7/5 8:40pm: Notes from Tonight’s Community Meeting

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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 in the forecast.
  • 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
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