11:30PM June 28 Update:
OK, we’re back from a long day of cycling and ready to post some new maps. In the north, the satellites haven’t picked up any heat from the fire descending into the headwaters of Jackson Creek or the South Fork of the Little Sur River during the past 12 hours – but the fire in the upper headwaters of the North Fork Little Sur is another story. There’s no sign that it’s descended, but it’s burned east along the ridge toward the Double Cone and appears to have reached the Double Cone trail on the ridge separating the Little Sur and Carmel River watersheds (specifically, it is overlooking Ventana Mesa Creek, which empties into the Carmel River just upstream of Hiding Camp). Fire also appears to have advanced down the main stem of the Big Sur River almost (or completely) to Ventana Camp. If this is correct, this places the fire practically at the foot of Mt Manuel in this area.
Things are quieter in the east and south. There are no new heat detections in the upper Carmel River or Tassajara Creek watersheds or from the arm of the fire that had been descending from the Coast Ridge toward Lost Valley. The only heat detection on the west side of the Coast Ridge in the past 12 hours is high in the Hot Springs Canyon watershed.
Please remember that a lack of recent heat detections in a particular area (even if it means the fire has really been lying low in that area and not just hidden from the satellite by canyons, clouds or smoke) does not mean that fire is not still burning there. As it has demonstrated over and over again, the fire is perfectly capable of flaring up pretty much anywhere at pretty much anytime.
Here’s the overview:
Here’s a closer look at the apparent new fire activity near the Ventana Double Cone:
And here’s a closer look at the fire by Ventana Camp:
7:00AM June 28 Update: Fire Actively Burning in Little Sur Watershed
Overnight thermal imaging shows vigorous fire activity along broad fronts in both the north and south. In the north, the fire appears to have spilled over the ridge into the Little Sur Watershed in a line stretching from the Window all the way to the headwaters of the South Fork Little Sur. The active burning continues from this area, back through Ventana Creek and across the main stem of the Big Sur River just above Ventana Camp. In the south, an active fire front appears to extend from low in Anderson Canyon, past Burns and Buck creeks and through the upper headwaters of Hot Springs Canyon – while on the other side of the Coast Ridge the fire appears to be descending rapidly toward Lost Valley. The satellite also found continued heat in the upper Tassajara Creek watershed and in McWay Canyon. Here’s the overview:
Here’s a look at the northern front. The fire appears to be established in the headwaters of both the North and South Forks of the Little Sur as well as Jackson Creek:
And here’s the southern front:
3:30PM June 27 Update:
The new data shows renewed fire activity in the upper Tassajara Creek watershed and indicates that the southern end of the fire is descending east from the Coast Ridge toward Higgins Creek. It looks like this:
Noon June 27 Update:
Thermal imaging hasn’t picked up any new advances by the fire since this morning so, rather than another map, here’s an old photo of the ridge the fire appears to climbing over to enter the Little Sur River watershed. Thermal imaging currently shows fire near the top of this ridge just to the left of the Window. The hills in the background are Pico Blanco and Bixby Mtn. Bottcher’s Gap is the low point to the right of Bixby Mtn.
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. Here’s the overview:
The fire is becoming more deeply entrenched in Hot Springs Canyon and appears to be burning very actively there:
The latest satellite pass found new hot spots in Partington Canyon:
It had to happen sooner or later. We’ve been hearing reports for days about the fire climbing the ridge separating the Big and Little Sur watersheds, but this morning, for the first time, the satellite data confirms it:
7:00PM June 26 Update:
As feared, new thermal imaging data shows considerably more fire activity (on both the Indians and Basin Complex fires) than was picked up on the last pass. Most notable is movement further into the upper headwaters of Tassajara Creek (still very far from the Tassajara Hot Springs), movement south along the Coast Ridge to the upper end of Hot Springs Canyon (above Esalen), and renewed activity at the northwest end of the fire in the Ventana Creek watershed. Here’s the overview:
Here’s the renewed activity at the fire’s southern end:
And here are the new hot spots in the upper Tassajara Creek drainage:
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:
7:00AM June 26 Update:
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:
Here’s a closer in shot of the fire moving south along the Coast Ridge:
6:00PM June 25 Update:
Judging by the thermal image mapping, today’s heavy marine layer seems to have allowed many parts of the fire to cool down – and, as you’d expect, many of the most active areas are also at the highest elevations and furthest away from the marine influence. Areas of concern remain the hot spot uncomfortably close to lower Partington, continued fire activity at the north end of the Coast Ridge (above Ventana Inn), the potential for the fire to continue south along the coast ridge from Anderson Canyon, continued heavy fire activity in the Ventana Creek watershed, and the fire which appears to be burning on top of the hill above Divide Camp (overlooking the Church Creek Divide and Pine Valley). Here’s an overview:
Here’s a closer shot of the north end of the Coast Ridge:
This is where the map puts the active fire in relation to Pine Valley. Helicopters began carrying water to the fire from Los Padres Dam this afternoon; quite possibly to this location:
And, finally, here’s a shot of what may be the most active portion of the fire; the upper Ventana Creek drainage beneath the Window and Double Cone. Again today, we’ve heard reports of the fire reaching the Window and passing into the Little Sur watershed, but no sign of that has yet appeared on the thermal imaging:
As anyone who remembers the Marble Cone and Kirk Complex fires has no doubt figured out by now, the plan is to protect coastal communities from Big Sur north and the Carmel Valley by reopening the old Marble Cone dozer cuts. For those who don’t remember, the dozer route runs from Post Summit down and across the South Fork Little Sur, up and along Launtz Ridge, down to the Scout Camp on the North Fork, up Skinner Ridge, over Devil’s Peak and down Blue Rock Ridge to the Los Padres Dam. To get a better idea of what that can entail, click here to read a description by the late Colin Fletcher. Hopefully, the job can be accomplished a little more sensitively this time.
And now, for all you Google Earth fanatics, the dozer route is available as a .kml file.
Get it by pasting http://westtrails.net/Ventana/Dozertrails1999.kml into your network links.
Noon June 25 Update:
The latest thermal imaging data show the fire active in its march toward the Church Creek Divide and burning quite hotly (like you’d expect) on Island Mtn. (between Ventana Creek and the Big Sur River). It also appears to be burning vigorously as it moves south along both sides of the Coast Ridge and to be climbing toward the Black Cone trail from the North Fork of the Big Sur River. But the arm that headed off toward Strawberry Valley and Black Cone on Monday night appears to be taking the day off. Here’s the overview:
As in the last update, this view of the Partington Ridge area shows fire descending the canyon dangerously close to the unburned portions of the lower ridge.
And now a few words from Robinson Jeffers:
6:30AM June 25 Update:
New thermal imaging data indicates that the Gallery and Basin fires have finally burned together. The fire remains very active on its eastern flank, but it is in the north (mainly in the Ventana Creek drainage and along the main stem of the Big Sur River) that it has covered the most new territory. Things also seem to have flared up again in some spots along the coast. Here’s an overview (note active western edge of Indians Fire in lower right):
Here’s a view of the northwestern edge of the fire. Note the hotspots on the ridge above Nepenthe and Ventana: Back at the southwestern end it looks like the fire is burning pretty hot as it descends Partington Canyon. Hopefully, firefighters have succeeded in keeping it from making a run back up onto Partington Ridge. The leading edge of the fire on this side has burned through McWay Canyon and is now burning in Anderson Canyon. 5:00PM June 24 Update: The Indians Fire (remember the Indians Fire?) is still burning toward Arroyo Seco and a mandatory evacuation has now been called for the Arroyo Seco Rd. from the campground to Carmel Valley Rd. 4:30PM June 24 Update: New thermal imaging data indicates continued cooling in most areas west of the Coast Ridge. The big exception is McWay Canyon (JPB State Park) where things have been really heating up: A new hot spot has also turned up well in advance of the apparent position of the rest of the Basin Fire, deep in the Ventana Creek drainage behind Island Mtn. If the fire continues to spread in this direction it could soon be threatening the back (east) side of Mt. Manuel: There is no sign on the latest maps of further advances into the Tassajara drainage or toward Pine Valley. 4:00PM June 24 Update: Jim Preston has created this mash-up with the Forest Service map to provide a new perspective on the thermal imaging data (see this VWA Forum link for info on how to use this map interactively): 1:30PM June 24 Update: Some new MODIS data seems to be in. It doesn’t show any big new runs by any of the fires, but does show that the Basin Fire has finished its rest at Redwood Camp and seems to be hurrying down the trail to meet the Gallery Fire at Sykes. It also shows things warming up again on the branch of the Basin Fire near the Carmel River (between Round Rock and Pine Valley). The good news is that things seem to be cooling off a bit (if MODIS is to be believed) on the northwest portion of the fire: And at Partington: 11:45 June 24 Update: No new MODIS data yet, but I’ve added some push pins to the map to give a better idea of where the fire is in relation to backcountry locations: 10:00AM June 24 Update: Ivan Eberle, at the MIRA observatory on Chew’s Ridge, is reporting on the Ventana Wilderness Alliance Forum that the Basin Fire has reached the Window. This suggests that the fire has reached and crossed the upper Ventana Creek drainage (beneath the south face of the Ventana Double Cone) since the last MODIS mapping was completed. This also suggests that the fire is likely to enter the Little Sur River watershed today (if it hasn’t already). 8:00AM June 24 Update: New CONUS MODIS mapping from a satellite pass during the night shows an enormous Gallery Fire having chewed through a huge amount of wilderness to the south and east since the last update. Here’s an overview shot of the Gallery and Basin fires (click maps to view larger version): The Gallery Fire has obviously made the greatest progress to the south and east, extending now nearly to Strawberry Valley. It has reached the North Fork Big Sur River and is beginning to climb toward Cienega, where it will meet (if it hasn’t already) the descending Basin Fire. It has also descended from Logwood Ridge nearly (or completely) to Sykes. The Basin Fire has done a lot less expanding but is still burning hot in a lot of places. It hasn’t made much, if any, progress toward the Big Sur River since the last update, but it has crossed Lion Creek and is heading toward the Ventana Creek watershed. It has also made little progress in the direction of Church Creek/Tassajara Creek and Pine Valley, but that could certainly change today. The latest mapping of Partington shows the fire still very hot on the upper ridge, but no sign of fire on the (much more densely populated) lower ridge: On the northwest end of the fire (near Nepenthe, Deetjen’s, Henry Miller Library etc.) firefighters appear to have succeeded in preventing the fire from moving forward much during the past 12 to 24 hours, but there is, obviously, still some active burning going on in the area: We’ve been avoiding spreading rumors about how many homes and whose homes have been lost, but the following was put out by the Big Sur Chamber of Commerce yesterday and is probably reliable information (as long as you don’t pay attention to the outdated figures on acres burned): Hello Big Sur! The new Incident Commander, Michael Detrich was introduced. He’ll be taking over command at 6:00 am, Tuesday morning. He says it may take a couple days to get the Incident Command post fully operational. It will be based at Andrew Molera State Park. You can’t miss it. It is highly visible from Highway 1. There are already fuel trucks, dozers, a semi trailer, etc pulled into position. Leona Rodreick will be the public affairs specialist and they have requested 20 more public affairs officers to help out. Hopefully we won’t need that kind of coverage. The bottom line is that we’re still getting a command structure in place and Detrich stated plainly, “we’re not getting the air resources we had hoped and this fire is not top priority in the state” – we’re short on helicopters, airplanes and personnel to fight the fire. Detrich is asking for more support but the fact is there are about 600 fires burning in California at the moment and resources are stretched thin. To be fair to Detrich, he stated very clearly that he will always tell us the truth about what’s going on, even when we don’t like to hear it. Like hearing that there aren’t enough resources available to fight this fire. We’ll know in the next few days how effective this team will be in bringing in resources. We’ve lost 16 homes so far and our hearts go out to those who have lost so much. Lost so far on Partington Ridge; Hopkins, Sulas, Chadwell. Others are Stone House – now Peter Fentons place, Wangoes old place, Don Case, Nusbaums, Newells barn burned (main house is okay), two cabins above Grimes… The fire went up over the top of the ridge into the wilderness area and is burning north. It looks like the Gallery fire and the Basin fire are destined to join. More on this as it develops. The primary objective is to box the fire in and keep it heading into the wilderness area. So far, the Gallery fire is a bit over 5,000 acres and the Basin fire is about 800. Detrich said the Big Sur Fire Brigade and US Forest Service will be “joined at the hip.” The brain trust of the BSVFB of where houses are and how to get around in Big Sur is invaluable to incoming fire fighters. That’s it for now. Be safe and we’ll see if we can round up some photos tomorrow. Stan Please note that it has since been confirmed that the old Wangoe place (now owned by Karen Madsen) did not burn. Just another example of how difficult accurate information is to come by .. Here are a couple more screen captures for you wilderness buffs. The first depicts the leading edge of the Basin Fire crossing South Ventana Cone into the headwaters of Tassajara Creek: This one shows the leading edge of the Gallery Fire reaching the North Fork of the Big Sur River (the creek flowing beneath the words “Type 2” is Cienega): 5:00PM June 23 Update: Judging by the CONUS MODIS fire detection maps, the Basin Fire appears to have descended from Bear Basin nearly to the Carmel River (between Round Rock and Pine Valley). It has also spread over Ventana Cone and has descended into the Big Sur watershed as far as Redwood Camp. It is also descending the Cienega drainage and moving into the Lion Creek watershed. The Gallery Fire is, meanwhile, descending from the Coast Ridge toward the confluence of the North and South Forks of the Big Sur River (just upstream from Sykes). If the Basin Fire continues down the hill from Redwood Camp, the fires may meet in the Sykes area. The Gallery Fire has also continued running east into the wilderness and is burning in the Pick Creek drainage. Most of the Logwood Creek drainage has apparently already burned. There also appears to be a spot fire near the summit of Anderson Peak. CONUS MODIS satellite fire detection map as of 4:00PM June 23 showing northern portion of Gallery Fire. Please note that while these MODIS maps appear to update every hour, new data is apparently only added twice a day …. meaning that as of 4:00PM June 23 the fire may actually have moved beyond what is shown on this map and that hot spots depicted on the 4:00PM map may actually have been extinguished hours earlier. It ain’t perfect, but it’s the most up to date information we have. CONUS MODIS satellite fire detection map as of 3:00PM June 23 showing Partington Ridge area of Gallery Fire. Noon, Monday, June 23, fire news: The Gallery Fire continues actively burning along the western slopes of the coast ridge from just south of Ventana all the way to Partington Canyon. It has also burned an unknown distance into the wilderness on the eastern side of the coast ridge. Homes have been lost yesterday and this morning in the Stone Ridge and Partington Ridge areas and many more are in danger. Meanwhile, the Basin Fire continues expanding from its ignition point near Bear Basin. Tassajara is now being evacuated (reportedly because the fire is threatening to cross the Tassajara Rd. and cut off access). Due to the current shortage of firefighting resources, there are still no personnel assigned to the Basin Fire. It is burning freely in whatever direction it pleases. There is also a voluntary evacuation taking place in the Arroyo Seco area, as they are planning backfiring operations there to slow the northward spread of the Indians Fire. To get an idea of how bad things are up north (and why firefighting resources are in such short supply) check this link. …. and be careful out there! Read the June 21 Fuel and Fire Behavior Advisory. These aren’t normal conditions.