Monday, July 7, 2008
Mandatory evacuation for Big Sur residents was to be reduced to an advisory evacuation order at 10am Tuesday, July 8, allowing many local residents access to their properties, Monterey County Sheriff Mike Kanalakis announced Monday night at a public meeting at Carmel Middle School. Even though Mike Dietrich, U.S. Forest Service incident commander for the Big Sur Basin Complex fire considers the blaze to be a “hot fire still burning,” residents and critical service workers with proper identification were to be permitted to pass the checkpoint at Palo Colorado Road if they live or work north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park. Those who live south of the park and north of Lucia were to remain under the mandatory evacuation order, and Highway 1 remains closed south of the state park. Dietrich remarked that even though the fire "misbehaved" Sunday night, particularly in the northwest corner, firefighters made considerable progress securing key areas of the firebreak on both the northern and western flanks. Camp Pico, the Boy Scout camp 10 miles west on Palo Colorado Road was secured by a successful backfire. Dietrich climbed a six-foot ladder to place two pie-sized yellow smiley faces on the fire map to emphasize the “good news” achieved by firefighters over the previous 24 hours. The Forest Service reported that the fire is 18 percent contained. Joining Kanalakis and Dietrich were Big Sur Fire Brigade Chief Frank Pinney, and Robert Clyburn, emergency services planner for Monterey County’s Office of Emergency Service. Clyburn said the county had obtained a Fire Management Assistance Grant, freeing federal and state funds for emergency services with a top priority to establish a Fire Assistance Center. The grant money will not be available for direct grants to individuals. As residents return to the community Tuesday, the effects of the fire on the the Big Sur watershed were not known, nor were how water and sewage systems held up. Most residents obtain water from neighborhood water projects, often jointly owned by neighbors. In announcing the partial reopening to Big Sur, Kanalakis discussed safety concerns and asked for cooperation from the community. The sheriff told the Weekly that the department typically has one deputy responsible for the Big Sur region on any given day shift. During the Basin Complex fire, more than a dozen deputies have been working the area, costing the county nearly $400,000 in overtime. Kanalakis said he hoped the new grant could enable the county to be fully reimbursed from the federal and state government. Mike Caplin, president of the Big Sur Coast Property Owners Association (CPOA) also gave an update about the recently created Big Sur Relief Fund at CPOA. The fund will make grants to those who live and work in Big Sur and have been displaced by the fire or who may have lost employment. According to Caplin, the relief fund already has raised $200,000, including more than $13,000 in contributions that arrived in Monday’s mail. As for outgoing support, the relief fund has approved 560 grants, each for $300. Donations to the Big Sur Relief Fund may be mailed to Coast Property Owners Association, P.O. Box 59, Big Sur, Calif., 93920, or visit the website at http://www.cpoa.org.