Friday, June 27, 2008

General Update.... is a general update.

If you ever wondered....or if outsiders ever wondered....why people fight and struggle to find, stay and live in Big Sur.....

My favorite part of this clip is at the end: Linda Sayre....a touch therapist...will be available to help those affected by the fire.....

I've got updates on the Basin Complex and the Indians fires supplied by the Forest Service. See attached documents.

Now that we know many in media are reading these emails, I have a simple request to make. Please make it clear that most of the businesses in Big Sur are OPEN!
The Big Sur valley, with the highest concentration of businesses on the Big Sur coast can be reached from the north, - Monterey, Carmel area. Tonight there will be plenty going on.
The businesses to the south of Esalen Institute are open and can be reached through Cambria, San Simeon.

Entertainment going on this weekend:

Soul River Studios at the Village Shops will be hosting a benefit for the Big Sur Fire Brigade from 5:00PM -
Fernwood Resort will have the Stanimals, a somewhat local band, performing from 9:00PM - midnight.

Fernwood Resort once again hosts the Stanimals for another performance - with a few new members.
Big Sur River Inn will have music on the back deck from Noon - 4:00PM

Remember, for Big Sur residents and emergency personell, you can pick up your pass to go beyond the roadblocks starting this morning at Big Sur Station. You have to show up in person and have a positive proof of ID.

From Joe Burnett, VWS

Hey folks- The Big Sur fire continues to burn and is still threatening the

two coastal nest sites. The backcountry nest was burned over, but the

redwood nest tree and the grove still remain intact. It is still unknown

whether the chick survived the burn-over, but we have seen GPS data from

female #231 that shows she has returned to the nest tree twice since the

fire burned through. A fog layer moved in along the lower canyon areas

along the coast and has significantly increased humidity and slowed the

burning in the lower half of the canyons, which has been a real saving

grace for the two coastal nest sites. We currently have limited access

along highway one and we have been able to check up on these two nests

daily. If the fire gets closer to the highway, they may keep us out for

safety reasons. Pinnacles has offered up their red-card staff (Scott!) to

assist in the event this fire gets further down the canyons and starts to

pose an emminent threat to the chicks. Luckily, both nests are fairly

accessible from the highway and we should have a good window to get in

there at the current burn rate.

Sadly, we are still missing one adult condor, female #222. All of the

California field sites are on the lookout for her. She is the mother of

our Partington chick and was last seen on the day of the evacuation (June

22nd). We are being very persistent with our daily headcounts and thank

everyone at the other field sites for their help in accounting for all the

birds. This is a very precarious time for the central California flock

and we hope our losses will be minimal. Access is still very restricted

around the fire, it could be weeks before they let us back in to assess

the damage. A big Thanks to all of you for your help and support, we

really appreciate it. I'll keep you posted...Joe

You can see photographs and get information about the Condor rescue facilitated by the US Coast Guard at

You can also donate to the condor efforts to help VWS with this trying situation.

That's all I've got this morning.

Total acreage burned in the Basin Complex fire: 26,763
Percent contained: 3%
Expected containment: Not determined
Structures damaged/destroyed: 16 residence, 2 outbuildings.
Engines: 54
Crews: 24
Dozers: 9
Air tankers: 7
Helicopters: 3
Total personnel: 743

Current situation: The Gallery Fire and the Basin Fire have burned together. The fire activity was relatively quiet during the night. However the fire is expected to burn actively today at elevations above 2000 feet. A wind shift to the S/SE has occurred at some elevations of the fire. Structure protection engines remain in place along Partington Ridge, the North Coast Ridge Road and Highway 1. Crews continue to hold the fire east of Highway 1 and south of the community of Big Sur.

Evacuations: Evacuations remain in place in the Partington Ridge area. Should further evacuations be required the Red Cross is prepared to open an evacuation center in Carmel. The SPCA for Monterey County will operate an emergency animal evacuation shelter for household pets (dogs, cats, etc.) adjacent to any American Red Cross evacuation site. Please contact the SPCA first at 831-373-2631 or at 831-646-5534 (after hours) for information on evacuating horses and livestock.

This morning's Salinas Californian

June 27, 2008

It may burn all summer

Salinas Californian

If the two massive fires scorching Los Padres National Forest merge, the conflagration could grow into the largest blaze ever recorded in Monterey County, a U.S. Forest Service spokesman said.

"Expect smoke all summer," said Rich Phelps, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service at the Indians Fire site.

The Basin and Gallery fires, sparked by lightning Saturday, have now grown together into the 26,763-acre Basin Complex blaze.

About 20 miles to the east and in a more remote area of the forest, the Indians Fire is burning as the largest wildfire in the state. The fire, about 71 percent contained, has scorched 59,066 acres and has destroyed two homes since it was sparked by an escaped campfire June 8.

"The area between the two fires is remote wilderness, and the opportunities to control or stop the fire there are pretty limited," Phelps said.

The last great blaze in the Monterey County portion of Los Padres National Forest was in 1977, when the Marble-Cone Fire burned about 178,000 acres.

The next largest fire, the Kirk Creek fire of 1999, charred about 87,000 acres.

Both Marble-Cone and Kirk Creek fires were caused by lightning and were roughly in the same area of Los Padres as the current wildfires.

Like the current fires, Marble-Cone and Kirk Creek each started as separate blazes that eventually merged.

The Basin Complex fire is 3 percent contained and burning on the eastern side of the Big Sur River drainage. It's heading south and to the fork in the Big Sur River, north toward Manual Peak and east into Pine Valley. Tassajara Hot Springs Resort is still under mandatory evacuation.

Mark Savage, a spokesman for the U.S. Forest Service handling the Basin Complex fire, said fog and high humidity overnight helped slow the blaze Thursday.

"The (fire) activity is going into the higher elevations where we don't have as much population," Savage said.

For the Indians Fire, an evacuation advisory was issued Thursday for residents of Carmel Valley and Arroyo Seco roads to Tassajara Road, and also Cachagua Road from Tassajara Road to the Nason Road turnoff.

Evacuation order remains

Arroyo Seco residents remain under a mandatory evacuation order.

Because the Indians Fire is moving into more remote and steep terrain, fire crews aren't able to reach all burning areas, and more isolated portions will smolder for months, Phelps said.

Fire crews, he said, are focusing on building more containment lines near Arroyo Seco and Carmel Valley roads to keep flames from spreading into populated areas.

Highway 1 remains closed between Esalen to the south and the Ventana Inn to the north. Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park remains closed. All national forest lands north of Nacimiento-Ferguson Road are closed, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Curtis Vincent, spokesman for the Forest Service, said many tourists visiting the county will be affected by the Basin Complex and Indians fires this summer.

"It will make it difficult for people to travel from the north or south," Vincent said. "But we are encouraging people to use the areas," because some businesses north of the road closure are open.

Nepenthe hopes to reopen

Kirk Gafill, general manager of Nepenthe restaurant on the Big Sur cliffs and president of the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce, said the area's major businesses remain closed because of the fire and highway closure, though he hopes to reopen the renowned restaurant by Saturday.

"At this point, the only thing that's preventing us from opening is (fire officials) deciding that it's safe enough to bring people down here," Gafill said.

Monterey-Salinas Transit is temporarily suspending bus service to the Nepenthe area in Big Sur on its Line 22.

Air quality will be most affected in areas closest to the fires, according to the Monterey Bay Unified Air Pollution Control District.

San Ardo, Bradley and Greenfield have air quality that is "unhealthy for sensitive groups," according to the district, which recommends that people with heart or lung disease, older adults and children reduce prolonged or heavy exertion.

The rest of the county is at moderate air quality levels, and the district recommends "unusually sensitive people should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion."

6/27 am Xasauan report:
6:30AM June 27 Update:

The latest satellite pass failed to pick up any new fire activity on the Tassajara/Pine Valley side of the fire, but found the fire actively moving deeper into Hot Springs Canyon (above Esalen) and making runs up the side of Kandlebinder Peak (putting fire, for the first time, at the edge of the Little Sur Watershed). It also found some renewed fire activity in Partington and Anderson Canyons.
The fire is becoming more deeply entrenched in Hot Springs Canyon and appears to be burning very actively there.

8:38 am post by Cynthia Bianchetta (two volunteers arrived yesterday after we reported yesterday that they could use help at their home at Burns. One, Michael Minasian,came from Berkeley.)

I am taking calls when we can hear the phone,
since we're outside, from your people for some neighbors
who may need assistance we will use the help
if folks show our neighborhood, neighbors are
driving up & down across Burns Creek bridge to get info,
seems like communication is essential, so yours, as with
Stan's is much appreciated.

In Gratitude,
Cynthia & Daniel

10 pm
post by John and Corrine Handy, Treebones ( )

Currently Corinne and I are out of the country, we travelled to Canada to celebrate my mothers 80th birthday. We are physically in Canada but our hearts and minds are back with our friends in Big Sur. I let South Coast captain of BSVFB, Crystal Gries know that I will fly home as needed for fighting the fire. We also offer our resources to help as needed. Please call me at 805-927-2820 as additional needs arise. One resorce that may be of immediate use is a large trailer for evacuations. It has a GVW of 8,000lbs and can be towed with a 1/2 truck or larger with trailer brakes.
Sincerely, John Handy

A lot of people have asked about Mary Lou and Magnus. I saw Magnus tonight at the meeting. They're ok.
Gratefulliy the Community Meeting tonight revealed only slow advance by the fire. Movement is the same as reported this morning and last night. Weather is helping. More firefighters are moving to the coast, now numbering almost 700. More details later.

Posted by Betty Withrow (, South Coast 8 pm 6/26

Here at Dempsey Flat we are mobilizing with pumps,
trucks, tractors, etc. and clearing breaks for the
possible need to defend this area without outside
support, if that's how it goes.  
We do have people who have volunteered to come and
help us, good friends that they are.
We are south of Nacimiento Road in the Mill Creek
watershed, and the location name of Dempsey Flat is on
file with 911, including GPS.
We have a reservoir with 12 million gallons of water
which is available for immediate use.  CDF and the
Forest Service have used this water many times.  It
has good clearance for helicopters.
Signage is in place on the roads to help out of area
personnel reach the site if necessary.
My phone is not working but I am checking my email
frequently and can use skype if i need to.
Hope you are having a good evening, thanks

Tassajara/Arroyo Seco and Carmel Valley Road Evacuation Advisory
Posted by Stan Russell

Indians Fire
Monterey Ranger District---Los Padres National Forest
June 26, 2008 3:00 PM
A Fire Evacuation Advisory has been issued for the Tassajara Road and south on Carmel Valley Road

A FIRE EVACUATION ADVISORY has been issued for residents of the following areas:

• Carmel Valley Road (G16) from its intersection with Arroyo Seco Road to its intersection with Tassajara Road (5007);
• Tassajara Road from its intersection with Carmel Valley Road to the national forest boundary;
• Cachagua Road from Tassajara Road to the Nason Road turnoff.

An advisory is a precautionary notice and you should prepare for a possible future evacuation.

Weather predictions indicate the possibility of southeast winds accompanied by thunder storms with lightning over the weekend. The purpose of this advisory is to give residents ample time to prepare for a possible evacuation. Residents who require assistance or would find it difficult to evacuate in a timely manner may want to consider relocating until the threat is diminished. Owners of livestock and large animals should consider gathering and transporting their animals now to minimize vehicle congestion along the roads should an evacuation become necessary.

Fire managers expect that there will be additional fire vehicle traffic along roads in the area as firefighters begin construction of contingency lines west of Carmel Valley Road north of Arroyo Seco Road.

Posted by Margie Whitnah (PelicanNetwork editor-at-large)

2:30PM June 26 Update:

Latest thermal imaging data finds heat only at the extreme southern end of the fire (in the wilderness near Indian Valley). While this is probably a good indication that the marine layer is keeping fire activity relatively low, it should not be interpreted as a sign that the fire is going out. A dispersed and slowly burning fire may not create enough heat to be detected. Clouds (and probably smoke) can prevent the satellite from detecting fire. And, of course, the situation can change very quickly and may well have changed since this data was collected. Here's the overview:

Indians Fire 71 percent contained

The Monterey County Herald
Herald Staff Report

Article Last Updated: 06/26/2008 10:39:09 AM PDT

The Indians Fire, caused by an escaped campfire, continues to burn 10 miles west of King City within Los Padres National Forest, Ventana Wilderness and Fort Hunter Liggett, with 58,872 acres scorched so far.

The fire is 71 percent contained, three residences and 13 outbuildings have been destroyed, 422 residences and 140 other structures are threatened, 10 firefighters injured and suppression cost to date is $33.8 million. On scene are 1,817 firefighters, 57 engines, 12 helicopters, seven air tankers and seven bulldozers.

The Gallery Fire continues to move south into the South Fork of the Big Sur River and north toward Manuel Peak, with 20,600 acres burned so far.

The fire is 5 percent contained, 693 firefighters are on scene, with nine bulldozers, two air tankers and six helicopters.

Evacuations remain in effect in the Partington Ridge area, the Red Cross is prepared to open an evacuation center in Carmel, Highway 1 remains closed between Ventana Inn and Esalen Institute, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is closed, escorted convoys for residents only continue through the closure area.


Post by Linda Parker 2:10 pm 6/26

I heard that the Cluett's home and the Boranda house burned down yesterday. Frank Zabrowski told me this. Great news about the other homes that did not burn, such as Richard Wangoe's old home(he had just sold it) and also great news about Cody Oliver's cabin that also survived on Stone Ridge (it was said to have burned down as well).


Thanks to Stan Russell ( ) for his excellent reports. Here is his 1:42:

Total acreage burned in the Basin Complex fire: 23,563
Percent contained: 3%
Expected containment: Not determined
Structures damaged/destroyed: 16 residence, 2 outbuildings. (I'm trying to get a specific list on this. Frank Pinney is compiling it and I will forward this when he has a minute to sit down and write it out - hopefully by the end of today)
Engines: 46
Crews: 19
Dozers: 2
Air tankers:7
Helicopters: 3
Total personnel: 693 (nice to see this number going up)

Dozers are re-establishing old fire breaks.

A new shelter is being established in Gorda for evacuees. More information on this as it comes in.

This fire is now the highest priority in California which will bring us more resources.

As of 1:00 PM today Ventana Inn is allowing their employees back into employee housing, reabsorbing more than 100 people back into their residences.

Some homeowners on Partington Ridge were able to go up on the ridge with an escort today to get things out.

Web resources:
Here is a website that is posting good maps for us:

Governor Schwarzzenegger was here yesterday and gave a press conference which is posted here:
Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief, Frank Pinney joins in with Arnold.

Monterey Herald has a slide show of Basin Complex fire

Another useful website:

Fire information is beginning to be posted throughout Big Sur Valley at businesses and at public bulletin boards. There will now be color maps, updated daily, with the fire perimeters clearly marked as well as a fact sheet by the Forest Service. I've been told that I will begin receiving these by email in pdf format and if/when this happens, I will forward them through this list.

Erin O'Brian is available to help spanish speaking people and be a liaison to the Red Cross - letting them know what is available.
Telephone: 831.667.2892

That it for now.

1:45 pm 6/26
Jeannie Ford says the Wangoe house is saved, contrary to previous fears. That brings the number down to 14 for structures lost.

It is inspiring to see the strength of character in Mike and Heather Gilson. Their house is gone, they were only able to save some books and personals, but they are open at the Bakery. With Michelle, they're surely losing a lot of money, but for the psychologica well being of the Big Sur community they're open to all showing a strong positiveness, and providing free pizzas to firefighters.
1:15 pm 6/26
Cynthia and Daniel Bianchetta can use help clearing around their Burns Creek home.
It is on west side immediately south of the Burns Creek bridge. The fire is in Burns Canyon. It is not moving fast. But the Bianchettas could be threatened quickly. They need help cutting limbs and cleaning up combustible debris. If you can help, the road block will let you through. You can call Cynthia and Danny at 667 2502.

I was wrong about Esalen. Here is a message from

Just to clarify, Esalen has NOT evacuated. We have removed any guests and non residential or non essential personnel from the property. There are still a number of us here making strategic plans for personal safety, safety of structures and the land here and anything else that needs to done to protect and further the well being of Esalen. We will be closed to guests for the weekend.

Jerilyn Hesse

11 am 6/26
The fire was quiet on the coast side during the night. Still, it is moving south, but slowly. On the north end, the merged fire was moving slowly into the Big Sur River drainage.

From the thermal map imaging at Xasauan:
This morning's thermal imaging data has things looking cooler at the north end of the Coast Ridge (above Nepenthe), but there is still a hot spot in Partington Canyon uncomfortably close to lower Partington Ridge. The fire also continues to burn south along both sides of the Coast Ridge and has now reached the, aptly named, Burns Creek. In the wilderness, the fire threatening Pine Valley has advanced a bit further along the ridge toward Church Creek Divide and the northwest portion of the fire remains active from the top of the Coast Ridge all the way to the Double Cone. Here's the overview:

The Big Sur Valley now smells smoky. Partington is still burning. There is ash around the South Coast, but the mist and fog is cold and wet. Folks are preparing for evacuation, but staying for now. Esalen has evacuated.
I'm going to check around and report back to you.

At the community meeting tonight, the Incident Commander reported on a good day.
The Basin Complex has slowed dramatically. Last night it burned 10,000 acres, but only 1,500 today. It is moving south, but very slowly. Esalen looks safe now, and the crews expect to hold the fire to the east side of Highway One.

On the north side, it is moving faster and heading into the already burned area of the wilderness. Firefighting crews from the Indians area are moving west to fight the Basin Complex.

A home that was considered lost has been saved, reducing the number of lost structures to 15.

Chief Frank Pinney reported several successes. Lynda Sayre, a touch healing therapist, offered complimentary treatments to anyone who has been stressed or hurt by this event. She will do that at the Health Center - call 667 8823


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