Monday, June 30, 2008

Choppers arrive...

June 30, 2008, about 7:45 pm...

The first of the helicopters and support crews showed up in the field on the Eaton Ranch at the corner on Tassajara Road and Carmel Valley Road this afternoon.

Fuel trucks, support vehicles and the "roach coach" with a wind sock and a comm dish on the roof now sit where horses once grazed.

Let's face it... the horses couldn't handle this job.

Two of three helicopters onsite so far. 

The yellow chopper is a UH-1H Super Huey, made by Hughes (thus, the nickname), originally used by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War as a troop and cargo transportation vehicle, similar to the helicopters used in the movie "Apocalypse Now" and other films addressing that era.  

From the Cal Fire Website, the Super Huey specs out as follows:

Bucket operations - 324 gallons of water/foam.
Fixed tank - 360 gallons of water/foam with pilot controlled drop volumes.
Gross Weight: 10,500 pounds
Cruise Speed: 126 mph
Range: 250 miles
Endurance: 2 hours
Rotor Diameter: 48 feet
Engines: Turbine Lycoming T-53-703 derated from 1800 HP

The red helo to the left is very unusual. I'll find out more about this one in the morning.

Carmel Valley Community Meeting...

June 30, 2008, 6:30pm...

At a meeting at the Carmel Valley Community Center, we got a briefing on the status of the fire, the gist of which is that overnight the fire was "less active" thanks to humidity. 

The dozer lines held at the south end of the fire yesterday and overnight, but predicted wind shifts may cause the fire to run to the southeast tomorrow.

The fire remains 3% contained, with no projected date on full containment.

News from Partington Ridge...

June 30, 2008, about 10:15 am....

This morning, I received an email from Partington Ridge resident and friend Toby Rowland-Jones:

 "... we are okay for the time being... it's been an amazing firefight around the ridge we live on... yesterday we lost a house and an art studio belonging to friends... so sad... our ridge is still surrounded by fire... we're okay for the time being... it's Partington Ridge." 

Linda, Toby's wife, blogs on Survision upon which there are some harrowing accounts and stunning pictures "from the front lines."

The pictures to the above and below are those I took from Partington Ridge to the sea, before the blaze, in February of this year.

If you've never been to Partington Ridge, or Big Sur, for that matter, life is both simpler and harder than that of many who cluster closer to what is alleged to be "civilization."  As the crow flies, Partington is about 11 miles away from us in Jamesburg.  So, for all intents and purposes, Toby and Linda are neighbors of Martha and me.

A while back, in February of this year, a rather remarkable gentleman, who happened to be an artist and a Partington Ridge resident for about 35 years, died.

Bob Nash is legend in Big Sur, and Toby and Linda and the neighbors threw a "graduation" ceremony for Bob.

It was well-attended, and though I was a more recent friend of Bob's, I had the honor of representing Central Coast Public Radio, KUSP, at the event. It was Bob's favorite station - his eyesight had failed in his late-eighties - and so, radio was one way to keep up on events and music. 

Bob loved KUSP, and thought he didn't have much money, he contributed to the support of the station. For that reason - and because he liked to listen to my little two-minute radio piece, called "Life in the Fast Lane", twice a week - I got to know Bob, and subsequently, Linda and Toby.

 Here's Toby, Linda, a neighbor's daughter and a few of  the many who attended Bob's "graduation" ceremony.

 Linda is the one who's doubled over with  laughter, something of which she seems to do a lot (good on ya', Linda).

Ash fall, Smoke and Helicopters...

June 30, 2008 about 7:30 am...

This morning, there's more smoke in the air than ever. The smoke irritates my eyes and produces a bit of a cough. 

Ash has begun to build up on the vehicles... not a lot... but enough to notice.

Yesterday evening, I passed a small group of firefighters setting up a helicopter landing field at the corner of Tassajara Road and Carmel Valley Road. 

They're transferring operations from the beach, where fog hampered flight, to a rancher's pasture, here in Upper Carmel Valley, where the skies are normally clear and free of fog.

The Basin Complex Fire is 7 miles away over a couple of ridges from here. By tonight, this field may be full of choppers and support crew.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Beautiful, but ominous...

June 29, 2008, about 8:00 pm...

At the top of Laureles Grade, on the way into town, I stopped to admire a blood-red beautiful sunset. 

What makes it ominous is the smoke in the air (left, in the picture) to the south, coming from the Basin Complex fire in Ventana Big Sur, out our "back door" at home.

Beautiful, ominous... hopefully not portentious.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

How the fire crews know where your house is...

June 28, 2008, about 1:00 pm...

When you live in the middle of "no-place" - or, Jamesburg - having an house number is sometimes a great notion. Most people out here think of it as more of an intrusion than a necessity.

If there's no house number in evidence, then it's hard to find you... usually, that's doesn't bother the locals very much. 

But in times like this, it can be devastating. So, the advance fire crews have been visiting, talking to people about evacuation and then leaving behind a marker - a pair of ribbons on a bush, in this case - indicating that they've visited and that there's are people and structure here that need to be alerted for evacuation and structures to be protected.

Heavy equipment continues to roll...

June 28, 2008 throughout the night...

Flatbed semitrailers have been rolling up and down Tassajara Road for the past few days and through last night, their air brakes gushing that loud, familiar "Tshhhhhhhhhhhh" just before the driver grinds gears and shifts, and the diesel engine falls to idle.

Once they've dropped the equipment, some of the vehicles are parked at a ranch near the corner of Tassajara Road and Carmel Valley Road (see "Helicopters" above...).

It's gratifying to see all these tools and crew show up. While we don't know how things will be if the weather goes against us, there are a lot of dedicated folks on the scene to help to protect us and out property!

Friday, June 27, 2008

Visitors noticeably absent...

June 27, 2008, about 2:00 pm...

About 100 yards up the road from where we live is a turning circle, in front of a big white house with a sign in front that says "Jamesburg" on it. In this house live the folks who've produced the very informative blog called Sitting with Fire.

I know, I know... this is a bit Zen-pretentious... but, Jamesburg, while it LOOKS like it should be a very distinct place - like a town - is really "no-place." While there is an area called "Jamesburg" there really is no "place" from which one could - you know - get a plastic shopping bag with the words "Jamesburg Stop 'n' Shop" on it.

I've had travelers driving by stop the car and ask me where Jamesburg is. I spread my hands and raise my palms upward, turning to illustrate, "You're smack dab in the middle of it!"

The pavement ends here, at the turning circle, and the dusty trip up to Chews Ridge, the Los Padres National Forest and the Zen Mountain Center (14 miles - 7 up and 7 down) begins.

Usually, this place is bumper to bumper with parked vehicles, guests being thick as flies this time of year enjoying Tassajara Hot Springs. But, the Indians Fire has encroached and closed down Tassajara to visitors, though there are a number of Zen students and a crew of 45 firefighters - many of them prison inmates -  holed up in Mountain Center looking after the place.

Fire crews have begun to show up...

June 27, 2008, about noon...

Check out "Google Earth"... our house is at 36°22'13.55"N, 121°35'27.32"W in the Jamesburg area of Upper Carmel Valley. The fire line, based on a file that's about a day old (CA-LPF-D8MA Basin Complex - Gallery 6-25-2008 2146.kml), is about 6 miles, as the crow flies, from us. I'm assuming that it's closer, now - say, between 5 and 6 miles - and burning into Pine Valley.

This morning, thanks to reports on Central Coast Public Radio, KUSP, we heard that our area has been put on alert for evacuation. All attempts to verify this by calling the Los Padres National Forest Fire Information Center at 805-961-5770 have been futile, since the line is perpetually busy.

Fire crews with bulldozers on flatbed semi-trailers have been driving up Tassajara Road - upon which we live - since last night.

A San Luis Obispo firefighter came up the driveway about a half an hour ago and told me to be prepared to evacuate, no matter what the hour. His evaluation is that we are probably pretty safe here; but, that weather conditions could alter his perspective very quickly. Particularly ominous is the forecast of dry lightning for this weekend.

The crews driving by are on the way to Chews Ridge and Hennickson's Ridge. They will attempt to cut firebreaks in an attempt to hold off the slow, but steady march of the fire eastward, through Pine Valley. Should the fire break through to Miler Canyon, Hennickson's Ridge is the last defense for many of the residences in the Jamesburg - Cachagua area.

The temperature here is about 80 degrees, sunny, hazy, no wind and no ashfall. A helicopter passed by about 15 minutes ago, at about 4000 feet above sea level, over Pine Ridge, in a wide arc toward Big Sur, leaving us with a clear impression that the fire is closer than we'd like it to be.

I'm at home, blowing leaves off the roof and out the rain gutters. It makes me feel a bit better...

Where the fire is... Where we are...

June 27, 2008, about 9:00 am...

Two wildfires - the Gallery Fire and the Basin Fire have now combined to form the Basin Complex, as the "single" fire is now called.

The line in the .jpg to the left represents 6 miles, or about 10 kilometers, from our place (click on the picture to see a larger version of it).

Between the us and the fire are two valleys and the same number of ridges.

If the weather holds up, so may the fire... away from us!