Posts Tagged ‘palo colorado’

7/11 – Last Big Sur Community Fire Meeting Notes

July 11, 2008

With an intimate little turnout, the meeting began with announcement that this will be our last fire meeting in Big Sur.

Mike Dietrich and the IC will be transitioning to another fire team on Monday. Mike D. introduced Mike Boone who will be replacing him and whose team will ensure the fire remains where it is, safely in containment lines.

The fire was a “happy fire” today – crews were able to bring fire all the way to the top of the northern containment lines before humidities came up and they had to stop burning operations for the moment.  When conditions are more favorable they will be able to burn all the way down to the Los Padres dam, sealing off the threat to Carmel Valley.

The area from Bottcher’s Gap to Devil’s peak will be complete by tomorrow morning which will tie up the Palo Colorado threat. (clapping!!)

There’s one little spot along Old Coast Road that is still being worked by crews.

The fire is still active down south in the southeast corner – it’s number one focus for the east side crew. The fire didn’t move today and fire line construction is under way.

The road is opening south of Coast Gallery on Sunday morning.

The Basin fire is not out – it’s still very active, though the west side is 90% contained.  The fire is just under the Observatory right now, but is laying down and they expect crews will save it.

The fire did burn through Tassajara and four outbuildings were lost, but everyone is safe.
Next steps are to continue burning the eastern line until the fire is fully contained.

Mike Boone who is coming in is a local guy who knows the area and his crew will be based out of Molera, eating at our restaurants, helping our economy and taking care of spot fires.

Spot fires are popping up and will continue to do so in the coming weeks and months. 99% of them will be benign. Please be very discerning when reporting a spot fire – only report true threats.

The local fire team will be downsizing significantly to 100-150 people starting Monday do clean up.  They hope to be at a point very soon where they’re not staffed during the evenings. 5-7 more days until they’re downsized further into a true rehab mode.

Sam Farr was at the meeting and had these messages to share:

Thanks for calling me with your concerns. I have brought pressure to get the road opened and we’re glad it worked.  Mike and Frank have been great through this and we’ve learned a lot. We passed a great bill this week to open up emergency funds for the forest service and fire fighting.  We’re working like crazy to get all the fires in California declared a national disaster so personal losses can use FEMA support.  Keep all your notes on expenditures made and track income lost!

I sponsored, and Congress unanimously adopted a resolution on Saturday to thank all the firefighters – a framed copy was given to Frank Pinney.

Lessons: we can do a way better job of mapping, we need local people to stay in and work as emergency personnel in this situation.  Let’s really take the lessons learned.  Make a note now, while it’s still fresh, of the things you think we could better do to prepare ourselves in the future.  We can be a model for how other communities do it.  Let’s turn this into a learning lesson and asset for all of us.

On to social service announcements, etc:

The Health Center is back in business full time – they will continue to provide free and discounted services to everyone who has been financially impacted by the fire.  More than 900 cases were treated by Health Center volunteers since this started, and they will continue to serve the firefighters on the new crew coming in to Molera.  Thank you Sharon!!

SPCA will have free pet food on Sunday between 10-2 at Fernwood.

CPOA is transitioning from a relief effort to a planning phase – determining next steps how to best assist the community get back on it’s feet.  Checks not yet picked up will be available at the Grange on Tuesday.

Rob at OES expects to have the damage assessment report done within the next week and half, and then we’ll have a “one-stop-shop” available to provide assistance in the rebuild.  Pick up and fill out a form from them at the Grange – it will tell you more about what services will be available when this is “shop” is open and help you define your needs.

The essential impact of this fire in Big Sur is currently estimated at $781 million – including environmental impact, lost business and property, etc.  This is huge, and we can also remember the hundreds of billions of dollars saved by this fire.

Acknowledgements, appreciations and team medallions were presented from Mike at the IC to Frank Pinney and Martha, as well as to Sharon Carey and Danielle Latta for medical support.

More certificates, team pins of appreciations or rounds of thanks were presented by the IC to Jeannie Alexander, John Farrington, Jess Mason, Cody Oliver, Penny Verigge, Barbara Ray Daughters, Sequoia Chappellet, Jaci Pappas, Leona in IC communications, the translator and Lisa Goettel.

As we speak there is a BAER team that is working on rehabilitation planning and will be working with CAL FIRE and the OES to mitigate landslides and the ongoing impact of this fire.

The CPOA and Chamber are actively working together right now, finding ways to rebuild the community. Frank is encouraging both groups to begin planning for road work etc. that will ensure our safety in the months to come.

KUSP will keep a web page up through the recovery efforts.


7/10 am: Brief Fire Update from one of our local Fire Fighters

July 10, 2008

(You can visit as well)

“Went to 6 am briefing this morning and from all reports the containment line from Bottchers to Devils Peak held overnight and the fire did not make any extreme runs at the line. Today will be a critical day of burn out operations and it looks like wind and air conditions will be favorable for this operation. Not in the clear yet, but working steadily toward it.”

Palo Colorado Fire Summary for July 7th & Big News for Big Sur

July 8, 2008

(If you would like to see photos of the fire activity in Palo Colorado Canyon or comment on my postings, please visit Thank you!)

Tonight’s meeting brought good news for Big Sur.

As of 10:00 am July 8th, many of our friends to the South can go home. The evacuation from the mouth of our road to Julia Pfeiffer Burns will be changed from a Mandatory Evacuation to an Evacuation Advisory. In the same area, the hard road closure will become a soft road closure, meaning that residents presenting local ID or Big Sur Passes and emergency personnel are allowed on the road.

There is still a Mandatory Evacuation and hard road close from Julia Pfeiffer Burns to Lucia.

The next community meeting for Big Sur residents will occur at 7:00 pm back in the Multi Agency Facility. Our meetings continue to be held at the Mid Coast Fire Station.

Residents of Big Sur should still be advised that the evacuation could become mandatory if fire activity changes. It is not yet time to bring everything home and start unpacking. There is still fire activity, and if the area is deemed unsafe, the evacuation will become mandatory again. Let’s all hope that doesn’t happen.

I am not sure at this point what businesses and services will be opened or closed. Residents should check the “Notices” section of to see what businesses have posted hours of operation.

We are all advised to be cautious while driving on the roads. Many animals are being displaced due to the fire, and there has been a lot of animal activity on the roads and on properties. With an influx of people back down South, everyone should drive with extreme caution to prevent and accident.

Also, please err on the side of caution when allowing household pets outside. (Personally, I only let my animals out in full sun, and at times of heavy animal activity, only on leash.)

Onto Palo Colorado News

In Palo Colorado, we continue to be under evacuation advisory with a soft close on the road. Emergency workers and residents with Palo Colorado ID’s, Special Permits issued by Cheryl, or any proof of residence such as a utility bill, tax form, rental agreement, etc. may access the road.

If you have a worker coming into Palo Colorado, you may meet them at the mouth of the road and escort them in.

We were told that we will still be under Evacuation Advisory until all dozer lines are in, all lines are back burned, and the winds are with us. Because each of those factors are contingent upon other outlying factors, at this point we can not know when we will be back to normal. For now and at least through the weekend, we must still be ready to evacuate.

Due to the heat and extreme conditions under which our brave women and men are fighting this fire, two fire fighters were effected by heat stroke and needed to be given medical attention. Our thoughts are with them, and we hope to get an update of their conditions tomorrow.

Jake detailed the back burning operation, which continued to go well and according to plan. Fire fighters worked until 4:30 am. Due to good burning conditions, they were able to get a lot of black on the ground. There were various spot fires, but all were contained. The fire made runs along (Old) Coast Rd and fire fighters had to fight to keep this under control, which they did.

The did not finish firing today, because the (Old) Coast Rd road gave them so much trouble. They will not put any more fire on the ground until this section of back burning is finished and the weather is with us. They were not able to use aerial support today because of the amount of smoke.

When they are able to begin more back burning, they will finish along Skinner Ridge and Devil’s Peak. At this point, there are two fixed observers with a dozer waiting and watching this part of the open line.

We were given a personalized weather report from Scott. Beginning Tuesday morning, we are under a Red Flag Warning. This means that there will be extremely low relative humidity, high temperatures, winds, and dry fuels, all of which come together to be a hazardous situation for fire.

Now through Thursday they expect with N/NW winds. A high pressure system will move over the area bringing light, off shore winds, although we may see some gusts. This pressure system is expected to move out Friday or Saturday. They expect very hot temperatures through Friday. There is a 60% chance that on Friday or Saturday winds will shift and come from the South, although these winds are not supposed to be strong.

Scott expressed that it is very unlikely we will have thunderstorms, even though some news programs have had talk of thunderstorms. While they have occurred under these conditions in the past, this is a freak weather occurrence and is not likely.

We are reminded that it is hard to predict our weather and fire activity due to our many microclimates. The way the fire moves will depend on if it is slope driven or driven by the weather.

Cheryl fielded questions from the community and talked about the contingency plans. A contingency plan continues to be worked out involving White Rock and Wild Cat. I am not 100% clear on the details of this plan, and will report back tomorrow with specifics.

We were told that they think the fire will burn to containment lines. This means that they expect most of the forest to burn. They plan to defend Tassajara and will spot fire around it in preparation. They feel confident in being able to secure Tassajara.

We were told that when fire lines are made, the fire break cut by the dozer is two blades thick. When the area is back burned, they get it to at least 30 feet, then feed the fire into canyons and further along, getting as much black on the ground as possible, while still controlling the fire.

We were reminded that when all of this is over, we must be vigilant with our property and road clearance, and we must come together to work on the Mid Coast Fire Station. Right now, the Mid Coast Fire Station needs volunteers to answer the phones. Peter and Janie donated payers to the Mid Coast Fire Station. Any help is welcome.

We are reminded that while the back burning operation continues to go well, there are many dead trees and brush in the canyon which would pose a large threat if a fire were to reach the canyon. We are reminded that they hope this does not happen in relation to the Basin Complex Fire, but as we saw in October, a fire could happen in the canyon without warning at any time, and we must be ready.

We were joined by a local who is the Military and Veterans Affairs Commissioner for the 5th District. The 5th district includes Big Sur, Carmel, Carmel Valley, and Monterey. We were told that Dave Potter, the 5th District County Supervisor, is working with the rest of his office and the Coast Property Owners Association to plan for recovery when this is all over. They want to help and support us.

On Saturday there will be a benefit to support the fire relief fund being headed up by the CPOA. The benefit is on Saturday at The Big Sur Gallery in the Barnyard. There will be an auction of paintings and sculptures all created and donated by local Big Sur artists. From 3:00pm until 8:00pm there will be refreshments outside on the patio, weather permitting. The auction (officiated by Magnus of the Henry Miller Library) will begin at 5:00pm. You may also donate directly to the fire relief fund. For more information, please visit or call 831-624-1172.

I hope you are all well and dreaming of rain.

7/8 12am: Tonight’s Community Meeting – Big News!

July 8, 2008

Thanks thanks thanks to Linda Rowland-Jones who took tonight’s minutes:

Minutes for community meeting 7/7/08 — Carmel Middle School
Lori Iverson / Fire information
Mike Dietrich / IC
Frank Pinney / BSVFB
Robert Clayburn / OES

It was a really big group at CMS tonight, probably 200 people. Hotline now has translation services. A big round of applause was given to hot line workers. Hot line workers are asking for volunteers to help out, they’re exhausted.

Current status:
Basin West update—

It was a very busy last day and night, with firefights into the wee hours of the morning. From 11:30 pm on there was 25-35 mph down canyon wind, but the fire stopped short of Old Coast Highway, with crews scrambling until 4am. The good news is the larger fuels are burning out, and the backburns have been more successful, and worked faster than expected.
From Mt. Manuel to Pfeiffer State park the area is secure, while on the north crews continue to expand line from Los Padres Dam to Skinner’s Ridge. The red line indicates a burn ¼ to ½ mile from the Old Coast Highway in an effort to try to secure the northwest corner of the fire to prevent the fire from reaching Palo Colorado. (The red lines on the map are where the fire is still active, the black where they’re confident that all is much better, or “secure”.) From Ventana to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park the fire is looking “stable.”

The same down canyon wind a blessing in the south front of the fire; IC is confident that we’ll be secure on the southwest part of the fire by Tuesday night or Wed. However, there is still active heat to the south at this time.

Basin East update—
They are trying to connect w/ the Indians fire, securing the whole southwest piece of fire. Above the Tassajara drainage the fire moved east today, into the Uncle Sam Mountain area. IC will continue to monitor the weather to secure the area around Devil’s Mtn.; they hope to close the door on northern piece at Palo Colorado. In the north east the fire is not yet contained.

From Julia Pfeiffer south to Lucia still there is still mandatory evacuation due to fire activity and back burns. South of Lucia the mandatory evacuation order has been lifted. While the fire is not over, it is still a hot fire burning in grey and black areas, progress has been made.

There was an important meeting today involving the Monterey County Sheriff, BSVFB Chief Pinney, and representatives from county and state government including US Congressman Sam Farr, Supervisor Dave Potter as well as community leaders from Big Sur. The IC has re-evaluated mandatory evacuation orders.

There is an evacuation advisory still in effect for Palo Colorado Road.
The checkpoint at intersection of Palo Colorado road and Highway One remains the same.
The mandatory evacuation from Palo Colorado road to Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park has been downgraded to an advisory evacuation, effective tomorrow, Tuesday July 8, at 10am.
This news was met with whoops and sobs from the crowd. After the meeting people embraced, laughed and cried. We get to go home!

Residents and critical service workers (PGE, phone etc.) will be allowed into Big Sur with proper identification. Passes for ridge road access for residents EAST OF HIGHWAY ONE with local identification for (driver’s license, utility bill, etc.) will be distributed at the Multi-agency Facility in Big Sur from 10am to noon tomorrow. This is not a re-entry, which involves implementing a lot of services completely. Fire activity could give cause for a return to mandatory evacuation at some point in time. It will be a give and take situation working with the firefighters and law enforcement, since the fire is still active up on the hills, which will be true for the next several weeks, possibly months.

The community will collaborate with firefighters and law enforcement to protect property, and there may be road closures in this process. There will be rocks, debris and fire crews on the road. It’s important to drive safely and slowly. This is an adjustment in the operational plan, not full re-entry yet. There will be barricades on the east side of Highway One on the ridges. Law enforcement will work in partnership with the community, and they are working towards a reentry plan with other community agencies.

Serious public health and safety concerns still exist in Big Sur. With the advisory activation, the primary focus will be on those areas with known damage; and the OES will bring in every possible resource to fix those problems. They will establish a fire assistance center to respond to initial questions on repair services, etc., location to be determined. The next step will be to establish a full local assistance center, with different service agencies represented. This is a small victory which won’t immediately translate into benefits. But OES will continue to push for a management assistance grant, for federal and state resources and funding to provide services.

Good news, we are progessing towards reentry and recovery! Tomorrow’s community meeting will be at the MAF in Big Sur at 7pm.

July 6th Palo Colorado Fire Summary

July 7, 2008

(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

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

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.”

7/6 9pm: Tonight’s Meeting

July 6, 2008

Notes from tonight:

From Mike Dietrich, Incident Commander:

  • It was a great day!
  • We began backfiring south of Palo Colorado Canyon towards Bixby Canyon. They intend to continue the burning and get it to the Old Coast Highway tonight.
  • Fire made it to the boy scout camp and the fire line held. The camp is secure.
  • We’re very close to getting the northern line to the Little Sur River.
  • There was a little bit of burning inside Big Sur today. Crews are looking at trees that are a hazard and mopping up hot spots along the highway.
  • The line is holding at Dolan Ridge. Dolan had seven residences at risk – teams led the fire down around them and they pulled off a tremendous save. Everyone and everything is safe.
  • Plans for tomorrow and the next couple days: continue mopping up inside Big Sur and securing the area. Working Bottchers Gap to Dani Ridge tomorrow – if this is successful we’ll be able to close the door on the Palo Colorado threat.
  • Next piece (2-3 days out) is to begin burning along the old Marble Cone line at the north end of the fire. The DC-10 and the Martin Mars (Super Scooper) are working there.
  • Current strategy with limited resources is to box things out, work in specific areas then move on to the next hot spot.

From Frank:

  • There was a flare up on Partington today, an area we thought was cooled down. It was on the south slope just below one of the houses that had been saved and the fire wanted to move west, which would be a bad thing. A Brigade engine jumped on it and knocked it down while it was easily manageable. (Lots of clapping.)
  • The Brigade finished their gelling operation and have gelled 54 structures.
  • Re-entry is now at the top of the list and in the planning phase. There is a member of the OES (Office of Emergency Services) team from Monterey County working with Frank on this. “We are working on the first phase that will get us the ability to do infrastructure repair and make it safe for residents to return. The fire is still cooking out there and there are lots of hot spots that will need to be taken into consideration as we start fixing things (laying plastic pipe for instance, would melt right now if it was laid down in some places.) The sheriff is extremely anxious to be as collaborative as he can possibly be with us in this process.” This planning will take everything into consideration, including the possibility of returns for in-and-out visits (get stuff, insurance specs), and those who are in areas that have not burned or lost infrastructure.
  • No more structures have been lost.

Q&A Answers:

  • Frank: There have been two phases of the mandatory evacuation. The first phase gave residents an option to sign a waiver and stay. When the fire got more intense, the sheriff’s office upgraded the evacuation to say that anyone who stayed was subject to arrest. The sheriff’s have been working with us to interpret this for the benefit of the community. I recognize that the evacuation zone has the appearance now of being a “prison” of sorts to people who have stayed. But this is not the intention and the people who have stayed have been extremely cooperative with us – so given the circumstances, tomorrow will be another day and we’ll look at all the options available.
  • Gel questions: Ask questions or come get a Q&A sheet on the gel from Sharon Torrence. (Will post this sheet on the site in the Notices section tomorrow.)
  • Frank: Residents who are still in Big Sur: If there’s a flare-up that’s a true threat and it’s after hours, please call 911. Please use discretion. We’ve been called out for a couple stumps in burned out areas that were not a threat and we have limited resources.
  • Mike: There will be a substantial heating and drying weather pattern coming in, moderate offshore flow Monday-Wed. with the potential for thunderstorms (and lightning) Thursday and Friday.
  • Frank: Houses are gelled on Pfeiffer and things are looking very good there.
  • Mike: Near Tassajara the fire has only moved about ¼ mile today and there is air support to keep it moving as slowly as possible toward the Tassajara area.
  • Backburning did not happen as planned off the highway near Esalen today, but they hope to begin tonight if the conditions are right – going from Anderson Canyon south to Hot Springs Canyon.
  • We have the DC-10 now but it could be moved down to the Gap fire. The super scooper will stay here in the area to use as we need.
  • Not every residential area will be represented at tomorrow’s re-entry meeting. We’re doing a scaled down group of reps, including three members of the community.

Rob, a rep from the OES was at the meeting and spoke about plans for re-entry.  I took lots of notes on this too, but am clarifying and checking info with him again before I post that.  It will be posted tomorrow.

Updates from Palo Colorado Canyon

July 6, 2008

July 6th, 2008

3:00 pm

Hello! I hope everyone in the Big Sur community is staying safe and being vigilant. Thank you to everyone in the greater community for your interest and support.

My name is Tara Wings and I live in Palo Colorado Canyon. For those not from Big Sur, we are located on Highway 1, just North of where the Highway is (as this point) closed to all non-emergency traffic. Our road has a soft close on it, meaning that only Palo Colorado residents and emergency workers can come through. Please do not attempt to access the road if you do not live here, as you will not be allowed in without Palo Colorado ID or a special permit.

I have been writing summaries of the nightly Mid-Coast Fire meetings at our fire house in Palo Colorado and sending them to our neighborhood e-mail list. I thought that this information may be helpful for those in the greater community.

I do not have any special knowledge of fire activity or plans. I do not have any extra contacts with Unified Command. I merely take detailed notes during our meetings and attempt to rearticulate the information in an approachable and understandable way.

Please understand that I am new to this area and do not actually know first hand where many of the specific locations are that I am writing about, let alone how to spell them. I very well may get things wrong, but I always err on the side of leaving something out rather than putting up mis-information. Please write to the webmaster if you find an error. The entire point of this is to put out accurate information, and I would love your help in doing so.

The only reason that I am able to share this information with you is because of the wonderful, local Mid Coast Fire Brigade who has kept all operations and plans so transparent with us. They are part of our community and are fighting for us. They live here and are the reason that we in Palo Colorado have been allowed to stay for this long. We are trusting them with our homes, land, and lives, and I would not to put that trust in anyone other than the brave locals that make up the Mid Coast Brigade.

One more word on these summaries. I have originally written them for the residents of Palo Colorado Canyon and that is still their primary purpose. Throughout the post you will find references to phone numbers that are included at the bottom of the e-mail that I send to our neighborhood. These numbers will be deleted from the general post.

While I would love to have the time and energy to write a separate post just for this blog which could be more explanatory for those who do not live in Big Sur or the Canyon, I do not. I will try to set up a separate blog that includes photos.

I hope this helps. Please consider donating to the Big Sur Fire Fund, by sending a check to CPOA, PO Box 59, Big Sur, CA 93920 (note “fire relief” on checks). Contributions may also be wired to the CPOA Big Sur Fire Relief Fund. To wire funds, contact Pam Peck 831 624-5418.

There are many of us who are out of work, out of home, and out of luck. For everyone in Big Sur and the Canyon, my heart is with all of you!

July 5th 2008, Palo Colorado Fire Meeting Summary

Once again, there have been some major changes in the way they will approach tackling this fire. During the day, there was more fire activity than they had previously expected. This means that the fire moved closer to us faster than they thought it would. Before, when the fire was moving slowly, they had time and the ability to go direct on the fire. Also, the weather predicts that the winds will begin to come in from the East starting Tuesday. At this point the winds are still with us. Because the fire has come closer and they want to be extra safe, they plan to start back burning Sunday between 10:00 and 11:00 am. (This morning.)

This means that we will all see smoke and some of us will see flames. There are some homes that will have very close views of the back burn. If we ever feel unsafe, we are asked to calmly leave. Because there will be extra fire vehicles on the road, we are asked to drive with extreme caution.

If we can stay off the road entirely tomorrow, this would be best. If we can, let’s stay home, give them the road, let them do their job and help them protect us.

There will not be an automatic mandatory evacuation when they start the back burn. There is, however, always the possibility that they will need us to evacuate. We should all be ready to go, in case we have to. If we were told to leave, they would do a staggered evacuation as previously detailed. Those living up on Garrapatos Rd and King Rd should use the Glendeven Ranch exit which will be marked with pink flags and a sign that says “emergency route.”

If we need to evacuate, the SPCA is here to help us. If you have large animals please call them to alert them. Their number is at the bottom of this e-mail.

(Ok, I hope I get all of this next part right because this is a lot of information. Please please please correct me if I am wrong on any details. I may miss things. I don’t want anyone to see fire activity that I did not detail here and think that something is wrong. I do not have any special knowledge of what should or should not be happening. When I am writing my notes, if I am unclear on anything I err on the side of not putting something in, rather that giving out false information. So please don’t expect for all fire activity to be previewed here. We should all be trusting the situation, but staying alert.)

The plan with the back burn is that they are going to come at it hard with everything they’ve got. The strategy is to start tomorrow between 10:00 am and 11:00 am at Skinner Ridge. They will have two teams positioned in two different places who will work to come together to secure Bottchers Gap. Securing Bottchers Gap will put us all in a much more secure place.

They plan to take the back burn down Bixby Ridge to Coast Rd, and I believe they said they will go just South of Chapman Ranch Rd. (I have no idea where that is, so please excuse me if that doesn’t make sense.)

There will be a lot of activity in the skies. There will be a lot of helicopters and fixed wing support. We expect to see the DC-10 back again. (The DC-10 was here today and dropped fire retardant on Bixby Mountain.) This operation will be a high priority in the larger picture of the whole Basin Complex Fire, so we can expect to see a lot of support tomorrow.

The operation will be going on all day into the evening. If they need to keep working at night, they will.

Do not expect to see any crews up on Longridge tomorrow.

They expect to fire the boyscout camp.

They expect there to be spotting. They expect the fire to break containment lines at specific places and they expect to be able to combat this.

Let’s all put our thoughts with the fire fighters.

We then talked about access to Palo Colorado Rd.

There continues to be a soft close on Palo Colorado Rd. This means that only people who live here, emergency personnel, and workers who have been given special clearance may come through. Starting tomorrow, we expect CHP to be more strict at the mouth of the road.

What this means for us is that we are all asked to show proof of residence. This could take the form of an ID like a license that says a Palo Colorado address. Also acceptable would be a tax form, a lease, a rental agreement, a utility bill, etc. Any type of official form that somehow links your name to Palo Colorado. If for some reason, you do not have any of these documents (like me) you are to see Cheryl at the meeting tomorrow. Bring your license and you will be issued a Palo Colorado Access Permit. Do not loose this, as Cheryl is only allowed to issue one per person.

Again, the permit from Cheryl is only necessary if you have somehow hit the perfect storm (like me), where you do not own property here, carry a license from somewhere else, receive mail at a P.O. Box, do not pay utilities, and do not have a rental agreement. If you have proof of any of these things linking you to Palo Colorado, they are sufficient to show at the mouth of the road, and you do not need a permit from Cheryl.

We then talked about the fire activity that was seen today.

The fire line continued up Uncle Sam Mountain to Little Pines, into the Little Sur Drainage, around the boyscout camp. (I hope I got that right.) A DC-10 dropped fire retardant on Bixby Mountain. It was quite spectacular.

(David took a great photo of this. I wanted to send this to all of you in a separate e-mail but we have packed the camera cable! I will send it along when we find it and when we do not need to be cautious about overloading the DSL.)

It was explained that this and many of the fires in California are so large right now because we continue to keep the fires from burning out the dead trees (because we live among them) and therefore as time goes by the fuel load continues to increase. This is why clearance is so important. Because we have been doing such a good job clearing, we are in much better shape if one day this or another fire hits us. We must continue to be vigilant with our clearing. We need to continue clearing on personal property, which includes the sides of the main road.

We were told that while the fire in Santa Barbara is large (at the meeting is was announced that 5,000 people have been evacuated) we have not lost any personnel to that fire.

We were told that to further prepare for the fire, we should cover any plastic windows, plastic skylights, drafty woodstoves, or vents that lead to outside with aluminum foil and duct tape. This is to prevent any melting plastic and any embers from getting into the house.

There was more discussion in relation to Thermo-Gel. There were questions about taking off window screens or leaving them on when applying Thermo-Gel. This is being figured out and should be answered tomorrow. We were told that if we want Thermo-Gel, we can call Cliff Wong. (see number at the bottom the e-mail.)

We were told that there are more free storage PODS that have been dropped off for our use. They are located at Rio Rd in front of the Chevron. If you want to use a POD, you need to bring your own lock (I have two extras that I bough for people- I can bring them to the meeting) and call Alex (see bottom). Remember to write down the number of your POD.

We were invited to come to a U-Pick at the Eichorn’s tomorrow. It is suggested that we carpool or walk. There will be no farmer’s market.

Jan said that she can bring back the workers who have been doing such good work in the neighborhood. Please call her before 8:00am. (See the bottom for her number.) We are reminded to pay them their full $12/hr and to pay the driver for gas. We are always encouraged to tip. Please provide extra water as it is expected to get hot.

We are reminded that even though the DSL has picked up some speed, to refrain from over loading it with large files, such as photos. Let’s make sure we can all get the info we need tomorrow and send pictures on Monday.

I would like to also suggest that everyone be extra cautious at night with themselves and their pets. There are a lot of animals displaced by this fire. At least on my property, we have been hearing a lot of night-time animal action.

After the meeting there was an extra exciting piece of news. Allegro Pizza in the Barnyard would like to give a discount to anyone with a Palo Colorado ID. Please don’t hesitate in getting me a slice.

I hope to see you all at the meeting tomorrow!

7/6 12:45pm: Update from Frank Pinney

July 6, 2008

Just got off the phone with Frank and asked questions I’ve been hearing, as well as getting some good updates:

– The lines along the highway through the whole central valley, Molera down to Ventana, are holding well, including the area up above the residences through Pfeiffer State Park.

– There was a flare up on Partington earlier today, crews were on it right away. (Sorry, no details yet.)

– The primary focus today is on building and holding the northern and southern lines before the expected weather change. There are burning operations happening south of Palo Colorado at the old Marble Cone line and reinforcements working down at Dolan.

– Re: rumors of looting: There have been no official reports of theft filed, so it has made official investigation of the rumors impossible. Unofficial reports confirm one generator missing from a residence, but there are no other confirmed reports of thefts that we know of. There are scouts going through back roads and visiting residences on the west side of the highway occasionally doing contingency planning, but ALL OF THEM WILL BE IN OFFICIAL FOREST SERVICE OR FIRE VEHICLES. Residents are encouraged to check in with other locals you see who may be sharing and borrowing supplies from one another. If you see any suspicious activity in your area, please either contact the Sheriff’s department or call the Community Hotline – 831-667-2317 and give as much detail as you can.

– Re-entry: Meetings with county officials are taking place now working on plans for re-entry. Right now the intention is have re-entry for infrastrucure re-build before re-entry for residents. Resident re-entry is likely several days away, but re-entry for infrastructure support could happen mid-week.