Wednesday, July 9, 2008
The Big Sur Basin Complex fire continues to remain intense and extreme in the north and northwest part of the fire, and late July 8 the fire reached Devil’s Peak, a critical battleground where firefighters hope to keep the forest fire contained to the south. Thus far the fire line has held. The U.S. Forest Service has used a series of back burns south of the fire line near Devil’s Peak, supported by an active air attack program, including 19 helicopters. The objective of the agency’s back burns is to reduce the fuel available to the fire as it spreads north. On Wednesday July 9, work will continue to complete another six miles of a contingency fire line from Highway 1 east towards Whiterock Ridge, utilizing bulldozers and hand crews. Meanwhile, residents returning to the Big Sur Valley are beginning to discover the immediate toll of the fire. At 10am on July 8, property owners and residents living north of Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park were permitted to return to investigate their homes and businesses and assess any damage. On July 9 at 10am, residents south of the state park were given access to drive on Highway 1 and enter their property. While the Monterey County Sheriff's Department has been tracking the structure losses, some residents will return to find their homes not as quite as they left them. Recently the benefactors of Jeff Norman’s home on Tan Bark Trail, who were recently willed his home after Norman’s passing (see the Weekly’s story about his legacy http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/archives/2007/2007-Nov-21/Article.831/1/@@index), hiked up to the home site to discover it had burned to the ground. Between July 8 and 9, the fire grew by 5,531 acres and is now 85,717 acres in total. The Indians Fire, west of King City, is 81,378 acres. When these fires meet, which is anticipated by the forest service, the combined fire will be Monterey County’s largest recorded forest fire ever. The forest service did receive reports on late July 8 that some residents in Carmel Valley Village were seeing flames to the south. These fires remain south of the fire line and within the containment area. To date 24 residences and 31 other structures (out buildings, studios, etc.) have been destroyed. There are 2,275 personnel assigned to work the fire. On July 8 the U.S. Forest Service opened a new command post in Carmel Valley Village: Spike Camp, to hold up to 500 firefighters and equipment. Personnel will be shifted from the incident command center at Molera State Park in Big Sur to be closer to the northern edge of the fire. Google Earth remains an excellent source to track detailed movement of the fire and active hotspots. One local blogger’s website, Xasáuan Today, has a useful display of downloaded maps, some slightly modified, originally produced by the U.S. Forest Service’s Remote Sensing Applications Center (RSAC) in Salt Lake City. Xasáuan Today: http://xasauantoday.wordpress.com/2008/06/23/big-surventana-wilderness-fire-news/.