11:15PM July 2 Update:
Here’s a shot taken just an hour ago of the view to the south from the Laureles Grade area in Carmel Valley:
11:00PM July 2 Update:
The new thermal imaging data has arrived and it’s not a pretty picture – so please remember that the satellite can make mistakes too. It is, unfortunately quite consistent with what we reported earlier in the evening. The run up Pico Blanco is depicted, as are new hotspots just starting up the slopes on the north side of the North Fork Little Sur River. On the positive side there are no new heat detections in the Carmel River watershed.
In the Big Sur area, the satellite agrees that fire is backing down Juan Higuera Creek and Hopkins Ridge, while also backing down toward Post Creek from the end of the Coast Ridge (near Ventana). In the south, the thermal imaging shows the fire having crossed both Dolan Ridge and the Coast Ridge to enter the Big Creek watershed, as well as running much further south on the east side of the Coast Ridge than had been depicted this morning. Elsewhere, there appear to be explosions of new fire activity in both the upper Big Sur watershed (near Strawberry Valley) and in the upper reaches of Tassajara Creek. Here’s the overview:
Here’s the north end of the fire:
Here’s the Big Sur valley area:
And here’s the south end, where the fire made the day’s biggest run:
8:30PM July 2 Update:
We attended the community meeting this evening at the Carmel Middle School and heard a fairly somber presentation by incident commanders Mike Dietrich and Frank Pinney. Dietrich, of the Forest Service, explained what the fire did today, but we wish he’d let Frank Pinney (of the Big Sur Fire Brigade) handle the job. He would talk about the fire crossing a containment line and then just wave vaguely at a 10 or 20 square mile section of the map rather than telling us the name of the place (probably simply because he doesn’t know Big Sur place names very well).
The gist of it seemed to be that efforts to contain the fire that crossed the line south of the gorge were unsuccessful today, that fire is also burning on the upper slopes of Mt. Manuel (and for some distance toward Post Summit) above the Big Sur valley, and that the fire has also gotten across the southern line (presumably into the Big Creek watershed by crossing the Dolan Ridge lines). On the bright side, he did report that NO STRUCTURES WERE LOST TODAY.
He indicated that Highway One is now the containment line in the Big Sur valley and stated that they will be trying to protect property on the east side of the Highway by backfiring, when possible. He also predicted that it would probably take the fire two or three days to reach the northern containment line (a bold prediction since it’s all uphill from the North Fork Little Sur, where the fire is now, to the northern line). He further said that, with the fire having breached the (presumably Dolan Ridge) containment line, the Nacimiento-Fergusson Rd. is the new southern containment line.
Forest Service internal documents present an even bleaker picture. Here’s an excerpt that was recently posted on the Firefighter Blog:
“Fire has become very active on the northwestern and southern flanks. Fire has jumped the southern containment lines threatening the community of Lucia. Attempting to hold a secondary dozer line with limited resources. Structures, heavy fuel loads due to sudden oak death, threat to community of Big Sur and Carmel watershed basin. Active fire behavior on the southern end and north of Pfeiffer State Park is becoming a challenge to containment actions. East Zone: Numerous structures and improvements located in the proximity to Carmel Valley Road and Tassajara Road areas. Limited access. Extremely steep and rugged terrain with continuous heavy fuel loading. HEBM is needed for military assets.”
We have not updated thermal imaging maps since this morning because the data does not seem to have been updated in many hours. Spots that were detected more than 12 hours ago still remain red and no new detections have been added to the data since the very early morning hours.
6:30PM July 2 Update:
Contrary to many rumors we’ve heard over the past few days, the fire has not yet reached the Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp – as clearly demonstrated by this picture (taken at 3:30 this afternoon). The Scout Camp is in the heavy forest along the river – not far from the bottom of this photo. The fire, as can clearly be seen, is still backing down from Launtz Ridge a fair distance upstream. At this point, the Camp may be in more immediate danger from the fire on Pico Blanco than from the portion of the fire in this photo. This picture also demonstrates that this morning’s MODIS mapping in this area was quite accurate.
5:00PM July 2 Update:
Volcano? No. Just Pico Blanco between 3:00 and 3:30 this afternoon (photo taken at Bottcher’s Gap):
Helicopters fighting fire on top of Pico Blanco:
Thanks to Lloyd Jones for these photos!
2:00PM July 2 Update:
Recent photo of smoke plume rising from North Fork Little Sur (seen from Palo Colorado area through Bottcher’s Gap):
This photo (also taken from Palo Colorado area) shows another smoke plume rising behind Bixby Mtn. (probably from fire in the South Fork Little Sur River) We’ve just received a report that fire is climbing from the South Fork up the southwest face of Pico Blanco. This smoke could certainly be coming from there:
1:00PM July 2 Update:
The mandatory evacuation order has been extended to both sides of Highway One from Molera to Nepenthe. We are hearing a lot of very bad rumors. If even half of them are true, people would be well advised to evacuate without delay.
11:30 July 2 Update:
Adam Clark, whose parents have a view from the Post Ranch, tells us that the fire has gotten through the containment lines at the end of the Coast Ridge and is descending into the gorge. This sounds credible to us because it is consistent with the MODIS data from last night and this morning. How serious a problem this could prove to be for the Big Sur Valley is hard to say – but it is certainly quite possible that the fire could get onto the south side of Mt. Manuel from the gorge and make some spectacular runs just upslope from the populated parts of the valley. This possibility alone would doubtless be reason enough for the mandatory evacuation – but it would still be nice to hear an official explanation.
And as we were writing the above we got a message from Mike Sullivan at Post Ranch that “the fire has jumped the fire breaks to the south of the gorge and is burning down toward Ventana into the Post Creek watershed, choppers are working on it. Looks like the next break is the highway.”
(so did MODIS perform a psychic foreshadowing of future events in placing hot spots near Loma Vista last night?)
10:50 July 2 Update:
We still haven’t found anyone who has direct knowledge of the reasons why the east side of the Big Sur Valley is being so suddenly and unexpectedly evacuated. It would be nice if the officials would be a little more forthcoming about what’s happening – in the absence of real facts, rumor and speculation take over and people are deprived of information that could obviously be of use to them as they make critical decisions – decisions that could easily affect their personal safety as well as the safety of their property.
All we can tell you for sure is that a very large smoke column is now visible from Carmel and that CHP units have been seen heading south using lights and siren (presumably to assist with the evacuation). The smoke could well be coming from deep in the wilderness and the CHP could be responding to another emergency, of course. It’s just another illustration of why giving the public too little information is a mistake.
9:50AM July 2 Update:
A mandatory evacuation has been ordered for the east side of Highway One through the Big Sur Valley. Does this mean that some of this morning’s MODIS hot spots west of the fire lines are for real? We don’t know the answer yet, but we’ll let you know when we do.
7:00AM July 2 Update:
Overnight thermal imaging indicates a much more active fire than we’ve seen in a couple of days. Here’s the overview:
If MODIS is correct, there is now a long northern front stretching from the drainage below Lone Pine Camp (in the Carmel River watershed) all the way to the the vicinity of Pico Public Camp on the South Fork Little Sur. MODIS even places the leading edge of this front across the North Fork Little Sur and just starting up the slopes that lead eventually to the dozer line on top of Devil’s Peak. The heat detections across the dozer line in the South Fork Little Sur are likely accurate, as the USFS has reported that the fire is in this area. The map looks like this:
In the Big Sur Valley, on the other hand, MODIS seems to be back to having difficulties. It is once again placing heat detections in random places which, were they really on fire, we think we would have heard about it. This map may be useful for getting an overall sense of the extent of the heat near the lines in this area, but the exact locations of the dots should not be taken seriously:
The south end has also been active. MODIS now places fire on the Coast Ridge as far south as the Lost Valley Connector. Fire also remains active in the Hot Springs Canyon and Buck Creek areas:
There are also new heat detections in McWay and Anderson Canyons on the coast and in the North Fork Big Sur River and along upper Tassajara Creek in the wilderness.