10:15PM July 5 Update:
This evening’s 6:00PM USFS Fire Update, unavailable at the Community Meeting, has just been posted on Inciweb. It reads in part:
The fire was extremely active on both the north and south fronts. Despite the extreme fire activity, the crews’ hard work held the line on the south front. On the northwest front, air attack focused efforts on slowing the spread of the fire toward Highway 1 and down Pico Blanco into the Little Sur drainage. · The MANDATORY evacuation along Highway 1, from Limekiln State Park to Lucia, has been changed to an evacuation ADVISORY. This section of the highway is now open.
Current Status: · Tomorrow high temperatures above the marine layer are expected in the mid 90’s with humidity ranging between 8-20%. · The fire continues to spread north and west in the Pico Blanco area and along Highway 1. It is spreading toward the Pico Blanco Scout Camp and down the west slope of Pico Blanco. The fire is spreading downslope toward the Ventana Inn area. Firefighters are having difficulties with tactics in the Big Sur community because of snags, power lines, and limited access. · Dozer and hand line construction began today in the White Rock Ridge area, as a contingency in the event the fire crosses the existing lines. · The fire continues to back downslope toward Highway 1 in the Apple Pie Ridge area. · Firing operations continued along Highway 1 to reduce fuels in the vicinity of Big Sur. · There are no immediate plans to evacuate in the Palo Colorado area, and the incident still anticipates providing a 24 hour notice for evacuation of residents.
Planned Actions: West Zone: Provide structure protection. Firing along lines in north and northwest areas of the fire. Continue structure protection assessment and preparation in the community of BIG SUR, Palo Colorado Canyon area and south of Dolan Ridge. Conduct firing operations to check fire spread along Hwy 1 and on Dolan Ridge, on Mescal Ridge from Bottchers Gap to the Old Coast Road, from Bottchers Gap to Skinners Ridge. Construct contingency dozer line from Hwy 1 east towards Whiterock Ridge. East Zone: Continue structure protection preparation in Cachagua area/Carmel Valley Road. Hold and improve line.
10:00PM July 5 Update:
Big Sur in exile – Day 4
Tonight’s Community Meeting at Carmel Middle School began with the usual hand out of the latest USFS Fire Update. Only problem was they handed out this morning’s 6:00AM Update instead of the afternoon Update. God only knows when, if ever, we’ll see today’s afternoon Update.
That made it all the more important to hear what Incident Commander, Mike Dietrich, had to say and he did not disappoint. Here are the key points:
Just as this morning’s MODIS data indicated, the fire made a big move in the Puerto Suello Creek drainage. Dietrich says this means it will probably arrive at the northern fire line sooner than he had anticipated.
Dietrich also said that, contrary to the MODIS data, the fire has NOT crossed the North Fork Little Sur in the canyon between Pico Blanco and Mescal Ridge. He said they are backfiring along the Old Coast Rd. from Molera and hope to have backfired from that road all the way to the Little Sur River by morning. Tomorrow they hope to continue backfiring up the grade to meet the Mescal Ridge fire line, as well as backfiring along that line. If all of this is successful, he thought they might have the northwest corner of the fire contained within one or two days!
He said that, in the Big Sur Valley, they have avoided further loss of structures and backfired along much of the Highway from Ventana north. Hot spots remain and they are working on them. He retracted a previous statement that firefighters had been on Apple Pie Ridge, saying that at the time he made that statement it was not accurate. He said he wasn’t going to comment further about the “Apple Pie situation” because it was now a “law enforcement matter.” On the subject of when Big Sur residents might be able to return to their homes he said that in “a few days” they might be able to “start looking at plans” for bringing people back. Hope those sofas and cots are comfortable …
As for the Southern end of the fire, Dietrich said the line on lower Dolan Ridge is holding. Fire has spotted over in places, but been mopped up. The fire has burned around “four of the seven” homes in the Dolan Creek area, but they have been protected and no structures have been lost.
At the Palo Colorado Community Meeting, meanwhile, residents were told that work on the northwestern lines had been slower than hoped today, but that the backfiring is scheduled to begin at 10:00AM tomorrow; working from Skinner Ridge west. A hand line has been completed down Long Ridge (the “contingency line” route) and they will be putting dozers on it tomorrow. The DC-10 arrived today and made a couple of passes painting the Mescal Ridge line. Each pass is reputed to cover a mile. And Lloyd Jones even sent us a pic:
12:30PM July 5 Update:
Reports from both official and unofficial sources all agree that the situation has calmed down considerably in the Big Sur valley this morning. Some excellent photos, many from this morning, can be found here. News from other corners of the fire is proving harder to come by.
7:45AM July 5 Update:
Overnight thermal imaging found active fire in 5 different places. In the North Fork Little Sur canyon between Pico Blanco and Mescal Ridge, in the Puerto Suello Creek drainage, along Post Creek in the Big Sur valley, in the headwaters of Lost Valley Creek, and in the Dolan Canyon/Rat Creek area. The fire is, of course, still burning in other areas, but these may well have been the most active overnight.
Here’s a view of the canyon between Pico Blanco and Mescal Ridge. MODIS places one heat detection north of the river and beginning to climb toward the fire line. If this is accurate, they probably won’t wait much longer before starting their backfiring:
Here’s the fire in the Puerto Suello Creek drainage. The prominent peak is Uncle Sam Mountain. We’d thought the fire might crest Uncle Sam yesterday, giving Cachagua and parts of Carmel Valley a good display for the 4th of July – but it doesn’t look like it’s quite there yet:
The only hot spot in the Big Sur valley (that was visible to the satellite anyway) was on Post Creek:
The satellite indicates that the fire has moved east overnight, deeper into the headwaters of Lost Valley Creek. The deep canyon on the left is the Arroyo Seco River near Escondido Camp – the spot where the Indians Fire started:
On the coast, thermal imaging shows fire in Dolan Canyon and just above Rat Creek. This is likely part of the backfiring intended to secure the fire’s southwestern flank: