Mid-Coast Fire Brigade response to the BBC article

This is the response that Mid-Coast Fire Brigade sent to the BBC author, Lucy Sherriff. Beautifully written letter than will provide all with the background and historical information on the Brigade. Thank you, Cheryl for the clarity.

“Yesterday and today I was contacted by numerous upset citizens regarding an article written by you and published by BBC regarding fire protection in the Palo Colorado community.

I also spoke to Chief Matt Harris of Big Sur Fire Brigade who just forwarded me your inquiry.  Big Sur Fire Brigade is not the fire jurisdiction responsible for Palo Colorado and its environs.  Mid Coast Fire Brigade is responsible for all emergency incidents which occur between the southern border of Carmel Highlands (near Yankee Point Dr) and Hurricane Point.  The lack of mention of any officially organized fire protection entity seemed intentionally misleading since you drive right past the fire station on Palo Colorado Road and it is clearly signed.

Mid Coast Fire Brigade (www.midcoastfirebrigade.org) was organized in 1978 and officially established in 1979 as the agency having jurisdiction in this area.  The Brigade was established in response to a lack of resources available to respond to emergencies when CalFire was not fully staffed during their non fire season.  Cal Fire is charged with the wildland firefighting responsibility in state watersheds in California and the United States Forest Service is responsible for wildland firefighting in federally managed areas.   Local fire agencies respond in concert with state and federal agencies to wildland fires with either CalFire or the USFS in command of wildland fire incidents, depending on jurisdiction.  Local fire agencies have the primary responsibility for all other types of emergencies including structure fires, medical emergencies, vehicle accidents, and rescues including surf and cliff rescues.

Mid Coast Fire Brigade maintains two wildland fire apparatus one with the jaws of life, one structure fire engine, one water tender, one rescue squad capable of fire suppression and cliff rescue, one ocean rescue response unit, one utility, 2 UTVs and one Chief Officer vehicle.  These vehicles we designed specifically for the narrow mostly dirt roads in our area. The Brigade currently has 20 all-volunteer members on its roster, all of whom must maintain the same state mandated training standards as all other professional / paid and volunteer fire agencies state wide.  Most of our personnel are trained to the California State Firefighter 1 level, and all are trained in Hazardous Materials Operation level.  The Fire Chief is a certified state fire instructor for fire training and Hazardous Materials training. The Fire Chief is certified by the Monterey County EMS Agency to provide medical training in house and teaches EMT training at Monterey Peninsula Community College. Minimum medical training is Emergency Medical Responder and most personnel are Emergency Medical Technicians (EMT).  The Mid Coast Fire Brigade launched Monterey County’s first Ocean Response Rescue Team and has officially implemented a Rope Rescue program.  Our volunteer firefighters live or work within our response area and dedicate themselves to the service of their entire community training at a minimum of twice a month to maintain their skills.  There are very few citizens in our response area that have not been contacted personally by the Fire Chief and asked to join the Fire Brigade and get involved to protect their community.  Most decline because of the time commitment required to maintain their skills and the time commitment to respond to emergencies at a moment’s notice, which may very well be your own neighbor.  Our response area covers 32 square miles including some of the most dramatic coastline in Big Sur including the Bixby Bridge and Hurricane Point.  The community we fight to protect is not limited to a small cluster of homes around where we live but our entire community at large.  The neighborhood mentioned in your article is effectively in the middle of our response area and less than 3 miles from our fire station.

In 2011 the Brigade completed building the communities first ever fire station.  The station was built with donations from the community that it serves and is utilized as a facility to house fire apparatus and for the community to gather in times of disaster.  The Brigade receives limited funds from the County of Monterey and relies on fund raising efforts and true volunteerism from its firefighting personnel as there is no pay at the end of the day.  The Assistant Chief and Fire Chief each have over 35 years of firefighting experience and both retired from Cal Fire as Fire Captains.

The Mid Coast Fire Brigade in conjunction with a long time resident and past Fire Brigade member conceived, developed and successfully implemented a Neighborhood Coordinator program.  The idea being that during an emergency a few phone calls could be placed by the Coordinator to the designated coordinator in each neighborhood so people could be quickly notified of an emergency. The Fire Chief placed the call on Friday night to the Coordinator asking that the notification process be started with the community to prepare to evacuate as Cal Fires official order may come much too late.

The Fire Brigade was actively involved in the fire fighting efforts and protection of structures during the Soberanes Fire.  July 23rd when the fire jumped Garrapata Creek and freight trained through the community destroying 57 structures there were no decisions made by any firefighting resources deciding which homes to let burn and which homes to save.  With the fire conditions that presented that night areas could simply not be accessed due to the intense fire activity.  In the very area presented in your article we were made aware of a community member that stayed behind to protect their  home and was asked to try to remove that person.  Despite our best efforts and due to the intense fire activity with numerous burning trees across the road, we were driven out of the area and could not make access.  The Brigade went through the proper channels to make notifications of the situation and arrange to affect a possible rescue of the individual as soon as it was deemed safe.

Because of the efforts of the Brigade numerous homes were saved that would have been otherwise destroyed as firefighting resources were so limited during the Soberanes Fire.  Spot fires were extinguished by the Brigade before they were able to spread and destroy additional structures in the community. We witnessed numerous neighbors that evacuated their homes during the fire and some that stayed but few asked the simple question..how can we help?  The Mid Coast Fire Brigade members walked away from their own homes not knowing what would be there when they returned to help others.  I am so very proud of them every day for all they give up to protect their community. The recent Tubbs Fire, Paradise Fire and the countless fires with large losses of homes and lives within their communities should tell you that you simply cannot deploy enough resources in the timeframe that they are needed in a major fire with burning conditions we have seen in last several years.  You cannot get out in front of a wind driven fire and stop the flaming fire front.  You do the best you can to minimize loss of property and lives and unfortunately not everyone will be happy with the outcome.

The Fire Brigade worked in conjunction with PG&E and AT&T, to restore power and phones to the area.  SPCA to provide food for pets as our community returned home. The County of Monterey and the Coast Property Owners Association (CPOA now CABS) to ensure dumpsters were in place to remove spoiled food and fire debris. The American Red Cross to build sifters, provide rakes and masks for people to sift through the remains of their burned structures and asked them to provide water as the private water systems were destroyed and/or filled with ash and fire debris.  All of this was in place prior to our community returning home three weeks after the fire erupted.

Prior to the Soberanes Fire the Mid Coast Fire Brigade established an annual Wildland Hazard Inspection program to educate the community on providing defensible space around their homes and suggested products to help defend their homes.  In 2010 the Mid Coast Fire Brigade organized and participated in a grass roots effort to clear 4 miles of the Palo Colorado Road right of way of dead trees and undergrowth using donated equipment and volunteer personnel from the community.  In 2013 the Brigade organized and participated in another road clearing program on a private road, which leads to the residents mentioned on the article to remove dead trees that had become a life threat to residents traveling on the roadway.  This project required the telephone company to lower its telephone lines which serviced the area, dead trees were removed using volunteer personnel and equipment, once the trees were removed the telephone company replaced and repaired their equipment improving service to the residents affected.  In 2015 the Mid Coast Fire Brigade secured a $750,000.00 grant from the United States Forest Service to construct a shaded fuel break along the ingress/egress routes, ridges and escapes routes so vital to the community, this project was completed May 31, 2016, less than 2 months before the Soberanes Fire erupted.  This project allowed resources access to roads which  otherwise may not have been accessible due to brush covered roadsides and overhanging tree limbs that limited the height of vehicles able pass on the roadway.  In 2017 the Brigade applied for and obtained a $36,000 grant to install 30,000 gallons of water storage for fire protection at a critical location in the community (there is no public water system and only a few private hydrants in the community).  The Mid Coast Fire Brigade is currently working with Cal Fire to re-establish and expanding the fuel breaks to help protect the Mid Coast community at large and not just focusing on a small portion of the Community, as noted in the article.  The Mid Coast Fire Brigade has worked relentlessly with the County of Monterey and Supervisor Mary Adams office to ensure that our community does not go forgotten and we have been the go to organization to ensure communication with the community and the needs of the community are not forgotten as there is not an official government entity here to fight for the community.

We have a fire service in California that is unrivaled anywhere in the world with the quickest access to resources.  With Big Sur Fire Brigade and United States Forest Service to the south, Cal Fire and Monterey County Fire agencies to the north, the quickest mobilization of resources is available for any emergency in our area.  We train and work together well and if there is any take away from this it would be that no single person or agency can do this job alone, we need to work together in the system that is already in place.

We have a community that is united, and although we may not always agree with each other I cannot imagine a better place to live and call home than Big Sur.

Cheryl Goetz
Fire Chief
Mid Coast Fire Brigade

Soberanes Fire, One year later

For many of us, this date will hit us hard, some will cry, some will silently remember whether they want to or not. None of us will forget where we were and what we were doing. Many, many people sent me photographs this day, some are posted on my first blog post here and then I did a second post when the evacuation of Palo Colorado was ordered that evening with even more photographs. It is here.

From that moment on, this fire took over our lives for months, and is still affecting us today, a year later. Take a moment in your day today to think about this land we love and what she has had to endure this last year and do a ceremony or ritual or simple prayer for her healing. She is in even more need now than she was then. Keep her in your thoughts today and every day. Don’t let her be overrun. NOTHING is more important than the land that brought us all here – locals and visitors alike.


That square spot is a house. Photo by Kodiak Greenwood, sent to me by Lisa Kleissner.

Unless there is another Mud Creek or Soberanes today, I am taking it off to be quiet and reflect and honor Big Sur.

Soberanes Fire Contractor faces 6 felony charges

From SFGate.comIMG_2398

A California contractor already facing possible state fines in the death of a bulldozer driver during last year’s massive Soberanes Fire along the Big Sur coast has been charged with six felonies related to alleged tax evasion and insurance fraud.
Ian Czirban, head of Czirban Concrete Construction of Madera County, was charged Friday in Monterey County with the criminal counts, said the district attorney’s Office. He was also charged with failing to provide employees workers’ compensation insurance, a misdemeanor.
Managing Deputy District Attorney Ed Hazel said an investigation began in October after the Contractor State License Board informed prosecutors that Czirban did not provide workers’ compensation insurance.
“If you have one form of fraud, it’s typical to have other forms of fraud going on as well,” Hazel said.

A new study reports that people have triggered five out of six wildfires in the U.S. over the last two decades, tripling the length of the wildfire season, causing it to start earlier in the East and last longer in the West. Even as climate change continues to negatively impact the country’s fire season, researchers say that human activities play the largest role.

Czirban has not been arrested but was ordered to appear at a May 11 arraignment, Hazel said. Czirban did not respond to a request for comment.

Highway One Closure Update & Photos, 2/6/17


Photos from this weekend of: 1) Temporary Mesh Netting installed at Big Creek/Cow Cliffs (Sat-PM 28.5); 2) Rock fall at Lucia (Sun-PM 23); Rock fall at Paul’s (Sun-PM 26.10); and Partington Ridge (this am—PM 38.6)


The weekend’s inclement weather gave us various small slides at multiple locations, but thankfully and diligently, we have been able get the roadway clear and provide good news for tomorrow morning, weather permitting.


*DUE TO MORE SLIDE MATERIAL AT PAUL’S SLIDE (PM 21.6), All Motorists may travel north on Hwy. 1 from Cambria to Limekiln Creek Bridge (PM 21.3) or south on Hwy. 1 from Carmel to Lucia (PM 23).

*If you have been following our updates, you know we have dealt with various challenges, below is the status:

1) Mud Creek (PM 8.8)—continues with drilling taking place and daytime one-way traffic control (flagging). However, slide material continues to come down. Expect 20-30 minute delays.

2) The culvert has been replaced/repaired at PM 14.4 and is no longer covered with steel plates just north of Sand Dollar Beach (PM 13.85).
3) At Paul’s Slide (PM 21.6), although we have a temporary stop sign and eventually a traffic signal—MORE MATERIAL IS COMING DOWN AND THERE IS STILL A FULL CLOSURE AT PAUL’S. (see photo).
4) There was a small slide at Lucia (PM 23) this weekend, but has been cleared. (see photo)

5) Temporary mesh netting took place this Saturday at Big Creek/Cow Cliffs (PM 28.35), allowing the roadway to open at this location. (see photo)

6) There was a slide this morning at Partington Ridge (PM 38.6), necessitating the roadway to close at Fuller’s but has been cleared and will be open to traffic. (see photo).
The roadway is not passable between PAUL’S SLIDE (PM 21.6) and LUCIA (PM 23).

Thank you for your patience and understanding. Our Maintenance, Geotech and Construction crews continue to work collaboratively and diligently, as much as safely possible in response to these rock/mudslides.

Another update will be provided on around tomorrow, Tuesday, Feb. 7 afternoon, or sooner if conditions change.

Susana Z. Cruz nature-flower-blue-motif[1]
Caltrans District 5
Acting Manager
Public Information Office

Highway Closure, Monday 2/6/17



*DUE TO VARIOUS SMALL SLIDES AT MULTIPLE LOCATIONS INCLUDING A NEW ONE AT PARTINGTON (PM 38), Hwy 1 will remain closed from Ragged Pt (SLO 72.87) and extend to Fullers (Mon PM 42) TODAY until clean up and assessment can be made.

*Locals may have limited access.

Another update will be provided later this afternoon, or sooner if conditions change.

Susana Z. Cruz <image002.png>

Caltrans District 5

Acting Manager

Public Information Office

Strategic Firebreaks – Public Comments

Los Padres National Forest
For Immediate Release
Contact: Andrew Madsen (805) 961-5759
Twitter: @LosPadresNF

Los Padres Seeks Public Comments
on Proposed Strategic Community Fuelbreak

GOLETA, Calif., February 1, 2017 – Forest Service officials today announced the release of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Proposed Strategic Community Fuelbreak Project on the Monterey Ranger District. The purpose of the project is to design and establish fuelbreaks in a non-emergency environment to enhance protection for at-risk communities, reduce suppression costs, and preserve wilderness character.

The Environmental Protection Agency published a Notice of Availability (NOA) for the Draft EIS in the Federal Register on January 27, 2017. The Forest Service will accept comments on this proposal for 45 calendar days following publication of the NOA, which is the exclusive means for calculating the comment period for a proposed action documented in a Draft EIS. Commenters should not rely upon dates or timeframe information provided by any other source. It is the commenter’s responsibility to ensure timely receipt of comments (36 CFR 218.25).

(Ed. Note: The Draft EIS is available on line http://fs.usda.gov/project/?project=40713

Two public open houses are scheduled to provide interested parties with an opportunity to learn more about the project and the Draft EIS:
Ø February 15, 2017, 5:30pm – 7:30pm at the U. S. Forest Service Big Sur Station: 47555 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920.
Ø February 16, 2017, 5:30pm – 7:30pm at the U. S. Forest Service Monterey District office: 406 South Mildred Ave., King City, CA 93930.

Written comments may be mailed to the Monterey Ranger District, Attn: Jeff Kwasny; 406 South Mildred Ave., King City, CA 93930; or hand delivered to the Monterey Ranger District at the address shown above during business hours (M-F 8:00am to 4:30pm); or submitted by FAX to (831) 385-0628. Electronic comments, in common formats (.doc, .pdf, .rtf, .txt), may be submitted to: comments-pacificsouthwest-los-padres-monterey@fs.fed.us. Please include “Strategic Community Fuelbreak Project” in the subject line

Rain & Roads, 2/4/17

The rain is giving us a break today, so maybe Cal Trans can get some work done. Remember, for today and tomorrow, Highway One is closed at night from Ragged Point to Dolan Point, and during the day from Limekiln Bridge to Dolan Point due to new movement at Paul’s Slide late yesterday afternoon. This means, Highway One is NOT a through road this weekend, AND coming over Nacimiento will NOT get you through to the north.  If anyting changes I will let you know. Otherwise, have a quiet peaceful day before the next round, tomorrow afternoon,

Rain & Road, 2/3/17

7:30 am – it was quiet last night, then Just before 3 am, the cats & dogs started pounding on the roof. The South Coast 24 hour rain amounts are 2.84″ at Chalk Peak, 3.15″ at Three Peaks, and 2.74″ at Mining Ridge. That’s a lot of rain for 24 hours on saturated ground. We will be seeing movement from this. The CHP website log hasn’t been updated since yesterday at 9:46 am, so will have to wait to see what CHP, CT, or locals have to say, but it can’t be good out there with this much rain.

From Meterologist John Lindsey: “Another but stronger low-pressure system will bring
increasing clouds and rain showers Sunday evening and night. As the associated a cold front approaches the Central Coast, the southerly winds will increase to moderate gale-force to fresh gale-force (32 to 46 mph) levels on Monday. This system is forecast to tap into a large plume of subtropical moisture. Consequently, 2 and 3 inches of rain may fall on Monday with higher amounts in the coastal mountains.” BTW, Rocky Butte got over 4″ in the last 24 hours. (Up in the mountains behind and north of Hearst Castle)

Rain & Road, 2/2/17

9:46 am – closure back in place at Ragged Point on the south end.

8:30 am – Consistent with what Cal Trans put out last night – From the CHP log:

Rain down here 1.38″ at Anderson Peak and 1.5″ at Three Peaks. NOAA says: “Wet start to the year looks to stay in place at least through mid-month.” Rain on and off throughout the day, with another system coming in tonight through Friday, then a bit of a break on Saturday, and another system Sun-Mon.

(this post will be updated throughout the day as needed, but new post with CT update, when received.)

Incoming …


The rain coming in this afternoon/evening and continuing through Friday, then again Sunday through Monday will likely create more problems on the road, possibly at existing sites, and possibly at new places. Flooding is predicted to be likely with the Sunday-Monday storm, so pay close attention to any alerts or warnings.

On the Mud Creek Slide, I did get the photos of the top back side of the mountain from Rock Knocker yesterday, and the explanations. The problem is, I need to be able to draw on them, to explain what one is seeing, and that hasn’t worked out well, yet. Will continue to try. I have tried 3 different apps, so far, and none have worked satisfactorily for my needs. Will try again today.