Big Sur quiet, La Brea continues

The Ponderosa Fire area is still closed, as of this morning. That means Nacimiento Rd is closed and the South Coast Ridge Rd. is closed. I have been informed that mop-up is pretty much finished, so I expect the roads to open soon.

What I can’t believe is that the smoke is this heavy from the La Brea Fire. I can only imagine how much worse it must be down south. I have scoured my sources to make sure there isn’t anything closer, but can find nothing to explain the smoke other than La Brea, one county south.

Inciweb had this to report this morning, and the press release issued at 9 am mirrors this inciweb post:

08/10/2009 @0600
The La Brea Fire, which started on Saturday, August 8 at 2:50 pm, continues to burn in an area of the San Rafael Wilderness that is very steep and difficult to reach on the ground.
Heavy 87 year old fuels (vegetation), long range spotting and moderate to rapid rates of spread have continued to hamper fire fighters in their efforts to contain the fire. Extreme fire behavior has been observed since the fire began. Flames from the fire could be seen on the Sierra Madre ridgeline from areas along SR-166 yesterday afternoon and evening. Last night fire behavior was moderate due to increased relative humidity and no major runs or spotting were observed.
The portion of the forest from the intersection of SR-166 and Sierra Madre Road east to McPherson Peak, south to the Sisquoc and west to the forest boundary is currently closed due to the fire emergency. Campgrounds in the area have been evacuated.

Basic Information
Incident Type Wildfire
Cause Under Investigation
Date of Origin Saturday August 08th, 2009 approx 02:50 PM
Location 26 Miles east of Santa Maria
Incident Commander Jeanne Pincha – Tulley
Current Situation
Total Personnel 580
Size 10,500 acres
Fuels Involved
Chaparral (6 feet)
Fire Behavior
Fire behavior was moderate last night due to increased relative humidity. No major runs or spotting was observed.
Significant Events
A closure of the forest in and around the area of the fire is in place. Evacuations of hunters and campers in front of and adjacent to the fire were made.
Planned Actions
Continue direct attack on the southern and east perimeter of the fire. Crews will also continue constructing contingency lines outside of the wilderness.
Growth Potential
Terrain Difficulty
CIIMT Team-3 (Pincha-Tulley) assumed command of the fire this morning at 0600.

Ponderosa Plume from Cone Peak

Mike Anderson of Morro Bay sent me this one. What a view, huh?? Camped up at Cone Peak, at the look-out, and shot this one on Sunday morning just before 7 am. Beautiful. Thanks, Mike!!

And this one, coming down the Cone Peak Rd. a little after noon on Sunday.

I love when we can see different perspectives of these events.

8/4/09: Ponderosa Fire, Day 4 – Sam Jones, Day 3

Per Cal Fire the Sam Jones incident was been fully contained at 1400 hours today. Total acreage 3,468. (August 4th, Day 3) Great Job Everyone!!

9:30 am – from Inciweb:

Incident Overview

The Ponderosa Fire started on Saturay, August 1, at approximately 7:45 in the evening. The fire is located in the Ventana Wilderness in very steep, rugged terrain. The cause is still under investigation. Approximately 350 acres have burned to date. The fire is being aggressively fought by fire crews constructing line on the fire’s edge where possible and going indirect with the use of dozers outside of the wilderness boundaries. Also assisting handcrews is the use of helicopters and air tankers dropping both retardant and water. No structors are threatened at this time.
Ponderosa and Nacimiento Campgrounds are closed. Highway 1 is open. Nacimiento-Ferguson Road, as well as the Los Burros/Willow Creek Road at Highway 1 are closed to the public, however they are open to residents.

Basic Information
Incident Type Wildfire
Cause Under Investigation
Date of Origin Friday July 31st, 2009 aprox 07:45 PM
Location Monterey Ranger District, Ventana Wilderness
Incident Commander James E. Smith
Current Situation
Total Personnel 602
Size 360 acres
Percent Contained 16%
Fuels Involved
Oak woodlands and Chaparral
Fire Behavior
Significant Events
Little fire movement occurred last evening dueto marine layer influence.
Planned Actions
Today’s goal is to taking advantage of the opportunities to take direct suppression action wherever possible.
Growth Potential
Terrain Difficulty
CCIIMT-7, Jim Smith’s type 2 team has assuemed command as of 0600 on 8/3/2009. Evaluating Unified Command with Fort Hunter Liggett.
Current Weather
Wind Conditions 5-10 mph S
Temperature 90 degrees
Humidity 18%

6:30 am – Good morning, everyone! Checking in for updates and will post as they come in.

Dawn on August 3, 2009 Fires

3:30 pm update: Here is a link to the “raws” of temp/RH/fuel temps, etc.
11:50 Ponderosa Fire News Release posted under USFS Press Releases to the right.

11:00 am updates on Sam Jones & Ponderosa, my time. Fire time is 8:00 am. Sorry, my sources were late.

Sam Jones Fire:
Name: Sam Jones Fire
County: Monterey County
Location: Fort Hunter Leggitt Training Area 27
Administrative Unit: Army at Fort Hunter Liggett
Status/Notes: 2,500 acres – Unknown containment
Date Started: August 2, 2009 4:30 pm
Last update: August 3, 2009 8:00 am

08/03 @ 0800 (North Ops)
Ponderosa CA-LPF-2563, 350 acres, 0% containment. Central Coast Type -2 ICT (Smith) has been in briefed on the fire and has tentative transition scheduled for 0600 hour today is and team evaluating Unified Command with Fort Hunter Liggett. The fire is burning in grass and chaparral in steep inaccessible terrain in the Ventana Wilderness and may have the potential to burn 3,000 to 5,000 acres. 97 CALFIRE personnel are assigned adding to a total of 429 altogether.

9:00 am report. Sam Jones is looking pretty good. No plumes, just drift. Still plume for Ponderosa, but tremendous resources available and working it. According to one of my sources, Nacimiento Rd. is closed, but the fire hasn’t made it to the road, yet, just close. There are many, many fire resources using the road. It is in an area that did not burn during the Indians Fire. I have some photos of this morning’s drift from both fires, but no plumes.
Smoke from the Sam Jones this morning, around 7:30 am.
Drift from he Ponderosa this morning, around 7:45 am.

Only 5:30 am, but the dawn is beginning to show, and with it the smoke to the south east — a glow from the Sam Jones. Sometimes the atmospheric conditions from fires are so beautiful! My posts will be scattered throughout the day, as I have business to take care of, but will post as I obtain information about both the Ponderosa and the Sam Jones Fires.

Strike Teams are coming in from LA Co. FD today, as well as all the others that are already here and/or coming.

Jim Smith’s Type II IMT takes over the Ponderosa at 7 am this morning. What I like about this assignment is that Smith’s team was IMT for both the Indians Fire (June 2008) and the Chalk Fire (9-10/2009) so he knows this area quite well. Welcome, Jim!

Be safe out there!

Ponderosa Fire, 8/2/09

8:30 pm – reports are that Ponderosa has reached 500 acres. Sam Jones is 600 and moving north across containment lines. Here is a last look at the Ponderosa fire tonight. This photo is not as spectacular as the plumes from earlier, but what it shows is fire in an east west Canyon, moving in both directions. This canyon is north of the McKern Rd. firebreak, which I drove on today. It is wide, and it is clear, so it would be hard for the fire to cross that. And if this canyon fire does move west, as it appears, it will run into the footprint of the Chalk Fire.


You can see the smoke all the way down the canyon, behind the trees and the bushes. It actually goes even further west, but that is not visible in the photograph. This is shot looking north north-east, so west would be off the left side.

News release just came in at 2:56 pm. See USFS page to the right for the entire missive.

2:00 pm update:Jim Smith’s Type II Incident team will be in command. You can find information about the team here:

Spoke with District Ranger Tune and the press release is being prepared. At this point they are calling it 200 plus. She said when the team comes in at 1700 (Smith’s Type II IT) then it is her understanding that the Ponderosa will be put up on inciweb. I would imagine that might not happen until tomorrow morning.

WildlandFire posted this: “Per Southops: Ponderosa CA-LPF-2563, The fire has burned 250 acres with a potential to triple in size. Ponderosa and Nacimiento Campgrounds have been evacuated. The Nacimiento-Ferguson Road has been closed. Smith’s Type II Incident Management Team has been assigned to the fire.”

More photos from late this morning to follow here:


This was was taken at 11:04 am, and clearly shows the McKern Rd. firebreak.


These people snuck through before the signs were posted on Highway One, but were turned around. This is the intersection of South Coast Ridge Rd. and Nacimiento.


This photograph shows the burn from the Chalk Fire, with the Madrone regrowth and the Ponderosa Fire in the background.

You tired of these plumes, yet? I have a couple more showing the progression of the north flank, then I am finished until this evening, when I will go shoot some more photos.

Here’s the last one this afternoon, showing the progression of the north flank.


When I know more, I will post more.

1:30 pm. These photos were taken starting at 10:50 am from various places along South Coast Ridge Rd. This first one is from 10:50 am from about 1/2 mile south of Plaskett intersection.


I took a series of shots in 2 minutes from this spot, and it is interesting to watch the progression. I’ll post 4 here.




And now, a short break in the photo show, so that I might bring some information to my readers in the 2:00 pm update above.

12:30 pm. Just got back from my field trip. Photos and more photos up shortly. Impressive plumes. Fire south of N-F Rd., and north of the McKern Rd/firebreak. Lots of air attack. 3-4 miles, maybe 5, from me. Spotters up on South Coast Ridge Rd just north of McKern. N-F Rd. closed. Sheriff on top. Locals can go west. Now, to sort and post some photos.

Ponderosa Fire

10:30 am – “Radio traffic has it at 150 acres, Header can be seen for miles.” Now, I am really going to take a look. Back before noon, I hope. Will have phone, but there are many “dead zones” out there.

10:00 am – going off line for a bit to check on things in the back country. Call, if needed. Otherwise, back before 11 with a report. Oh, plume visible, but not particularly close. Don’t know direction of spread, but we have the old Chalk Fire between us and it, for the most part.

9:30 am – hearing lots of low-flying aircraft. I’ll be going out to open gate and go check the rear. Will take phone, but not computer, and will report back if I can see anything. From FHL-Capt. “75 acers 0% containment. Large orders for crews and aircraft. Steep and rugged terrain. Just outside Chalk Fire Burn from last year in Negro drainage.” (I think this had another name in the old days.)

9:15 am – Los Olivos Engine arrived at 7:30 am. Also, “Must have something going. Aircraft assigned to the incident: Bravo 2, AA502, T74, T75, C406, Helitanker706, C528, 3 AT on order.
Air tactics 166.675. Air to ground 170.000.”

9:00 am – found out what “cover” is. Ordered resources to come cover the two stations where the engines were from. E16 & E17. Also the exact coordinates of the fire are only near the Ponderosa campground. The exact lat & long is: 35 59 430 X 121 23 504

5:45 am – At 1:22 am, per WildCAD-LPNF, a resource order was issued for “Ponderosa Cover.” I have attempted to find out what that means, but have not been successful. It may mean simply an order for a PIO for this morning’s press release. I have found no other reports on this fire, which is a good thing. Inciweb is not reporting this fire. It has actually been quite chilly up here this am, also a good thing. The lack of available information supports a theory that the fire remained small and is under control. So, going back to sleep. Blessings, bigsurkate

Fire at Ponderosa Campground

Midnight – nothing being reported, significant or otherwise, so I’ll be signing off until morning. Blessings, bigsurkate

11:00 pm – no significant events being reported, so maybe the USFS will have a handle on it by the morning and we will all wake up to it being “old news.”

10:00 pm – I received a call from the new District Ranger, Sherry Tune, whom I just met yesterday, to give me a “heads-up” about this fire. It may have grown a little since initial reporting, but it is difficult to tell at night. She will be issuing a press release tomorrow morning, probably not until around 10 am. She will fax me a copy, which I will post here. She hasn’t been assigned a PIO, yet. She is brand-new, and only about 2 weeks into the job. It is her intention to keep locals fully informed. As a side note, I like her and others who have met her like her as well. It is a helluva welcome to the neighborhood, and she is literally being tested by fire.

9:30 pm – It began around 8:15 pm this evening, August 1st. It is approximately 4-6 acres, with a slow rate of spread. Two USFS Engines are on it right now. Ponderosa Campground, for those unfamiliar with the area, is several miles down from the summit, east on Nacimiento Rd. in the flats, by the river before one enters Ft. Hunter-Leggett.

Check back in in a couple of hours. I’ll try to report one more time, somewhere between 11 and midnight. Phone will be working all night. If necessary, I will start the gennie and stay online on and off throughout the evening.