Saturday, July 5, 2008

California: Basin fire July 5

The Basin complex has burned completely around the community of Big Sur on the east side of the coast highway. From Big Sur it stretches 4 miles north into Andrew Molera State Park and is within 1/10 of a mile from the highway in most of these areas. So far it has not crossed the highway north of Big Sur.

On the south side the fire has been active south of Esalen. Firefighters are still working on the line on the ridge from the North Coast Ridge Trail down to the coast, in the area of Upper Bee campground. The fire is still a few miles away from the Indians fire.

On the east side it has reached Willow Springs campground and is about 1-1/2 miles away from Tassajara.

The electricity in Big Sur is completely out. In spite of the evacuation orders, some residents are remaining at their homes and businesses, not confident that if they evacuated that there would be enough firefighters available to protect their property.

At least one resident started their own backfire. After being warned by a deputy sheriff, Ross Curtis, 48, continued the backfiring and was arrested. Uncoordinated backfires are extremely dangerous for firefighters.

In the 2003 Cedar fire in San Diego county, a rogue backfire contributed to the death of fire captain Steve Rucker and injuries to three other members of the Novato Fire Protection District.

During the Jasper fire in 2001 west of Custer, South Dakota, Governor Bill Janklow did not agree with the strategy being implemented by the Type 1 Incident Management Team, and ordered the National Guard to construct dozer lines out ahead of the fire, without coordinating with the Team or the firefighters assigned to the fire.

When he threatened to order backfires be lit, again without any coordination, the Incident Commander had U. S. Marshals staged, ready to make arrests as necessary. The backfires would have been far out ahead of the fire, anchored to nothing. They would have become new, free-burning fires that would have become a nightmare for firefighters and residents. Thankfully, and to the relief of firefighters that would have been endangered by such an irresponsible act, the governor did not give the final order to start the backfires.

The moral of the story is, rogue backfires can endanger or even kill firefighters and others. For a resident to do this, to save some personal property that can be replaced, is reckless, careless, foolish, and stupid.

The fire is 68,712 acres and 5% contained. The map shows the fire perimeter as of late yesterday, Friday. Click on it to see a larger version.

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