8:00PM July 7 Update:
MANDATORY EVACUATION OF BIG SUR VALLEY TO BE LIFTED AT 10:00AM TOMORROW!
The mandatory evacuation will be lifted from Palo Colorado Rd. south to JPB State Park. Proof of residency will be required to get past the Palo Colorado checkpoint. The area will remain under an evacuation advisory. The decision to lift the order was apparently the result of a meeting this morning between fire and law enforcement honchos and community leaders (elected and otherwise). We’ll leave it to you to imagine what went on there, but we think it’s safe to say that the voice of the community was heard.
That was the big news from tonight’s meeting at Carmel Middle School. We also learned a few new things about the fire. The main points were:
* The back fire along Mescal Ridge continues to go well. The fire got away from them a bit last night (were those the spots MODIS located over the line?), but they got it controlled again. They have only about a half or a quarter of a mile of burning still to go in order to tie in with the back firing they previously did along the Old Coast Rd.
* Hand crews are working to improve the northern Big Box fire line. The Devil’s Peak area remains a potential trouble spot (and the Palo Colorado area will, obviously, not be totally out of danger until the fire is contained in that area).
* The fire has now burned around 80,000 acres and is 18% contained.
* Dolan Ridge has been back fired all the way down to the edge of the marine layer. They are still hoping to gain containment of that southwestern corner of the fire soon – but they are confident enough now that they are lifting the evacuation advisory for Lucia and points south.
* Fire is still actively burning along the west side of the coast ridge from JPB State Park south to Dolan Ridge. It’s far enough away from the Highway that they don’t consider it an immediate problem (but what about when the marine layer goes away tomorrow and the wind shifts?).
* They also did some back firing along the Rodeo Flat fire line and hope to tie that back firing into the Indians Fire burn area in the near future.
5:45PM July 7 Update:
New thermal imaging suggests a relatively low key day for most parts of the fire. The Mescal Ridge backfire zone seems to be cooling down nicely. Little Pines appears to be burning. The fire that passed through Willow Creek overnight, seems to be heading into the Zig Zag Creek watershed. Fire is clearly burning actively over a wide area from north of Lost Valley south to the Rodeo Flat containment line. And, on the coast, it looks like active burning continues along Rat Creek.
Here’s an overview of the fire zone as seen from the northwest:
And here’s a closer look at the Mescal Ridge backfire zone:
The northern end of the fire appears to be making progress into the Carmel River watershed around both sides of Uncle Sam Mtn. It looks like fire activity has increased in the Little Pines area (just to the left of Uncle Sam) since this morning – but burning at the lower elevations of the Little Sur Basin seems to have decreased (marine influence?):
There are no new heat detections on the ridge just south of Tassajara and the fire front that passed through there yesterday is now moving from Willow Creek into the Zig Zag Creek drainage:
Active fire appears to be burning over a very broad area this afternoon at the fire’s southern end:
The only new heat detections along the coast are in the Rat Creek area, near the troublesome lower end of the Dolan Ridge fire line:
Noon July 7 Update:
This morning’s 8:00AM USFS Fire Update has just been posted on Inciweb (they’re getting faster). Here is what it says about “Current Conditions:”
“Firefighters successfully completed burning operations during the night along Mescal Ridge to Skinner Ridge.
Burning is planned on the northwest corner along Dani Ridge and Bixby Ridge. Several fires spotted outside of the line, but were caught by firefighters overnight. Mop-up will occur along most sections of Highway 1 and along burnout operations on the northern and southern edges of the fire. A contingency dozer line is being constructed from Highway 1 toward White Rock Ridge. On the south front of the fire, crews continued to hold the line in the Dolan Ridge area. Winds are expected from the north and northeast and will be generally light which will allow for favorable burning operations. Last night, the fire was active in the Tassajara and Willow Creek drainages and north of Rodeo Flats. Helicopters will be working these areas today to help reduce potential fire spread.”
The “contingency dozer line” being built from Hwy. One to White Rock Ridge is the Long Ridge line.
9:30AM July 7 Update:
Photos of yesterday’s Mescal Ridge backfire by Debi Lorenc:
Lighting the fire
The DC-10 in action
We understand the Martin Mars (Super Scooper) seaplane is scheduled to join the action today. It’s based at Harris Creek on Lake San Antonio.
7:30AM July 7 Update:
Overnight thermal imaging indicates that the Mescal Ridge backfire has met the main fire and is very active. The fire also appears to be remaining active in the Comings Creek, Puerto Suello Creek, and Willow Creek drainages. The southwest corner, along lower Dolan Ridge is another hot spot and the fire appears to have crossed the Arroyo Seco river and be heading straight for Escondido Camp – the spot where the Indians Fire started.
Here’s the northwestern backfire. The spots on the wrong side of our drawn line aren’t necessarily real fire on the wrong side of the real line. MODIS isn’t always exact and, when we drew this line, they were still negotiating with property owners about where exactly to build the lower portion of the fire line. It could be that they stayed on top of Mescal Ridge longer than depicted by our line before dropping down to the Old Coast Rd. (although that would mean bringing fire into the Bixby watershed). If so, the actual fire line could follow the route indicated by the heat detections:
Here’s the fire around Uncle Sam Mountain. It appears to be entering the Rattlesnake Creek drainage in the vicinity of Little Pines (to the left of Uncle Sam in this view) and to be spreading west into the Skinner Creek drainage:
Here’s the situation around lower Dolan Ridge, where the fight to keep the fire out of Big Creek continues:
Here’s where fire appears to have crossed the Arroyo Seco River. It looks like the Basin Complex is going to finally run into the area burned by the Indians Fire right at the spot where the Indians Fire began:
And, finally, here’s the view down Willow Creek. The fire that ran east along the ridge between Tassajara and Willow Creeks yesterday appears to have swung south across the Willow Creek drainage during the night:
10:45PM July 6 Update:
Well here it is, photographic proof that fire is burning along the Skinner Ridge line:
We’ve also heard from our friends in Carmel Valley that the DC-10 made a spectacular drop over Uncle Sam Mountain this evening.
8:00PM July 6 Update:
Just like yesterday, the info officers passed out this morning’s, rather than this evening’s, USFS Fire Update. Incident Commander, Mike Dietrich, was back to leaving out place names while describing the day’s activity, but, fortunately, the Spanish language translator, who was standing next to him, could see where he was pointing on the map and when she translated his remarks into Spanish she added the place names back in. So, thanks in part to the translator, we learned quite a lot. Here are Dietrich’s main points:
* Today was a great day
* The backfiring from Molera to the Little Sur River along the Old Coast Rd. (which he said yesterday he hoped to complete by this morning) isn’t quite complete, but has been a huge success.
* Backfiring was begun today on Bixby Mtn. and is moving west along the Mescal Ridge fire line. They hope to reach the Old Coast Rd. by midnight (this makes you wonder what the hot spots were that MODIS placed on Skinner Ridge today).
* They are still putting out hot spots in Big Sur and they will start working on plans for “re-entry” of residents tomorrow – still no word on when “re-entry” might actually occur.
* All seven homes in Dolan Canyon are now safe, but they still haven’t completely sealed off the fire at the bottom of the Dolan Ridge line.
* The fire has been moving toward the northern fire line. That line has been dozed, but “prep work” still needs to be completed there. They will be hurrying to do this so that they are ready to backfire from that line before the fire gets there.
* Again he made no mention of the eastern portion of the fire, but when asked where the fire was in relation to Tassajara he said that the fire descending Tassajara Creek made only about a quarter mile of progress today. This means one of three things. That today’s huge run on the ridge to the south of Tassajara is a figment of MODIS’s imagination (unlikely); that Dietrich is unaware of this huge run (also unlikely); or that Dietrich is aware of it, but hasn’t realized that this fire is now at least as big a threat to Tassajara as the fire in Tassajara Creek (probably the answer).
Frank Pinney then said there was a serious flare up on Partington today, but that the Big Sur Fire Brigade put it out before any structures were damaged. In response to questions about the way residents are being treated by law enforcement, he said the problem is being worked on and that they may be able to come up with a better set of procedures for deputies to follow or a better understanding between the community and deputies (or something). “Tomorrow is another day,” was the key phrase.
4:30PM July 6 Update:
We can surmise from the latest MODIS thermal imaging data that it was collected around 11:00 this morning. That’s because it shows the backfiring just beginning on Skinner Ridge and the fire still a bit short of the summit of Uncle Sam Mtn. The most important thing it shows, though, are some really enormous runs on the eastern and southeastern ends of the fire. The eastern run has taken the fire east from Black Cone all the way to the top of the ridge immediately to the south of Tassajara. On the south, the fire is now spilling over the ridge from the Lost Valley Creek headwaters into the valley of the Arroyo Seco, just across from Escondido and the area left burned by the Indians Fire.
Here’s the backfire starting on Skinner Ridge:
Here’s the fire climbing Uncle Sam Mountain. In the foreground, the fire can be seen moving, once again, into Ventana Mesa Creek:
Now this is a very big and very sudden run to the east. The fire has been smoldering in the Black Cone area for over a week Today it appears to have suddenly sprung to life. This brings it right in above Tassajara (the unlabeled green push-pin in the background). Hopefully, the steep descent to Tassajara will slow it down and take the steam out of it:
And here’s a view of Tassajara from the north. In this view, renewed fire activity can be seen in the headwaters of Tassajara Creek. Until today, this had looked like the fire that would reach Tassajara first:
And here’s the fire filling and spilling over the edges of the Lost Valley Creek headwaters:
MODIS doesn’t always put every spot in the right place, but there is no doubt that this fire has become VERY active again today.
3:00PM July 6 Update:
People with a direct view report that the backfire on Bixby Mountain was lit about 2:30PM. This means that backfires are probably already burning on Skinner Ridge. The DC-10 has been very much in the thick of the action.
1:00 PM July 6 Update:
At noon today the fire reached the summit of Uncle Sam Mountain. Flames are now visible from Cachagua and parts of Carmel Valley. Here’s what it looks like from Cachagua:
This morning’s USFS 8:00AM Fire Update (now available on Inciweb) reports that the overnight backfiring along the east side of the Old Coast Rd. from Molera to the Little Sur was successfully completed. It also states that “burning is completed around Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp,” suggesting that the heat detections on the scout camp road this morning were accurate. The backfiring was aided by “higher than expected humidity” during the night. The lines on Dolan Ridge continued to hold.
12:30PM July 6 Update:
If all is going to plan the great Skinner Ridge/Mescal Ridge backfire should be underway by now. We haven’t heard any news of it, but that’s probably because our Palo Colorado informants are all up on their ridgelines watching for it. We’ll let you know when we hear from them.
Meanwhile, an interesting and important debate over the official handling of evacuations and road closures is underway in our comments section (at the bottom of this page). We thank you all for the civility that you have shown so far. If you make a comment and it does not immediately appear, it has probably been caught by our somewhat inscrutable spam filters. Don’t worry. Assuming it meets our stringent standards for elegance of prose and moral rectitude (just kidding) it will be released as soon as we have a chance to review it.
7:15AM July 6 Update:
Overnight thermal imaging found heat only along the north edge of the fire. The fire is still burning in other places, of course, but the north appears to be where most of the action was last night. Heat detections were recorded in the canyon between Pico Blanco and Mescal Ridge, along the road between Bottcher’s Gap and the Scout Camp (which could be an error) and, most extensively, in the Comings Creek watershed below Pat Spring.
Here’s the view up the canyon between Pico Blanco and Mescal Ridge:
And here are the heat detections along the Scout Camp road. The fire certainly could have reached this spot overnight, but without confirmation from someone on the ground it would be premature to conclude that it has:
The very active fire in Puerto Suello Creek appears to have swept to the west overnight, moving into the Comings Creek drainage. This puts it directly below Pat Spring and brings it still closer to the northern Big Box dozer line. The map looks like this: