7/4 8pm: Update from the IC and Fire Brigade

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Several notes from tonight’s community meeting with Mike Dietrich and the IC team along with Frank Pinney of the Local Fire Brigade:

–    The fire team’s first priority right now is defending the Big Sur valley. Fire hot spots today are the canyon between Ventana and MAF/ Big Sur Station and the ridge above Captain Cooper.  Captain Cooper is being protected at the road, with crews and engines in place throughout the area. Crews are in blocking positions defending the area where Blaze Engineering, Don McQueen’s house and the AT&T transponder are.

–    The fire has not crossed Highway One at all.  There is confidence that the crews on the road will hold this line, and even if spot fires do erupt there are spotters on hand who are prepared to manage this.

–    Northern perimiter: The current strategy is to actively build dozer lines and drop retardant at the old Marble Cone lines, protecting the Palo Colorado area.  The IC has requested the largest aircraft available for this, with a capacity several times greater than standard air tankers.  A contingency plan is in place, cutting lines along White Rock Ridge to San Clemente Dam. (That’s about 5 miles south of Carmel Valley Village.)

–    Southern perimiter: This is currently the second priority area. Current strategy is to take dozer lines at Dolan Ridge to the southern flank of the Indians fire to anchor the fire into the burned area.  The IC feels very confident they will be able to hold this line.

–    All the fires happening in the state are drawing upon resources. We are the #2 priority in the state and don’t have as many resources as we need.  This fire is presently using resources from 40 states.

–    The Fire Brigade strongly discourages residents from staying in the area. Frank expressed that this is the biggest fire they he has ever seen in Big Sur, and is certain that using the plans and tools that have been used in the past will not be adequate in this fire.  The local Fire Brigade is now dedicated to structure protection using gel, since the evacuation is no longer requiring resources to be on call for local emergencies.  The Brigade has procured a large amount of gel for this purpose – with the caveat that without adequate clearance, the gel is “a hope and a prayer.”

It can’t be stressed enough: Highway One is an active fire line and very dangerous to be on right now. Entering the area puts the lives of fire crews and civilians at risk.

–    Apple Pie – fire is working down the ridge, coming through the Curtis’ property.  There are mixed reports about structures lost.  The IC has reported structures burned, the community has information from residents that report buildings are all intact.  The IC team actively worked to defend structures on this ridge until it was deemed unsafe and crews were pulled from the area.

The IC reported a serious incident today, in which local residents at Apple Pie ridge were setting illegal backburns. Another resident reported the activity and the sheriff’s department gave orders to stop the activity immediately.  The burns continued and an arrest was made.

–    Partington: The ridge is cooling and no longer a hot spot. It is a priority to the local Brigade for infrastructure rebuilding, although the priority remains to protect structures in active fire zones.

–    Pfeiffer State park: The fire is not in the park now, and crews are preparing for that possibility as fire moves down from Mt. Manuel.

–    Electricity: The power is out in most of the valley for either strategic reasons, a line burn or both. The line is days, if not weeks away from being restored. Big Sur Wireless is on this power grid and expects service can be supported by the battery backups for up to four days.

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