Posts Tagged ‘Pfeiffer State Park’

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.

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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.

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

July 5, 2008

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

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

July 4, 2008

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.

5:15pm 7/3: Update from Jonathan Farrington at Ventana

July 3, 2008

This is Lisa Goettel, posting on behalf of Jonathan Farrington, who is calling me with updates by phone when he is without internet. This is from Jonathan at Ventana after driving to Molera base camp and back at 5:08pm this evening:

View of the Gorge at 5pm on 7/3

View of the Gorge at 5pm on 7/3

Last night the fire burned actively on Big Sur gorge above Ventana and three structures were lost. Houses that have burned include: the Conant or Tower house (formerly Ventana property,) Judge Burleigh’s home, and the Golog home. Johnny Rivers’ home is intact.

The fire is very active on both sides of the gorge below Ventana near Pfeiffer State park.

All businesses are fine along the highway corridor. The fire has not crossed the highway anywhere between Andrew Molera and Grimes Canyon. The fire is not very active or visible from the highway north of Little Sur gorge/ Manuel Peak area at this time.

The report from Ventana, as of 5pm Thursday:

Upon a drive-through of the property this afternoon, all Inn structures are intact. The property is running on generator and the water supply is being utilized for structure protection and working the fire line. All employee housing is intact. The fire has burned into the campground, and strike teams are in place actively protecting the inn and employee housing.