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Fire Unexpectedly Worsens; Big Sur Is Ordered to Evacuate

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Fire Unexpectedly Worsens; Big Sur Is Ordered to Evacuate

Old 07-03-08, 01:37 AM
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Fire Unexpectedly Worsens; Big Sur Is Ordered to Evacuate

Oh no. The beauty of the Central California coast up in smoke. One of my favorite tours. We camped near Big Sur one night. It was just incredible. it won't be the same , next tour.
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BIG SUR, Calif. — Facing a stubborn fire, California officials ordered the evacuation of Big Sur on Wednesday as flames flared on nearby mountaintops and moved steadily toward this coastal retreat

Firefighters have been attacking a fire near Big Sur for 11 days and had been helped in recent days by fog, moist conditions and lighter winds. Seventeen homes have been lost here — more than half the total destroyed statewide from the first major wildfires of the season — but many residents had been allowed to remain as the fire stayed to the east and south.

But overnight Tuesday the fire unexpectedly intensified, prompting mandatory evacuations of residents on both sides of Highway 1, the scenic coastal byway that runs through the Big Sur valley.

“It’s tough to move out of your home; we understand that,” said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who visited the town with federal emergency officials on Wednesday, “but do it.”

Yellow smoke and ash mixed in the air as a procession of possession-laden cars, trucks and vans streamed north out of town. Horses, goats, cats and dogs were also being trucked out by animal welfare workers, as helicopters ferried back and forth to the ocean, drawing out water to dump on smoldering hillsides east of town.

One of those evacuating was Erica Sanborn, 28, who was living with her husband and their dog in a hotel in Big Sur, having already been forced out of their home, farther south on the coast.

https://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/03/us...pagewanted=all
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Old 07-03-08, 11:13 PM
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Originally Posted by cyclezealot
Oh no. The beauty of the Central California coast up in smoke. One of my favorite tours. We camped near Big Sur one night. It was just incredible. it won't be the same , next tour.
Not the same, perhaps, but it will still be beautiful. Fire is a natural process in California.

Fire is necessary to remove the weeds. When you learn from a naturalist what is and isn't native to California, the non-native species start to look ugly. You realize they are destroying good bird habitat, crowding out native species, and so forth. On my last visit to Big Sur, when I drove my ailing and aging father to a meeting at Asilomar two years ago, I was struck by the extent of invasive Patagonia grass and eucalyptus on some of the slopes near Big Sur. I hope this fire gives those non-native species a kick in the butt. The native plants and animals of California need an occasional fire to preserve their habitat. Native trees like manzanita, live oak, and coastal redwoods (which have their furthest south redoubt against global warming here) are highly adapted to surviving occasional intense fires.

I'm not saying we should let fires burn out of control. I hope that all the structures and homes in this lightly populated area can be saved.

But California doesn't need to be saved. If you planned to tour on Highway 1, wait a couple of months. You'll see some blackened areas along the highway, but the highway is so long that much of it will look the same as always. I have been all over California (mostly in a car, although sometimes on a bike, and I do a lot of hiking). I've seen many places where intense fires once occurred, but the landscape always remains beautiful, and it will always come back. The real threat to California is suburban sprawl, not fire. Come back and tour California on a bicycle! Nothing will be ruined.

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Old 07-04-08, 08:46 AM
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Originally Posted by metzenberg
Not the same, perhaps, but it will still be beautiful. Fire is a natural process in California.

Fire is necessary to remove the weeds. When you learn from a naturalist what is and isn't native to California, the non-native species start to look ugly. You realize they are destroying good bird habitat, crowding out native species, and so forth. On my last visit to Big Sur, when I drove my ailing and aging father to a meeting at Asilomar two years ago, I was struck by the extent of invasive Patagonia grass and eucalyptus on some of the slopes near Big Sur. I hope this fire gives those non-native species a kick in the butt. The native plants and animals of California need an occasional fire to preserve their habitat. Native trees like manzanita, live oak, and coastal redwoods (which have their furthest south redoubt against global warming here) are highly adapted to surviving occasional intense fires.

I'm not saying we should let fires burn out of control. I hope that all the structures and homes in this lightly populated area can be saved.

But California doesn't need to be saved. If you planned to tour on Highway 1, wait a couple of months. You'll see some blackened areas along the highway, but the highway is so long that much of it will look the same as always. I have been all over California (mostly in a car, although sometimes on a bike, and I do a lot of hiking). I've seen many places where intense fires once occurred, but the landscape always remains beautiful, and it will always come back. The real threat to California is suburban sprawl, not fire. Come back and tour California on a bicycle! Nothing will be ruined.

Howard
metzenberg,

Sounds like you are very knowledgeable of the area. I leave Sept 10. I have ready booked the flights. This whole thing has me worried. Assuming there are no other additional fires, do you think things will be pretty much bounced back by then?

I guess my big worry is that I am credit card touring. A lot of people lost their homes. I hope the same fate does not fall upon the various resorts along the way.
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Old 07-04-08, 02:43 PM
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Originally Posted by spinnaker
metzenberg,

Sounds like you are very knowledgeable of the area. I leave Sept 10. I have ready booked the flights. This whole thing has me worried. Assuming there are no other additional fires, do you think things will be pretty much bounced back by then?

I guess my big worry is that I am credit card touring. A lot of people lost their homes. I hope the same fate does not fall upon the various resorts along the way.
Hi Spin,

I have not bicycle toured in this area. I have been to Monterrey countless times. In both 2005 and 2006 I drove my father to scientific meetings at Asilomar, a beautiful retreat center south of Monterrey, in his 2002 Toyota Prius. My father, suffering from advanced cancer, was not allowed to fly in airplanes because he was immune compromised, so we got into the Prius and drove there from the northern end of the Los Angeles metro area together. It was a great father-son experience to drive this beautiful highway together! My dad passed away about a year ago.

Big fires occur in the hills north and west of my parent's home near Los Angeles every year. Sometimes these fires cause concern in the neighborhood, but there has never been talk of evacuation where they live. It's often interesting to see the fires from above as you fly into Burbank airport.

I have probably driven from Los Angeles to San Francisco to LA a couple of dozen times in my life, and I have explored many of the back roads of California by car and on hiking trails. The main road from LA to SF goes through a narrow canyon south of Bakersfield that is called The Grapevine. The Grapevine burns someplace almost every year, yet it is always beautiful. I drive this area so much mostly as a son looking after his parents. In the period of my father's illness from 2002 until 2007, there were many trips. Not on a bike, but I was always out looking at the roads from a bicyclist perspective.

I have seen many fires in California. Usually, you see smoke, not fire. I lived in San Francisco during the famous Oakland Hills fire of 1991, and I knew several people who were burned out of their homes and apartments. I have probably been to Yosemite and the surrounding region 20 times in my life, in every season. I've been to Tahoe at least as many times. Especially in the late summer, I have seen many fires there. I have had a chance to see the same area burn, then regenerate, and sometimes burn again.

All I can say is, keep track of what is going on. Chances are, the Big Sur fire will be contained in a few weeks, but that it will smolder on for weeks more. By September, there will surely be other fires elsewhere in California that get more attention. Usually all the fire fighting you read about is focused on keeping the fires away from structures, not on stopping or preventing them, so most of the facilities built for tourists survive and return to operation as soon as the danger is passed.

My guess is that all the motels and resorts between SLO and Monterrey will have long since reopened by the time you visit, but that tourists will be scared away, so you will have an ideal situation for credit card camping, with the motels and small businesses in this area welcoming you back. You will get to do some dramatic photography of burned zones.

Fire is not a disaster in California. It is normal. Don't let it stop you from visiting and touring.

Howard
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Old 07-05-08, 09:36 PM
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You'll be surprised at how fast a region can regenerate.

I worked in Yellowstone a couple summers after the fires (THE fires, 1988), and we were already seeing ga-jillions of little logdepole pine seedlings, aspen seedlings (you read correctly, aspen seedlings), and some rare plant species. It was cool to see first-hand how each (plant) community was responding.

I returned about 10 years later, and WOW, it was amazing. I could hardly remember some of our plot locations; our usual landmarks were over-grown.

P.S. But, yes, for now, you'll need a detour and a face mask. You don't want to be breathing in those ashes.
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Old 07-07-08, 12:01 PM
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Keep following the news reports regarding progress of the fire. I would not be surprized to see it burning throughout July and perhaps into August. It will almost certainly be out by Sept when you are touring. As far as lodging issues: Clearly lodging will be available in Carmel/Monterey at the north end of Big Sur. Chances are that lodging in the town of Big sur will survive but follow up with an internet search. Farther south, Ragged Point Inn is quite a ways south of the fire area (probably at least 40 miles) so you would have a stopping point there or on down the road about 25 miles to San Simeon/Cambria. The only real issue lodging wise would be your midpoint stop in Big Sur....the typical ride is Monterey to South of Big Sur (maybe to Deetjens) and then from there to Ragged Point or south of there. I'd watch the internet for news about the town of Big Sur and Lucia (which has a funky motel and is near the fire area). Good Luck
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