Author Archive

Highway 1 is Open!

October 24, 2008

Caltrans has announced Highway 1 is open at 10:00 AM this morning. (Friday, October 24)

All skate!

Expect 1/2 hour delays and escorts through the fire/slide area.

Big Sur Chamber of Commerce


Saturday, July 12, 4:20PM

July 12, 2008

Got up early this morning and drove south to Esalen. There were some spot fires along the way but mostly pretty tame. Hot Springs Canyon is still smoldering. Here’s a photo taken this morning looking into Hot Springs Canyon.


Hot Springs Canyon above Esalen Institute

Hot Springs Canyon above Esalen Institute

At Esalen the stage was still set up on the grass for the 4th of July celebration that didn’t happen. Burns Creek still has some smoldering action going too. Now keep your fingers crossed for our friends on the eastern side of this fire who are really in the thick of it about now.

Fernwood has a bluegrass band from Santa Cruz tonight – Harmony Grits. Come on out.

Highway 1 Opens tonight, 6:00 PM Fri. 11 July

July 11, 2008

Hello Big Sur!

The opening is beginning. Tonight at 6:00 PM (Officially) Highway 1 will open from Palo Colorado Road to Coast Gallery – no restrictions, no mumbo jumbo. 

Sunday, July 13 at 8:00 AM Highway 1 will be open clear through from Carmel to San Simeon.

Explanation: This morning I had word about this opening. I posted it. Minutes later Caltans released a press release that contradicted my information. I’m glad to report that we had it correct. Caltrans is now correcting their press release. Unofficially, the northern section may be open before 6:00 PM but officially, at the latest its 6:00 PM tonight.

Caltrans is correcting their press release and I will forward that through our channels as soon as we get it. scoops one more time.

pulled the post about highway

July 11, 2008

I just pulled the post about the highway opening. There is no doubt the highway is opening very soon but I just received another document with a conflicting time. I will post this ASAP when I get together with Caltrans and discuss their press release.


Big Sur Valley, July 10, 11PM

July 10, 2008

The businesses in the ‘business district’ of Big Sur are approaching normal. The air quality is good and we’re seeing the possibility of the opening of Highway 1 in the very near future.

As evidenced by the Los Padres National Forest evening report on the fire (8,907 acres burned in the last 12 hours) we still have a very active fire burning and at this rate we will clear 100,000 acres burned by sunrise on Friday. Earlier posts noted Tassajara survived the burn today and it looks like they’re going to be okay too.

I drove into Pfeiffer State Park to see if the softball field was okay and I spoke with C.L. Price to see if we could get the softball league started on Monday. Looks like we’re going to have to wait until next week to get the league restarted. While I was at the park I took a photo of a plume of smoke rising over Mt. Manuel and later from a different angle you can see there is an active fire out behind Double Cones.

Another angle of the plume showing Double Cones – shot from Post Ranch Inn later in the day.


I spoke with John Bradford from the Forest Service today to see if we can expedite the opening of Pfeiffer Beach. He is trying to hurry-up the process. We should know by Friday. Another subject I brought up was the obvious issue of erosion we will be facing come winter and what will be done in advance to minimize the inherit dangers. To that, BAER, the Burn Area Emergency Rehabilitation team will be back soon to conduct an analysis and to create a rehabilitation plan. The team was already here once but it was too hot to go in and do the analysis. 

Tonight I watched the fog make its way up the Big Sur valley from Andrew Molera and also rise up Sycamore Canyon, backing up again Pfeiffer Ridge until it poured over the top of Sycamore Canyon into Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. It was a beautiful site and I can only imagine this soft moisture gently riding up on the canyon walls can only do good to the freshly burned areas. One tiny droplet of fog at a time, the rebirth begins.

And one last thing. The other night Angie came up and baked the most beautiful Apple Pie and we ate it in solidarity and in honor of our neighbors up on Apple Pie Ridge who successfully defended their property against this fire. Kodiak Greenwood who was one of the detained (not arrested) people and a local photographer has already sold images to National Geographic Magazine (I’ve been told) and some of his images from this ordeal will be in the Carmel Pine Cone this Friday, July 11.

I post this picture in honor of our neighbors on Apple Pie Ridge and the 4th of July wherein we should have been painting our faces like flags, wearing cowboy hats and eating bbq’d corn on the cob in preference to standing vigil against this fire.

Thank you Angie for the great Apple Pie. And yes, it was ala mode – hand made white chocolate ice cream from the freezer at Sierra Mar, thank you very much!

Locals returning and readying businesses for opening

July 10, 2008

First, the Big Sur valley does not appear to be threatened by fire any longer. Second, it looks like we have turned the corner on the fire situation for Big Sur businesses as a whole. On Wednesday the core of the business district had health inspectors come in to check water delivery systems, etc., for housing, and businesses. I believe all businesses passed and we’re on to the next phase of the regulatory agencies. All and all it was a good day.

A few businesses opened their doors for business for the locals and the firefighters and others spent the day welcoming the work staff back to Big Sur and began the cleaning process. The biggest problem for most businesses is cleaning off the ash from windows and decks. A few spot fires that hardly drew a glance flared up in varying places along the Big Sur valley wall looking like a campfire out of place more than anything else.. The long and short of it is that we are now preparing for the reopening of Big Sur. A date positive has not been set precisely but next Monday is the projected date. The Big Sur Chamber of Commerce has asked for a re-evaluation every 24 hours. We are diligently working with the agencies responsible for public safety and as soon as the regulatory agencies have cleared all the necessary requirements and have assured public safety,  Big Sur will be open to receive guests again.
We thank everyone for your understanding in this challenging time  and we look forward to welcoming you, our friends, families and travelers all back to Big Sur. Please watch here and the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce website for a specific date for reopening.
Wednesday I watched the sunset through the Big Sur Valley and celebrated with the workers as they returned to Post Ranch Inn. The colors and the nuance of light was ominously spectacular as smoke from the Little Sur river watershed lifted above the Big Sur river valley, casting a bruised colored shadow on the ash covered hills.
Big Sur Valley from Post Ranch Inn

Big Sur Valley from Post Ranch Inn

Big Sur Valley, OES, Nepenthe tonight

July 9, 2008

I traversed the Big Sur Valley today speaking with business owners. People are coming back and setting up their computers and trying to get resettled. The Monterey County Office of Emergency Services and Patrick Maris, Senior Building Inspector & Roger Van Horn, Senior Environmental Health Specialist have been making inspections all day. I believe all businesses are passing. I haven’t heard otherwise.

From what I saw all the businesses are cleaning and preparing for an opening which will still be a few days from now as best as we can tell. No date has been set. A series of inspections are taking place and we’ll get through this process as quickly as possible.

Fire hoses that were strewn throughout the valley are being picked up. They’re in piles alongside the roadway and flatbed trucks are picking them up. Here’s a photo:


Big Sur Valley cleanup

Big Sur Valley cleanup

The lawn at the Henry Miller Memorial Library looks great. It should take a two week break in the middle of summer every year.

Nepenthe will be open at 5:00 PM tonight with a limited menu. – obviously locals only and firefighters and people inside the soft closure.

Although the fire danger appears to be very low in the business district of the Big Sur valley, in southern Big Sur, in the Dolan creek area, the fight goes on. I saw Mark Hudson at Nepenthe and he had been up all night fighting the fire to protect their home. Another family defending their own property successfully. He looked like a Chimney Sweep without the top hat.

Coast Gallery certainly had a close call evidenced by the image here.


There are a lot of heros, and of course villains, in every story as dynamic as the Big Sur Fire of 2008 and stories will be told for the rest of our lives. Three of the unsung heros from here at Post Ranch Inn are Mike, Jesus, and Martin who stayed inside the evacuation zone with us and managed the water pumps and generators at Post Ranch Inn to keep water flowing into the pond. They stayed up all night with us watching the fire, keeping sentry, afraid as we were to take our eyes off the fire line as it worked its way into the valley. They slept on top of the water storage tanks and made sure the pumps never stopped. All the records aren’t in but Mike said 320,000 gallons of water was pumped into the pond for the helicopters to extract. Sometimes three helicopters would be involved in their tight choreography spinning over the tops of the redwoods to pull water from the pond.

I took a drive through Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and all and all it looks pretty good. The fire burned down to the campgrounds and to the road in a few places. 

If a picture is worth a thousand words, I just spared you 5,000 words of me attempting to be Hemingway. Enjoy the photos.

Watch for other businesses to start opening their doors this evening and tomorrow to take care of firefighters and those inside the soft closure.

7/9 am: The valley, Little Sur, & Office of Emergency Services

July 9, 2008

I drove through the valley last night and snapped a couple photos. All and all, we dodged a bullet. There are a few startling scenes but when I speak to people who’ve been up in the helicopters and they say it looks like a moonscape up over the ridge, we’re sitting real pretty.

Little Sur river basin had some fire activity last night about 6PM. I’m getting jaded. I looked at it and said to myself, “That’s good. That’ll clean that section out.” The cows were hanging out around the flat area in the turnout overlooking the Little Sur rivermouth looking at me taking pictures of them and eating.

Fire trucks are lined up in an orderly fashion, east of Highway 1 in front of the Hill Ranch. West of Highway 1 at the ranch is now a heliport and fueling station. lots of trucks to service the craft and 4 helicopters were parked there when I went by.

I posted the following information in the NOTICES section of the site:

Monterey County Office of Emergency Services
Rob Clyburn Monterey County Office of Emergency Services is setting up a fire assistance center at the Big Sur Grange Hall.
First Priority is for businesses and residents that were not directly affected by the fire or had minimal impact by the fire. Going to do a quick health and safety inspection. (Lights work, water works… move on to the next business)
Working from north to south.
This begins Wednesday, July 9, 9:00 AM

While doing these rapid assessments, “let us know if you have water damage and we will pay for the testing of the water.”

Once we have a good feel feel for what the community needs the Big Sur Grange Hall will become a “local assistance center.”

A representative from different state agencies will be available.

Hours for seeing people will be from 9AM – 2:00 PM – hours subject to be expanded later.

Expedited permit for small construction, repair and to start the application process for rebuilding your homes will be available at this location.

A representative was at the Community Meeting at the MAF Tuesday night, 7:00 PM

Quick Note from Michael Miller at the Grange:
Michael is having a meeting with local contractors at the Grange on Wednesday, 3:00 PM to speak about rebuilding.

From Post Ranch Inn, 3:45PM, July 7, 2008

July 7, 2008

The power is back on up to Nepenthe and maybe further but that’s as far as I could verify.

The air has cleared a bit up here and for the first time we can see fairly clearly across the canyon to Ventana Inn and the Post Creek drainage, and north into the Gorge area and Big Sur valley.

Mount Manuel in the distance with the south shoulder of the Gorge in the forefront.

Mount Manuel in the distance with the south shoulder of the Gorge in the forefront. Click on the image to expand it. photo: Stan Russell


A gentleman from Office of Emergency Services (OES) was just here looking south along the coast from our vantage point. His feeling is that we’ve “turned the corner.” I can tell you that it feels like that from here at least for this area. There is burning still going on in the canyons of the Big Sur valley and last night we could see little flare ups on the flanks of the Gorge and in Post Creek.

This second image shows the gorge and the area above Big Sur Lodge. (the Lodge is okay)


Big Sur Gorge

Big Sur Gorge and area behind Big Sur Lodge. photo: Stan Russell


 There have been meetings with key people today about opening the road and when we have something concrete to report we’ll post it here. The Big Sur Chamber of Commerce is actively working on this.

Last night we had a local Sheriff up for dinner and spoke about all the issues of getting the road open to locals so that we can move around and help out and it felt to me that people are negotiating in earnest to loosen the restrictions. At least our local Sheriff is sympathetic, but keep in mind, we were feeding him. 😉

Some Clarification

July 6, 2008

To all who are reading this blog I feel there is a bit of clarification that I need to make. There has been some discussion by others that my posts on this blog are being censored or edited by someone other than myself. THIS IS NOT TRUE. 

I personally chose to remove the post regarding Apple Pie Ridge. I felt people were getting too riled up about this and it was taking away from the effort of this blog. Although I take great issue with law enforcement playing such a heavy hand and being rather ‘jackboot’ in their approach to our community by showing up with military style automatic weapons etc., thats a fight for another day. And that’s one for the people directly involved with the situation. Although its important it’s a bit of a distraction from our goal at this point.

We are working to refuel generators to protect homes and businesses inside the closure. Private parties who have their own fire suppression water systems and businesses have been running on generators for some time now. Food supplies are dwindling for those who have remained to defend their properties and are working 12 hours or more each day. Firefighters and people working at this level burn about 6,000 calories a day to maintain this level of activity. 

At the end of the day we have to pick our battles carefully and today, while the firefighters work their butts off to suppress and control this fire, we are trying to get our fuel tanks throughout the community refilled, fix generators, pumps, and water systems that have been broken or failed. Pipes have been broken. People are rigging pumps to draw water out of the creeks.

We are asking for a loosening of these restrictions so that industrial size delivery of fuel can happen and also so that we can move small amounts of gasoline to homeowners who are running their own generators.

Some people are running out of food and this is a concern for us – and yes, of course, when you put your ear to the ground you hear, “they’re going to try to starve us out.”

Thank you all for your support and for your interest in this situation. Lay off Lisa. She’s doing a great job and she, nor anyone else has edited my posts on this Blog. I understand that on the website there have been deletions and so forth. It might be a weakness in the system but on the front page of the site it is clearly stated that the site is being run on the “honor system.” That’s all I’ve got to say about that. 

Stan Russell

9:50PM Saturday, July 5 – Power off again

July 5, 2008

For those wondering why the power went down this evening, there is a reported tree through the wires near the Big Sur Deli.

Backburn & incoming fuel

July 5, 2008

Backburning has been going since yesterday, filling the valley with smoke. At the moment they’re working a backburn above Ripplewood.

Hearing reports from Martha, per Dan Priano that the east area of Andrew Molera is very active at the moment and windy.

We have made arrangements to begin delivery of diesel fuel for generators etc. The first truck is coming in on Sunday. If you are running low let us know at and we’ll help arrange the drop off.

7/5 3:24pm: Update from Post Ranch

July 5, 2008

Backfires were started last night in the Big Sur valley and are continuing today. Presently I can see about a quarter mile from the Post House toward Ventana Inn. It cleared for a short time today and we could see flare ups in the Post Creek drainage alongside Ventana Inn.

We are still under ‘house arrest’ if you will. Residents cannot leave their properties. If found on the highway you will be escorted out of Big Sur.

Post Ranch Inn 3:10PM July 4

July 4, 2008

We have a helicopter working out of the pond and dumping water east of Highway 1 across from Loma Vista and in the Post Creek drainage next to Ventana. The fire is burning through the redwoods approaching the highway. Smoke is floating through the redwood trees like heavy fog. Although I haven’t been down to the highway a reporter from the San Jose Mercury drove into Post Ranch and says that a crew has trimmed back both sides of the highway with chain saws etc.

The helicopter occasionally makes a round trip to Mule Canyon so there must be a flair up in there again.

Post Ranch has CalFire trucks on the south shoulder below Billy Post’s house (where I’m writing from), about five trucks a hundred yards south of the pond along the fresh fire break. They came up earlier today and drove their truck through the Tree Houses area and Martin filled a flatbed truck with branches cleared away so that they’d have clearance.

The fire is burning slowly and aside from the whop whop whop of helicopters, thank you very much, it doesn’t look like a runaway fire and all the ground forces are in place to defend it from jumping the highway.

Ewoldsen UPDATE

July 4, 2008

We have a visual from Ross Curtis that the homestead did burn.

Curtis’s have successfully saved 6 homes on Apple Pie ridge.

Looks like the Sheriff have come back to arrest the Curtis. Kodiak and others remain to fight the fire.

Frank Pinney has met with Incident Command regarding Ewoldsen area and is making contact with Mica regarding the fire issue.

Phenager Creek looks to be heating up. We can see smoke from rising billowing up.  As Mica said, there’s a lot of fuel in the canyon.