July 6th Palo Colorado Fire Summary

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(To see my preamble of who I am and that I have no special knowledge of fire activity, as well as some photos of fire activity, please visit http://tarawings.wordpress.com)

A personal note:

Amid horrible reports of tensions (to put it lightly) between non-local fire and law enforcement officials and our locals, I feel so lucky to have a local fire fighting brigade defending not just my home against fire, but also my rights. The Mid Coast Brigade have fought for us to be able to stay in Palo Colorado as long as we have. They are doing an amazing job with the fire and with managing the needs of locals. While there may be many things to be upset about during this horrifically trying time, we should only be thankful for the local men and women who make up the Mid Coast Fire Brigade. I only wish that everyone in Big Sur could have local fire officials defending them as well.

Onto the news.

July 6th, 2008 Palo Colorado Fire Meeting

We continue to be under Evacuation Advisory. There continues to be a soft close on the road. We are asked to continue clearing our property, and to prepare for evacuation should anything get out of hand.

Today they started to back burn. We were told that the operation could not have gone better. As many of us witnessed first hand, it was a busy day in the canyon. There were C1-30’s, D2V Neptunes, Grumman-S2’s, lots of helicopters, and the big DC-10, all coming together to pull-of a major operation of back burning. (If I got any of those planes right, you can thank Norman.) The super scooper did not make it here from Canada. If you would like to see a photo that David took of the DC-10 dropping fire retardant on Bixby Mountain, you can go to http://tarawings.wordpress.com/

We were told there was a bit of a delayed start as they got all equipment into place. They chose between starting at either Devil’s Peak or Skinner Ridge. The chose to start with Skinner Ridge.

There were three firing teams working in tandem.  Teams and planes worked to set back burn fires, drop fire retardant, and drop water on hot spots to keep the back burn under control. The DC-10 made three large drops of fire retardant each of which was one mile long. The DC-10 is based out of Victorville and was reloading out of Stockton.

Teams continue to work into the night on the back burn. Sixty to sixty five fire fighters are actively working on this part of the back burn as I write this. During the night, planes will not be used, but the relative humidity will help keep things cool.

We were told that the planes do not put out the fire- the dozer puts out the fire. It is only by creating these containment lines that the fire will be tamed. Because we do not have many roads, there are few pre-existing containment lines, so we have to build them.

The next few days will be critical to this operation. They got a lot of black on the ground, but the fire could still jump the line because of the winds. They will finish off the areas that have been started back burning and get as much black on the ground there before putting more fire on the ground anywhere else. On Tuesday they predict the winds to shift against us. On Wednesday they predict heat and wind. On Thursday they predict the winds to calm down.

We were told that our weather is so hard to predict because of the many microclimates in Big Sur. This a-typical weather makes fire activity hard to predict as well.

If the fire were to jump the line,  it would still take a day or two before it was an immediate threat to us. The fire retardant that was dropped will help hold the line for the next few days. They are creating a fire break at White Rock as a contingency plan. There are various contingency plans being put in place.

There are also more fire lines being built to protect Carmel Valley. These lines may not tie directly into our fire lines. There is a division of fire management between us and the most Eastern part of the fire.

Fire teams dotted fire at the boyscout camp, doing controlled burns around buildings. The fire has not backed its way into the boyscout camp and they feel that the camp is secure.

We were told that we will probably see smoke for some time. Other parts of the dozer line still need to be back burned. There may be islands of heat throughout the places that have burned. Even when all of the fire is at some point contained, we will need to patrol the area until the next rain.

In the morning they will meet to assess the progress of the back burn and make further plans.

At tomorrow’s meeting we will learn about the North-most part of the fire that they still need to work on.

We were told that we are not out of the woods yet, but that we are in the home stretch.

We were told that each year the fire season gets longer and longer. While the fire season used to only last from mid-May to October, it now lasts from April to December. This means that we still have a long fire season to go.

We were asked to stay vigilant with out clearing. We were told that while many people’s properties have now been cleared, the roads continue to look very bad. Many roads are covered with dead tan oaks. Because many roads are shared among a multiple property owners, we are asked to come together to make plans for shared roads to get them clear. Among the worst of the roads is Greenridge. We were reminded that the Palo Colorado main road is not often cleared by the county, and therefore could be treated as a private road as well. Therefore property owners along the main  road are encouraged to get together and maintain the road as best they can.

The new standard for fire trucks is quite large. To safely come down a road, they are looking for clearance that is 13 foot high and 12 foot wide.

When this is all over, they will assess the issue of roads and look at the worst roads. Pam is working with others to write a grant to the Monterey Fire Safe Council to help with road work.

However, it was pointed out that the home owners on Partington Ridge had just been awarded just such a grant, but did not have time to put the plan into place. We must be vigilant and we must clear our roads. Even if we have all cleared our houses, the fire fighters cannot get to our homes if our roads are not clear. We were given the number of  J.V. Tree Service. They will come to the canyon with a chipper. (See the bottom for the number.)

A question was asked about how long our friends from the South can expect to be evacuated for. There is no way to predict that at this point, but we were told that they want to get people home as soon as possible.

There were clarifications made about who does and who does not need a Palo Colorado Permit issued to them by Cheryl. If you have any sort of document that links your name to Palo Colorado Canyon, you do not need a permit from Cheryl. This may be a tax form, license, utility bill, mail,  rental agreement, etc. The only people who need a permit from Cheryl are people who do not have any of these things. These people may be adult children of Palo Colorado residents, or renters that do not have Palo Colorado documentation. If you are a Palo Colorado home owner or have a rental agreement, if you receive mail in Palo Colorado, if you pay bills in Palo Colorado, or if you have a license issued to you in Palo Colorado, you do not need a permit from Cheryl. You must, however, show whatever form of documentation you have to the CHP at the mouth of the road.

We were told that the Thermo-Gel representative may be at the meeting tomorrow night.

I don’t know about all of you, but I am going to bed with a good feeling tonight. I would like to quote Cheryl in saying “It was a good day, you guys.”

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