Fire Update – July 3

It’s been a helluva week. Lots to tell…

The short version update as of this morning:
– EVERYONE in Big Sur was evacuated yesterday. Both sides of the highway. This is the first time this has ever happened. We’re talking about a stretch of Highway One that is more than a 90 minute drive.

– Yossi and I are safe and sound, in Carmel, staying with kind strangers who have offered a room of their home to us in downtown Carmel as long as we need it. I’m sitting at a Carmel coffee shop waiting for the morning’s fire update to post on the website.

The longer version:
This whole week has been one giant roller coaster blur. It’s giving me a whole new appreciation for living in the moment (and how difficult that can be!) I think part of me has been slow to send updates because it’s all so dang overwhelming.

As you know Yossi and I were already planning on moving, which in most ways has turned out to be the hugest blessing. It put us a week ahead of the game. Friday and Saturday we packed up everything from the house and found a place to move to. Until Sunday that is, when it was announced that the place we were moving was under evacuation advisory. So we just decided to move everything into storage and figure things out day by day, which is what we’ve been doing ever since. Monday we found a guest house in Big Sur to stay at for the week, and then landed a house-sitting gig, also in Big Sur, for July 5-21st. We were sitting pretty until yesterday morning (was that just yesterday?) when our host knocked on our door at 8 to give us the news that we were under evacuation advisory, and half of Big Sur was under mandatory evacuation notice. Ash was falling like eerie snowflurries everywhere, and though we were only a few hundred feet from the ocean we couldn’t see the water for the smoke. We (again, miraculously ahead of the game), secured a place to stay in Carmel for the night.

I spent the morning updating the surfire2008.org site with the evacuation news (which came from the “official” sources about 3 hours after the news of it had already spread everywhere), packing up the last bit of stuff from our old place (all but our poor, now certainly doomed plants,) packing up computers and files at the Big Sur Arts Initiative office and then sitting down for more web updates at noon, to find there was now a mandatory evacuation for all of Big Sur. Communication was now really breaking down all over town. My favorite story is one of a local hotel, who evacuated and closed without having let half of their guests know. Not even a note on the door. The community hotline wasn’t working because it was evacuated too. And fire was now clearly visible from the highway in several places.

Yos and I sat down and re-grouped. Most people we saw were in good humor – in a weird way, it was a sweet afternoon. Big Sur people are generally well-connected to each other, supportive, self-reliant and prepared. So even the incredibly fast turn of events wasn’t panicking people. Since we were already all moved, we wanted to help where we could, so we went back to our landlord’s place to help them get their stuff out and help him prep to defend his house. By the way, many, MANY people in Big Sur, including many close friends of mine, are still there. Mandatory evacuation doesn’t really mean mandatory, it means that once you leave you can’t come back. And people are invested in defending their homes. And nobody is trusting the fire incident command team that has come into town to fight this fire, because they don’t know the terrain, homes or people. Many poor decisions have been made and opportunities have been missed. And the official fire communications team can’t even get out this morning’s update because their e-mail isn’t working. So the locals are relying upon themselves and each other. They have all gotten gel to spray on their house when the flames get near and they all know the fastest way out.

We’re still really in the thick of this thing. The news this morning (all unofficial) isn’t good. Since yesterday, fires have started in Santa Barbara and Malibu, taking all our air support and a bunch of our crew. The fire is coming down toward the highway in several places with several more homes and businesses burned and threatened. 10,000 more acres burned last night alone, and the incident command team’s quote in the paper today was “this is far from over. If we were in a marathon, we’d be at mile marker two.”

As everyone in CR knows, the hardest parts will come – everyone out of work, no long-term housing, who knows what destruction to come home to…

My focus is still helping with the increasingly challenged communications through the surfire2008.org website. It’s become a pretty essential resource during this – it was covered in the Monterey Herald this week. It keeps me feel connected to the community to contribute with this, especially since we’re now all scattered everywhere.

I’ve got to run – but updates will come more frequently now…

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1 Comment

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One response to “Fire Update – July 3

  1. I wish all of you out there the best. The in-laws and I were in Monterey the day the fire started and, well, wow. What a beast that thing is.

    It can’t burn forever.

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