The California Wildfire That Burned Big Sur – Part 11

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   Posted by: BJ Johnson in studio
This entry is part of a series: Spherical Magic & The Basin Complex Wildfire »

Spherical Magic & The Basin Complex Wildfire – Days 33-35

7/23/2008, 10:55 PM

Heavy smoke again. The first Chews Ridge firing took place this afternoon. Couldn't see with all of the thick smoke out there but there didn't appear to be any slop-overs outside the dozer lines that we do know are there. Shots of it will be up tomorrow. I've gotta get some dinner.

Chews Ridge BurnChews Ridge Burn
7/23 Back burn begins on Chews Ridge heading down to the reservoir from the other direction.

The previous day's burn out in front of us is still receding into the interior. No slop-overs are evident and the MODIS plot confirms. Smoke lays low in the valleys and has just now arrived here to prompt closing the studio up for the night. Hopefully, the marine layer will get up to this elevation tonight and clean it all out.

7/24/08, 1:55 AM

Back-burn Ops continue but the wall of smoke makes it near impossible to see, let alone photograph anything. I did get that one set of shots of Chews Ridge but that's it. When the smoke does clear, even a little bit, the interior can be seen as having a lot of activity; just from the density of the cloud in that area going up the valley to the south, away from the reservoir. The evening heavy smoke pattern continues, getting thicker each day as closer and closer burnout Ops are mounted. Can't seem to get it through the cats' heads that it's really better to be inside. Don't have kitty respirators, so I am concerned for their health. They do show effects when they finally show up at the door and I try to keep them in as afternoon fades into night, but some are nowhere to be found when you really need them. Three have, at times, stayed out in this toxic atmosphere all night. Couldn't find them anywhere. Last night's smoke was extremely thick and I was out in it five times with my respirator and flashlight. I'd take a deep breath, remove the respirator, call and put it right back on to inhale. Eventually, they all either came to me while I was searching or showed up at the door shortly thereafter. I keep having thoughts that they are overcome by smoke somewhere and unable to respond. I can relax, now, knowing they're okay.

Interior BurnInterior BurnInterior Burn
7/25 Interior island begins to be consumed.

7/25/2008, 1:05 PM

Back-burn Ops throughout the night have been successful. The final piece of containment line was burned out, tying in the containment perimeter. The Voluntary Evac. and road closures are scheduled to be lifted by CHP at 6:00 PM. Our Resident Passes have become souvenirs. IR scans now show a complete ring around the islands in the interior, which will likely burn for weeks--if the Indians Fire is any measure at all of what to expect. There do appear to be some new hot spots in the MODIS plot on or near the dozer lines but no apparent slop-overs to contend with. The evening smoke will not cease until it is all out. At least the daytime is projected to have strong NW winds for the next week or so. Otherwise, the house would eventually soak up the particles and there would be no difference inside or out.

It has been an interesting, scary and all-around bad month. Perhaps the worst in my life. Expensive, too. Way expensive, and now I'm scared of that; not that I wasn't during this time. Yes, the system will be here when we need it and don't have two weeks to prepare while staring at the slow-moving freight train moving steadily in our direction. Joy has assured me that it's okay but the landscape guy handed me his second bill yesterday, our having already paid the first. This one is almost twice as big and we don't have the funds. Not a good feeling.

It's a Good News/Bad News thing.
The Good News is, you didn't have to use it.
The Bad News is, you didn't need to have it.

And now, I've learned that my best long time friend in town is moving away.

7/25/2008, 5:35 PM

I took a ride up the road this afternoon to the Helibase to get some close-ups and check out the current state of the facility and Ops. Up to now, I've been really wanting to do so but afraid to leave the property. The perimeter having been closed, MODIS plot now shows new fires in the last 12 hours only within the perimeter, so I felt that it would be a calculated risk I could take; at least for a short trip. Got some great frames, including a sequence of the HeliTorch taking off for another run ...if they come out. I had the shutter speed slowed way down to capture the rotor blur when it was sitting on the ground. I was walking back to the truck and heard the engines spool up. About FACE!!! Didn't think to change the shutter speed. The frames may be all blur. Was good to see it first hand, though, no matter how the images may have turned out. A really Big Plume was out there when I came back up on the mountain, so I know exactly who's responsible. ;-) They are still monitoring the fire and encouraging it to move in certain directions, so activity will continue for some time. I may be able to get more frames over the next days, depending upon the smoke density.

On the way back up the final climb on our mountain, a Mini-Jeep was parked just a little too far into the road on a corner of the initial steep grade half way up our hill, which presented a bit of a hazard. I had some trouble getting the truck by--on the wrong side of the road. The air had cleared just a bit this afternoon and there were two people viewing and taking shots of the fire. I stopped a ways up, where it was safe, and went back to talk. It's a film crew from the NBC affiliate in Salinas. We talked for a little while and I fielded their questions, filling them in on what things have been like being this close to the action for more than a month since seeing it all start. Of course, they immediately wanted to do an interview. I waved them off and politely declined. After they backed their Mini-Jeep down and over to the side, we continued talking some more about the happenings, what it has looked like, how it felt to see it steadily advancing, and they asked if there were a better vantage point to film from. Hell, yeah... our place. Best seat in the house! ... not that I'm totally happy about that. They followed me up. Gave them the cook's tour of where everything is out there: dozer lines, reservoir, current firing Ops, the events as seen from here--and then took them down to see our fire fighting system. After this, they are just about dying to do an interview, so I did. Certainly is far from the first on-camera interview I've done over the years, by a long shot, so just do it. Don't know if it will make the National feed but it'll obviously be recorded here. If it helps one person to put one of these systems in, it will be well worth it.




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