had to overnight something to the Court of Appeal — they will not leave me alone in this midst of this — and so rushed to town south. There is no cell service, well, sporadic cell service, but shortly after I got out of town, I checked my voice mail. New thermal, close to my home.

Now that the road is open, I had to run over 25 tourists vehicles, and 3 HUGE motorhomes on the way home. I kept waiting for a CHP to pull me over. I must say, while I could get away with A LOT as a cute young thing, in my 30s and 40’s, I can get away with even more as an “I don’t give a shit” woman in her 50’s. As I write, it was a computer glitch — there is NO fire here.

Certain responsibilities go with buying a private piece of property 14 years ago that up until 20 years ago, when the USFS realized it wasn’t theirs, housed a look-out tower. The USFS tore it down when the then land-owner offered them the opportunity to rent it for $1 a year. If they rented it, they’d have to staff it. Better to pay $50 million to fight the fire, than $25K to prevent it. Makes sense to me. THIS is our government at work. I could get on my soapbox, but I’ve got a lotta miles to cover before I sleep tonight.

So, I could share the maps that started this scare (I have 4) but I spoke with Fire Chief Division Commander (don’t you love these titles?) Carl Goodman, who assured me there was no fire south of Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. Don’t panic. I did NOT ask him about Rodeo Flats or Cone Peak.

So instead, I will share three photos taken by our neighbors to the north. Unfortunately, I do not know the photograper’s name, but will be happy to give him or her credit, once I do. (or remove them upon request.)

DC-10 on RIGHT side of mountain:

DC-10 on WRONG side of mountain:

The peanut gallery:

Ain’t life grand?

Old photo at Don’s house & Rodeo Flats Report

This am, inciweb reported: “Monday, the fire spotted over the line near Rodeo Flats Trail. Hand crews worked in difficult terrain to contain the spot. Light fire activity and weather conditions aided those efforts.”

Melissa Marron sent me this old photograph, taken about 25 years ago of her and a friend. (Melissa is obviously the redhead on the left.) I’m hoping she’ll add a comment, once she realizes I FINALLY succeeded in getting this uploaded! Also, thanks to Everitt Chase for some subtle enhancements to the faded color.

While we still have to keep an eye on the Rodeo Flats area behind Cone Peak, as well as Chew’s Ridge slop over on the north, we are none-the-less moving from fire fighting to fire recovery, it seems appropriate to remember who we are and why we are here. This photo does that for me.

Melissa writes of this photograph:

“I think it may have been taken by my mom, or maybe Don or maybe Anna Bostwick…really can’t remember…it’s actually a shot of myself and Kelly Bostwick, gathering wildflowers on the downslope below the deck. It’s a quintessential shot, and really gives the sense of the precarious perch that the homestead sat on.

I have so many fond memories of that place – I remember when Josh and Neva were born, and used to babysit both of them. I have another photo of Gabe Case, myself and my brother with a foot long trout we caught out in front of River Inn…I just have so much love for the family and community in the larger sense.”

Also, for those who have not seen it, there is an article in today’s Monterey Herald with interviews with a number of Big Surians about the day the fire started.

July 14, 2008:

Random Notes from an unorganized mind

First, if you want a chuckle, go to the Cachaguastore blog linked in my blogs list in the right column. This guy is hilarious, and tells it like it is, from the other side of the fire.

Second, Robert and I are trying to organize a community meeting with the USFS (IF they return my call) to discuss the rest of the fire season, USFS plans, and our concerns. Will keep you informed of whether we are successful. (Not being negative, just practical. They have a lot on their collective plate, at the moment.)

Third, I have once again contacted my source at the LA Times (who broke the Curtis story) and suggested an investigative piece to follow-up; looking at who made the decision to lock down Big Sur (and Cachagua), why that decision was made, how the decision came about, etc. etc. I think this is the only way we will get the complete and truthful story behind this insane action.

washing off gel………………….picking up fire hoses…………………repairing gates

Lastly, just a reminder that many of our north coast friends need our help. Work parties being organized. Check with your favorite north coaster to find out who needs help and what you can do.

LATE NIGHT ADDITION: the firefighterblog has done a wonderful job looking at possible explanations, and many more questions about why the USFS left the 5 monks to defend Tassajara by themselves. Read it here:

~ by bigsurkate on July 14, 2008.

July 13, 2008:

7/13: Big Sur open, Cone Peak report, & other ramblings

After looking off my deck (the best information for me and south coast neighbors), checking the thermal images for the past couple days, checking online sources, it appears as if the “slop over” at the Rodeo Flats containment line has been resolved. inciweb was reporting that the crews hoped to get the Rodeo Flats slop over contained last night, and from what I can tell, they suceeded. No new activity on thermals, no plumes, and not even much smoke visible. I can finally breathe.

As most of you know, as of this morning, Highway One is open to tourists all the way through. I am seeing online reports of lots of “looky-loos” even driving up people’s driveways!! So, be aware of the problems we are facing in this regard — people who are vying for the coveted Darwin Award.

The situation in Cachagua is not looking as good as ours is. There was a “slop over” (is that the new politically correct way of saying the back-burn got away?) in the Chew’s Ridge area and a Mandatory Evacuation was issued yesterday afternoon — a HARD closure. Please check the Cachagua sources (see regarding exact placement. There is also some confusion of the various evacuation notices in effect, and where they are.

So, I leave you with a photo of hope, of forests survived, and beauty enduring. A redwood forest at the bottom of Clear Ridge, north of River Inn. Taken 7/8/08.

July 12, 2008:

Kenny Wright lambasts MCSO

In today’s (Saturday, July 12) Salinas Californian, Kenny Wright wrote:

“I would like to share a perspective on those in Big Sur who chose to remain during the evacuation and fire. While many know Big Sur for its scenic beauty, fewer understand the character of its community of self-reliant, capable citizens.

Living in Big Sur is not the same as visiting, nor of having a vacation home here. It requires the willingness to accept the periodic power outages, road closures due to mud slides and wildfires as part of living in a world-class area of great natural beauty.

It is also a community which retains frontier values, paramount amongst them – the willingness to assist the community and one’s neighbors in the event of natural disasters.

During the almost 40 years I have lived in Big Sur, this is the spirit I have practiced and observed. During the road closures, fires and evacuations of the past I have worked with public agencies to assist their efforts, to assist members of the community and the Big Sur businesses.

Into this context stepped Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kanalakis, the first time since his election that he had the opportunity to serve the community of Big Sur in the face of an emergency. His failure to provide the necessary leadership was complete and unmitigated. By the nature of the mandatory evacuation and its effect on the residents, as well as businesses, many in the community were both homeless and unemployed.

As a result of the inconsistent and seemingly vindictive enforcement of the evacuation order, some members of the community signed county liability waiver forms in order to stay and protect the community and assist the firefighting effort, only later to learn that if they attempted to leave their property they were subject to arrest.

Despite the callous law enforcement component of this evacuation, we in the Big Sur community are deeply grateful to the courageous efforts of the firefighters. Throughout the critical days of the Basin fire, crews from agencies throughout the country worked long and often dangerous hours on behalf of this community.

I am a retired peace officer, having spent 23 years as the resident CHP officer in Big Sur and well understand the role of law enforcement in times of natural disaster. I also recognize the chest thumping of those in positions of authority who perceive that authority has been challenged.

This is the behavior that the sheriff manifested during this time of opportunity to demonstrate leadership, compassion and community-based law enforcement. Despite the efforts of many of our elected representatives, notably U.S. Rep. Sam Farr, Assemblymember John Laird, D-Santa Cruz; and county Supervisor Dave Potter, it was many critical days before they were able to influence the decisions of Kanalakis.

The only voice I seem to have in his regard is at the ballot box. I certainly intend to make my voice heard at the next election.

KEN WRIGHT lives in Juan Higuera Canyon in Big Sur.”


July 11, 2008:

(Don Case) Finding a bowl-buddha

Don Case, sorting through the rubble of his home. Photo (and title) by Joyce Duffy. (Thank you Joyce!)

Joyce asked me to “pass this around” and so I am posting it here. It so poignantly captures the heartbreak of loss, I was honored that she asked me to share it. Feel free to leave Don Case, Panny, Josh, Neva, and Joyce Duffy your messages in the comment section (just click on comments), and I will make sure she sees each one of them and will notify her of each new post. Namasté, my friends and family.

~ by bigsurkate on July 11, 2008.

Cone Peak, 7 am update

This morning, visually things look better Cone Peak way, as do the thermals for that area. I can see no visible plumes. There is smoke, but much more dispersed than yesterday afternoon. Also, temperatures have dropped, and it is almost chilly this am, being in the mid-60’s. Unfortunately, the winds will still be a significant factor.

This am I am hearing what MIGHT be air support. Have not confirmed w/ a visual.

**9 am UPDATE** Report from local scanner-listener that it has NOT hit Cone Peak Rd, and is two ridges east

**10 am UPDATE** Good thermal map w/ locator markers posted at 6 am found here:
Thanks, Jim!!

And note this comment from

“South Coast Kate’s observations agree with MODIS quite well. She tells us that the glow of the fire behind Cone Peak faded after midnight and that no smoke plumes are visible in the area this morning.

6:30AM July 11 Update:

Kate, on the South Coast, has written us to say that she managed to get a confirmation from the USFS Information Officer (no small accomplishment) that the fire is burning south of the Rodeo Flat containment line. “

Gone for the rest of the day, will update upon my return.

Be safe everyone


~ by bigsurkate on July 11, 2008.

Cone Peak Flames

This afternoon, I noticed smoke plumes coming from the north east, which worried me a bit. I kept trying to get information online, but nada.

About 8:30 pm, Kimball calls me about what he’s seeing in the thermal images around the upper reaches of Cone Peak Rd. He sends me a thermal, and it does not look good. I look on his website ( and view a thermal he uploaded at around 4, and then another around 8:30. This was spooky, as it showed considerable growth.

I called OES, 4 times, before I got any information I considered even half-way reliable. Eventually, what I was told was that what I was seeing was a 500 acre “slop-over” from the Indians. The USFS is aware of it, and has people there. It did get some air attack this afternoon. According to, IC Mike D. is expecting it to reach N-F Rd in 24 hours.

Tonight, at 11 pm, I could see the glow of the flames east of Cone Peak. Of course, in the dark, it looked large to me. At midnight, I could see nothing. Whether that was due to smoke, control or any other factor, I have no way of knowing.

As most of us up here know, today there was a strong wind out of the north, very high temperatures, and low humidity. A perfect storm.

Tassajara update: Fire went right through the Zen Center. Lost the birdhouse, the bathroom by the pool, and some of the lower garden, but the rest survived in tact, and all 5 people who stayed behind to save the Zen Center survived as well. A great save by 5 courageous and dedicated people. Congratulations!!


So, keep an eye out. It’s not over, yet.

July 10, 2008:

Increased Smoke & a note on Tassajara

Quick update, for those who are checking, and then I’ll do a a more complete update tonight.
The wind really picked up, up here on my ridge all afternoon.

I see increased smoke plumes to the north east of me, possibly by Rodeo Flats, but I cannot tell. I am hoping this is part of the back burning operation, because I have been unable to find any info on it.

The fire is at Tassajara. 5 people remained behind, but not firefighters, as it was felt to be too dangerous.

“Director David Zimmerman reported via telephone that everyone is safe at Tassajara and that the fire has entered Tassajara. The crew is putting out spot fires, and they are continuing to water down the buildings and the grounds. The feeling is that with the watering, the riparian valley is defending against the fire. We will continue to update you as information becomes available.”


~ by bigsurkate on July 10, 2008.

Sadness and Hope, 7/9/08 evening

There are many other places to get “official” information, so tonight, I want to provide you with impressions, thoughts, and photographs. Big Sur still is and will be. It has simply changed. It is the phoenix, rising. It is the power of the human spirit, the vastness of Mother Nature. To me, it symbolizes what we are capable of.

I witnessed the smoke on the north side of the Little Sur River. Heavy smoke.

Approaching Andrew Molera State Park, the blackened hills were clearly visible.

I drove all the way from Carmel to Gorda this afternoon. I pulled over a number of times to cry. And yet, I saw many Big Surians who are hopeful — positively working to bring us back to the beauty and spiritual awakening that brought most of us here, in the first place. And people who were gathering together in the spirit of cooperation bringing a vast array of talents and interests together.

Michael Miller of Miller Construction, Rocky Creek, brought together the Monterey Planning Department, homeowners, contractors, and even an insurance adjuster for a meeting at the Grange this afternoon.

Mike Stevens, a local plumber , literally, chased me down on the highway near the State Park and told me about the meeting at the Grange, suggesting (strongly, I might add, as he followed me to MAF to make sure I understood the meeting was at the Grange — Thank you, Mike) that I attend this meeting. I did, and was glad I did, even though I could stay only long enough to catch the mood of the meeting, and not long enough to hear the Monterey County Planning Department tell us how they were going to work with homeowners who were damaged, and how they could make us whole. I left, knowing that there was a land-use lawyer, Aengus Jeffers present.

I apologized for having to leave, but I still had to drive through the tough Anderson Canyon to Big Creek active fire area, and I had a long, slow drive home. As I left, my dear friend, Joyce Duffy, followed me out for one of the hugs that Big Sur is so famous for. We hug freely here, and often. She had not been back to Stone Ridge to see the remains of her house. That would wait for another time. I left, feeling confident about the range of community representation that was present.

Scorched earth and green trees

Clean up is in progress. Hoses waiting by the side of the road, waiting for pick up.

The Anderson Canyon area to just before Big Creek, was still active. However, the fog was up to the road, the temperatures were cool, humidity was high, so things were moving slowly and there were engines and crews on hand, keeping an eye on things. South Coast smoke.

And, finally, tonight’s sunset, once again.

~ by bigsurkate on July 10, 2008.

July 9, 2008:

Driving down Highway One

I took this yesterday, between Andrew Molera and River Inn. If you look closely, you can see smoke from the smoldering.

I will be driving home with supplies this afternoon, probably stopping often, in turn outs, to take photographs of my journey. I will add a few in my post this evening.

Everyone is feeling as if we’ve turned the corner on this one, and I for one am breathing easier, despite the smoke. I’m looking to reestablish some normalcy and routine tomorrow.

StationKATE, in Carmel.

~ by bigsurkate on July 9, 2008.

July 8, 2008:

Highway One open all the way down to locals only

It was annouced that Highway One, all the way through, will be opened sometime tomorrow for locals ONLY! Great news!!

All mail was transferred back to the Big Sur Post Office this afternoon. I do not know at this time, if that means mail delivery will resume sometime tomorrow, or not, but that is a good guess. Guess only, at this point.

StationKATE, reporting live from Clear Ridge

~ by bigsurkate on July 8, 2008.

Latest Info 7/8 noon

Getting better. The fire gained only 288 acres last night, there is only 9 more miles of fire line to build, and I spoke to Lori, the USFS fire information officer just a little while ago, and she asked me to remind everyone that when the currently closed section of road, between JP Burns and Lucia opens back up to locals, only, make sure you pay attention to falling rock, and possibly trees, as some areas have suffered extensive damage, and it is still pretty active on the east side.

Currently, I am in Big Sur Valley, documenting the fire. I will probably stay here. I am hearing the sound of chain saws, continuing to work. I have seen smoldering spots, still close to the highway. I see the happy faces of friends, who were let back in. Everyone is feeling that we have survived the worst of it, now, even though there are still some problems in several areas. The heart of the Valley has survived, and that gives us hope.

I will start to upload today’s photos of the Valley on its own page when I get to my friend’s house, sometime this afternoon, I hope. Parts of Big Sur look the same, others look totally devastated.

StationKATE, reporting live from the Big Sur Valley (teehee, citizen journalism. KION, channel 46 is here, too, but I’m better!)

~ by bigsurkate on July 8, 2008.

KQED radio interview

The audio is not up, yet, but you should be able to eventually hear the interview by going to this website:

Recently on Forum
Tue, Jul 8, 2008 — 9:00 AM
Big Sur
No Audio Audio currently not available for this program
As wildfires continue to threaten Big Sur, we take a look at the rich history and culture of that coastal community. We also talk with residents about the impact the fire is having on their community.
Host: Michael Krasny
Gordon Wheeler, president and CEO of The Esalen Institute, founded in 1962 as an alternative educational center
Kirk Gafill, general manager of Nepenthe and head of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce
Paul VanGuerwin, battalion chief for Cal Fire
Steven Harper, wilderness guide, naturalist and psychologist
Sula Nichols, a Big Sur artist whose house burned in the wildfire

~ by bigsurkate on July 8, 2008

7/8 Update, photos, and CNN interview w/ Micah

Last night’s meeting notes are long, so I leave you to read them in their entirety on, but the bottom line is that the mandatory evacuation order for Palo Colorado to JP Burns has been lifted, and residents will be allowed to go back home starting at 10am, but residents only. Quite a lot of hugging, tears, and celebration last night on this news. There is still much to be done, but it is a start toward the healing and rebuilding process.

I was so glad to be able to share this with my friends Debbie, Jo-Ann, and Deborah last night. We had another round of hugging, crying, and celebration here at the Carmel River Inn, where we all spent the night. I will have to drive around to get home, as there is still a mandatory closure from JP Burns to Lucia/Limekiln (depending on which report one reads) but I may try to drive down to MAF today, after 10 am, so I can see first hand the difficulties we face in rebuilding, before I head back up to Salinas, and down 101 to Fort Hunter-Liggett. I might have trouble getting back in the Fort (I have heard), if I tell the truth, so I will probably be telling the front gate that I am going to the Mission, and then head across to Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. I haven’t decided whether I will try to explain EXACTLY where I am going, and why I can get there from the front gate and my need to do so, but it might just be easier to lie.

Some great up-close and personal shots of the fire in and around Esalen on Sunday can be seen at

Also, the story of the Apple Pie Ridge Boys was on CNN lsst night. I had a friend tape it for me, but you can watch it here:

So, I have a very busy day, restocking my office, fuel, and refrigerator before heading back late this afternoon. I might not be let through the Palo Colorado closure. We’ll see, and I will report later today. If I can go in, I suspect I will cry at the devastation I will be witness to.

More late,

~ by bigsurkate on July 8, 2008.

July 7 2008:

Going home

Dear friends and friends-yet-to-be-met:

It has been an emotional “Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride” for so many I do not completely understand why I found myself in town with several of my evacuated girlfriends tonight, but that is what happened. We met, drank, had dinner, then many went to the meeting tonight, then came back to my cottage after. We celebrated.

The word at tonight’s meeting is that all residents in the Big Sur Valley, south of Palo Colorado and north of JP Burns State Park, get to go home tomorrow. Only those with proper ID will be allowed to pass.

They spoke of plans they had made to take their cars in for servicing, the grooming of their dogs, the shopping that needed to be done. Even though this was the moment they had waited for, it was if they weren’t ready for it. With the power out, all their food had gone bad, plans needed to be made, things purchased.

The mood was celebratory, emotional, and yet, a numbness permeated the air, as if they wanted to believe, but were leery of doing so. Still, we celebrated. We cried, we hugged, and we drank our wine.

This is just a first step. There is much to be done, plans to be made, lives to be rebuilt. We will need your support for months to come. Then, Big Sur, like the phoenix will have rebuilt herself. We invite all of you to assist us in our efforts.

There are many plans in the works. I will notify you on how you can help, and where you can help, when the time comes. It is not over, by a long-shot, but it is not quite so dismal as it was.

So … more in the am.

~ by bigsurkate on July 7, 2008.

7/7 am official update

cres burned: 77,165

Acreage increase (last 12 hours): 2,180

Fireline to build: 14 miles

Date started: 6/21/2008

Percent contained: 18%

Expected containment: 7/30/2008

Injuries: 3

Structures threatened: 2,500 residences;

20 commercial; 195 other

Structures destroyed: 23

Suppression cost to date: $22,834,800


Crews: 50

Engines: 185

Helicopters: 18

Air Tankers: 10

Dozers: 30

Total Personnel Assigned: 2,308


Yesterday and last night’s fire activity was limited due to increased humidity and lighter winds. The fire is still active in many areas.
Successful burning operations the last 2 days covered over 16 miles of line.
A Fire Weather Watch for very high temperatures and single digit humidity has been issued for Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday afternoon by the National Weather Service.
Current Status:

Firefighters successfully continued burning operations during the night along Mescal Ridge to Skinner Ridge.
Burning is planned on the northwest corner along Dani Ridge and Bixby Ridge.
Several fires spotted outside of the line, but were caught by firefighters overnight.
Mop-up will occur along most sections of Highway 1 and along burnout operations on the northern and southern edges of the fire.
A contingency dozer line is being constructed from Hwy 1 towards White Rock Ridge.
On the south front of the fire, crews continued to hold the line in the Dolan Ridge area.
Winds are expected from the north and northeast and will be generally light which will allow for favorable burning operations.
Last night fire was active in the Tassajara and Willow Creek drainages and north of Rodeo Flats. Helicopters will be working these areas today to help reduce potential fire spread.
Public Meetings

Carmel Valley Village, Tularcitos Elementary School, 34 Ford Road – 6:00 pm
Carmel, Carmel Middle School, 4380 Carmel Valley Road – 7:00 pm
Palo Colorado, Mid-Coast Fire Station, Palo Colorado Road – 7:00 pm

~ by bigsurkate on July 7, 2008.

7/7 Update, Burns Creek & Salinas article

Just picked up this re: the backfire at Esalen

Posted by Steven Harper ( )
July 7 News from the night
News from the south along the Dolan Ridge line: “They backfired from just above Eagle Rock down to Dairy Canyon last night, starting about 10:30pm, just as the wind turned offshore. It was a firestorm! Flames 100 feet high raging taller than eagle rock, plumes of smoke lit up in the orange glow rising hundreds of feet high, the rock was on fire, headlamps and silhouettes from firefighters standing in front of the massive flames. Everything blew downhill and they made their way along the grassy area down the ridge through the night until about 5am. We were incredibly impressed with the work they did!”
From Burns Creek: The back burn at Burns Creek was active on the scanner last night. Reports from Burns Creek say South Coast Center and other structures in Burns Creek made it through.

From the Big Sur Valley: Everything in the Big Sur valley out to east Molera seems to be relatively quiet.

Electricity is still out in the valley and on down the coast. Phones are working.

I will be traveling around through Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. today to return the rental car and restock. I will be taking my wireless laptop to stay in touch, and to report what I see, if anything.

The Salinas California article can be found here:

Here is the latest from Burns Creek:

Cynthia Bianchetta ( posted

Checking in with Daniel at 10:45 p.m Sunday who is home at our place on the south west side of Burns Creek where they had a very successful back burn up on the north east side to Barbara Springs property.

She and Erin her caretaker and his gal are all safely tucked in
at Esalen now according to Corey the gate guard there. I
was also told they see flames east of Esalen and that the
firefighters set up a back burn at Perry Holloman’s on the east
side and above Esalen’s South Coast Center property, also at
Burns Creek which is across the road from us. They plan for
it to travel south down to the main property above Esalen,
so I imagine these are the flames Corey reports seeing…
from there on I am not certain of the plans….

The humidity down in our side of the canyon is about 70 % and
up higher it is about 20%, so it is a slow burn…..

~ by bigsurkate on July 7, 2008.

LA Times Apple Pie Article

There is a great 2 page article about the arrest and the defense of Apple Pie Ridge by the Curtis’s with photos of Micah, Tyson, and Ross on this page:,0,3314737.story

More photos can be seen here:,0,7181154.photogallery

Ross is fast becoming a folk hero. If his dad were still alive, he’d write the screen play, and we’d have the movie in no time!!

While as I have posted in public forums, there are two sides to this issue, and thankfully, no one got hurt during the course of saving the Curtis property, I say, to quote Benjamin Franklin, “Those who trade freedom for security, deserve neither freedom or security.”

When I first got a copy of the 409.5 memo on 7/4, I called OES, and they had a Commander Teter of the MCSO call me back. When I got no satisfactory explanation about the issuance of the memo, other than to “educate” the Big Sur community about the power the MCSO had, I was furious. It was a holiday. Everything was closed. What could I do? The only places open were newsrooms. Having lived and worked in Monterey County, some of that in the justice system, I knew I needed to go outside of the county. I called the LA Times newsroom and the SF Chronicle newsroom. I posted something on Before it was removed, and probably rightly so, as it was posted as a “notice” and it wasn’t really “official,” as is required, Deborah Schoch, a staff reporter from the LA Times called. After speaking with her for some time, I got her phone numbers, and said I’d pass it on to a member of the Curtis family who was not in Big Sur, and if they wanted, they could pass it on to Micah and Ross.

Some people may think it is sensationalism, but I think it is what we need. We needed the spotlight shown on this unbelievable situation so that others, outside of the rather small Big Sur community were aware of what was happening here.


~ by bigsurkate on July 7, 2008.

July 6, 2008:

Update 7/6, evening, cautiously optimistic

Here are the notes from tonight’s community meeting:

7/6 9pm: Tonight’s Meeting
July 6, 2008 by thebirdsings

Notes from tonight:

From Mike Dietrich, Incident Commander:

* It was a great day!
* We began backfiring south of Palo Colorado Canyon towards Bixby Canyon. They intend to continue the burning and get it to the Old Coast Highway tonight.
* Fire made it to the boy scout camp and the fire line held. The camp is secure.
* We’re very close to getting the northern line to the Little Sur River.
* There was a little bit of burning inside Big Sur today. Crews are looking at trees that are a hazard and mopping up hot spots along the highway.
* The line is holding at Dolan Ridge. Dolan had seven residences at risk – teams led the fire down around them and they pulled off a tremendous save. Everyone and everything is safe.
* Plans for tomorrow and the next couple days: continue mopping up inside Big Sur and securing the area. Working Bottchers Gap to Dani Ridge tomorrow – if this is successful we’ll be able to close the door on the Palo Colorado threat.
* Next piece (2-3 days out) is to begin burning along the old Marble Cone line at the north end of the fire. The DC-10 and the Martin Mars (Super Scooper) are working there.
* Current strategy with limited resources is to box things out, work in specific areas then move on to the next hot spot.

From Frank:

* There was a flare up on Partington today, an area we thought was cooled down. It was on the south slope just below one of the houses that had been saved and the fire wanted to move west, which would be a bad thing. A Brigade engine jumped on it and knocked it down while it was easily manageable. (Lots of clapping.)
* The Brigade finished their gelling operation and have gelled 54 structures.
* Re-entry is now at the top of the list and in the planning phase. There is a member of the OES (Office of Emergency Services) team from Monterey County working with Frank on this. “We are working on the first phase that will get us the ability to do infrastructure repair and make it safe for residents to return. The fire is still cooking out there and there are lots of hot spots that will need to be taken into consideration as we start fixing things (laying plastic pipe for instance, would melt right now if it was laid down in some places.) The sheriff is extremely anxious to be as collaborative as he can possibly be with us in this process.” This planning will take everything into consideration, including the possibility of returns for in-and-out visits (get stuff, insurance specs), and those who are in areas that have not burned or lost infrastructure.
* No more structures have been lost.

Q&A Answers:

* Frank: There have been two phases of the mandatory evacuation. The first phase gave residents an option to sign a waiver and stay. When the fire got more intense, the sheriff’s office upgraded the evacuation to say that anyone who stayed was subject to arrest. The sheriff’s have been working with us to interpret this for the benefit of the community. I recognize that the evacuation zone has the appearance now of being a “prison” of sorts to people who have stayed. But this is not the intention and the people who have stayed have been extremely cooperative with us – so given the circumstances, tomorrow will be another day and we’ll look at all the options available.
* Gel questions: Ask questions or come get a Q&A sheet on the gel from Sharon Torrence. (Will post this sheet on the site in the Notices section tomorrow.)
* Frank: Residents who are still in Big Sur: If there’s a flare-up that’s a true threat and it’s after hours, please call 911. Please use discretion. We’ve been called out for a couple stumps in burned out areas that were not a threat and we have limited resources.
* Mike: There will be a substantial heating and drying weather pattern coming in, moderate offshore flow Monday-Wed. with the potential for thunderstorms (and lightning) Thursday and Friday.
* Frank: Houses are gelled on Pfeiffer and things are looking very good there.
* Mike: Near Tassajara the fire has only moved about ¼ mile today and there is air support to keep it moving as slowly as possible toward the Tassajara area.
* Backburning did not happen as planned off the highway near Esalen today, but they hope to begin tonight if the conditions are right – going from Anderson Canyon south to Hot Springs Canyon.
* We have the DC-10 now but it could be moved down to the Gap fire. The super scooper will stay here in the area to use as we need.
* Not every residential area will be represented at tomorrow’s re-entry meeting. We’re doing a scaled down group of reps, including three members of the community.

Rob, a rep from the OES was at the meeting and spoke about plans for re-entry. I took lots of notes on this too, but am clarifying and checking info with him again before I post that. It will be posted tomorrow.

~ by bigsurkate on July 6, 2008.

7/6 mid-day updates

There are four articles, stories, updates, which might be worth your time. There are:

There is a great story at:
about the Molera Wildfire in 1972. A first hand account complete with photographs. Well worth a few minutes of your time. I will be seeing if I can link it here, but otherwise, just go to


AM UPDATE from Esalen at:

Backburning the east side of the highway today, before the predicted weather change.


AM UPDATE from xasauantoday:

Overnight thermal imaging found heat only along the north edge of the fire. The fire is still burning in other places, of course, but the north appears to be where most of the action was last night. Heat detections were recorded in the canyon between Pico Blanco and Mescal Ridge, along the road between Bottcher’s Gap and the Scout Camp (which could be an error) and, most extensively, in the Comings Creek watershed below Pat Spring.

Lastly, Connie McCoy’s guest commentary in today’s Herald is reproduced in full here:

Heartlessness hurts fire-weary residents
Guest commentary
Article Last Updated: 07/06/2008 01:41:25 AM PDT

Our experience in Big Sur since lightning touched down in Grimes Canyon has been a devastating thing. We have been harassed by an impersonal pervasive force that seems to be everywhere, limiting our movements, appearing unexpectedly and unwelcome,

Unfortunately, I’m referring not only to the Basin Complex Fire, but to the mindless, arbitrary authority residents in Big Sur have been subjected to since the fire began. I live just outside the current restricted area on the south coast. What I and others have experienced in the counterfeit name of safety and welfare angers and saddens me. Indiscriminate decisions have been made affecting many lives adversely, perhaps more so than the fire itself.

The arbitrary “hard” closure of Highway 1 has cut us off from essential services, our livelihoods and loved ones. Accounts of ill treatment by authorities abound. We look over our shoulders, wondering if we’ll be apprehended when we venture down the highway to check on neighbors and catch up on the news or maybe get a few supplies before sneaking back to our homes.

Residents have been chased up ridge roads and forced to hide when they just want to grab a few things from their homes like family photographs and records.

Responsible community leaders’ intelligent input and attempts at intervention based on years of living in Big Sur have been met with stonewalling and a one-size-fits-all mentality when the need for flexibility and mindful listening are paramount, particularly for those who are in charge but who are unfamiliar with the area. It’s well documented that at least one high-ranking, non-local official conducting a community meeting had only a vague idea of the locations he was referring to when presenting his fire report.

Instead of exemplifying a reassuring, calming demeanor, officials have at times disseminated incendiary, irresponsible, misrepresentation of danger (particularly when authorities reported erroneously that the fire had jumped to the west side of Highway 1) causing terrified residents to flee prematurely, leaving behind essential items and undone protective structure measures—with tragic results.

Residents anxious to return to homes no longer endangered have been denied access and threatened. Access to miles of highway with little or no fire activity has been inexplicably barred. A resident driving within the closure area but many miles south of the fire was threatened with arrest when attempting to fulfill job responsibilities near home. Additionally, driving restrictions have caused businesses to close when they could otherwise be serving local needs.

Who is responsible for this unproductive heavy-handedness? I hope it’s someone I can vote against when re-election comes up. Is it Incident Command? Is it the Sheriff’s Department? When questioned about the source of policies we’ve been forced to live under, Incident Command and the Sheriff’s Department seem to recognize the egregious effects of the decisions by pointing the finger at one another instead of taking credit.

The heartless nature of the fire is expected, but that of the authorities is heartbreaking.

Connie McCoy, who has taught and worked in the hospitality industry, lives in the Pacific Valley area. She can be reached at

Next 2 days critical!!

I urge you to read the blog on or the reproduction of same below. A report about tonight’s (7/5) community meeting includes a correction about firefighters being up on Apple Pie Ridge, and news regarding today’s fight, and the concerns they face tonight and tomorrow. I wish I had been there, as this appears to be the most HONEST meeting yet. There is much information in this summary of the meeting, not all good, but all informative.

On Dolan Creek, firefighters were fighting the fire on the highway, four homes were threatened and saved.

These firefighters are fighting with their lives for our lives, and when you read the summary of what this monster did today, on all fronts, you may want to cry, but I strongly urge you to read it.

Tonight, the battle continues to stop this monster. Tonight, I have no battle left in me. I, too, must regenerate. But I also need to remind myself that during this time of the monster, I must remember we are all anxious, worried, and fearful. And that during this time, it is more important than ever to be kind to one another.


I decided to reproduce the entire summary here, so it will be available, and saved.

From IC Commander Mike Dietrich:

* Correction: There were not fire fighters up at Apple Pie at the time of the incident yesterday. Apologies for the mis-information – it is now a law enforcement issue.
* The fire was very active at the north end today and it moved about a mile up into Puerto Suelo Creek. It is moving toward Little Sur drainage, and has not crossed over the little part of the drainage.
* There are burning operations happening along the Old Coast Highway – they (optimistically) hope to make it up to the Little Sur River by tonight.
* Fire is down to Highway One between the Pfeiffer turnout and the post office/ deli area. Firefighting efforts saved the Ventana Inn and the River’s property in a substantial fire fight.
* Crews continue to work areas between east Molera and Captain Cooper road – crews are working to secure the fire perimeter there with backburns. Crews worked a 24hr. shift yesterday to meet that objective and this area is stable.
* Power was turned off at our request yesterday and we asked it to be turned back on today to save food that’s in refrigeration, etc. The power will stay on unless the fire burns through or destroys power lines. We may have to de-energize specific areas if crews are taking down trees near lines.
* The line is holding at the southern line – crews were working there today near the highway.
* Next two days are key days and we’re going to be really focused.
* The fire burned around 4 homes in Dolan Creek – all of the structures are safe and intact.
* A DC-10 (12,000 gallon capacity tank) dropped on the north line, tying the line up into the Little Sur area and Boettcher’s Gap. We are working to secure the northwest corner of the fire.
* We’re improving the line at the northeastern corner – waiting for the weather conditions to be right to tie the line into the Indians fire.
* There is still a threat at the fire line (the highway) in the valley and the intention is to open up access there are as soon as that line is fully stabilized.
* We’re getting a boat with a radio repeater down at the southern end to improve communications for the firefighters down there.

From Frank:

* Frank and Martha’s role has been to communicate needs from the community to the IC.
* The activity right down in the valley has been upsetting – the whole face of the mountain now has fire – some by nature, some by backburns.
* Spent time around Don McQueen’s and Blaze Engineering today and a great coopertive effort between the residents there and the firefighters is happening. Tactics there have been successful. Gel was applied to buildings on the east side and in the state park where the fire is getting close to the residences.
* It will be extremely important to work out the re-entry. Even after the fire is gone the area will be hot and we need to think through how the infrastructure rebuild will happen. Infrastructure will have to be working before we can let people back in.
* Bring questions and concerns to Frank, Martha or Jonathan Farrington so we can take them to the IC.

Answers given during the Q&A:

* Mike: The weather change that will be happening is pushing us to ensure the western containment line will hold. There is also potential for more lightning over the weekend.
* Frank: There are a whole array of contingencies if the fire jumps the highway and we won’t get into all of those tonight.
* Frank: The issue of re-supplying people who have stayed is difficult and constantly in mind. We don’t know how we’re going to do it, and we have the IC’s ear many times a day to figure out a way. Anything that complicates fighting the fire is a lower priority, especially with the unfavorable upcoming weather pattern. The road is impassable right now, so even a pass system is not an option. We cannot have people on the Highway right now. Smoke and visibility is an issue as well as fire. We’re looking for a phased approach where we can let people into the safer areas first. Time estimate: Not days, but not weeks.
* Frank: There’s a fire line that Tevye is cutting with a dozer from Apple Pie all the way across Pheager and Juan Higuera down across from Fernwood – it’s about 500 ft. above the highway and we expect to be able to hold that line. We don’t expect to see fire directly across from Fernwood and that area.
* Frank: There’s no fire below Paul Smith’s house and we don’t expect to see it there. It’s being watched constantly.
* Mike: At the southern perimeter the fire is above Big Creek and within ½ mile of the forest boundary. This is a fire fight and we’re holding steady. We have aircraft working in this area and it’s slow going.
* Frank: Burns Creek, Buck Creek and Hot Springs Canyon – they burned very rapidly yesterday down to the highway, burning into Anderson Canyon and didn’t cross under the bridge. Right now it’s staying pretty quiet and considered a fairly stable situation.
* Frank: If people are still in Big Sur and want to leave they will have no problem leaving – this is encouraged. The sheriff is enforcing the law which is to make the area safe for fire fighting and it is appropriate. On the ground the deputies are showing compassion in administering the policy.
* Mike: Crews have cut fireline near the bridge at Little Sur drainage and there is a crew strategy to hold the fire there.
* The Hill Ranch has been working very closely with the IC team – the cows are fine.
* Frank: Restoring the water will be done in phases, we hope it will be done by local teams who know the area best and we hope to get federal support in financing this.
* Frank: Captain Cooper is considered a save – it’s black all around

Blessed Be, StationKATE

~ by bigsurkate on July 6, 2008.

July 5, 2008:

Dolan Ridge/Rodeo Flats

According to a member of the BSVFB, the Dolan Ridge Line is holding really well. Lines are being expanded at the Rodeo Flats, and both BSVFB and the USFS IC seem to be confident that this line wil hold. While some reports are putting the southern closure at Limekiln, all recent reports are putting it back at Lucia Lodge, including the Mandatory Closure memo by the Sheriff. If the chp closure is still down at Limekiln, which I have not seen, I am not aware of why it has not been moved.

~ by bigsurkate on July 5, 2008.

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