Big Sur Fire: Evacuations, Updates

Big Sur(Photo credit, Toby Rowland-Jones)

Big Sur Fire ~ Sycamore Canyon, Pfeiffer Ridge, Clear Ridge


December 16, 2013
5:00 PM

The Pfeiffer Fire started after midnight on December 16th in the Pfeiffer Ridge area just west of Big Sur, CA . The size of the fire is approximately 500 acres and is 0% contained.

Crews are actively working to protect homes in the area. There has been multiple structures consumed and or damaged by the fire, but it is still too early to do an accurate assessment.

An evacuation of the Pfeiffer Ridge area is in effect. The evacuation area is from Sycamore Canyon Road on the south to Clear Ridge on the north; Highway 1 on the east and the Pacific Ocean on the west.

The Red Cross has established an evacuation center at the Big Sur Grange.

Road closures in effect are as follows:
Clear Ridge Road
Pfeiffer RidgeRoad
Sycamore Canyon Road
Road from the River Inn to Pfeiffer Ridge Road.


The fire remains active making runs, with some spotting. Early today, resources reached 200 personnel assigned with additional resources responding all day.

Central Coast Interagency Incident Command Team will be transitioning on Tuesday, December 17, 2013 at 6:00 AM. To assume management of the fire. The Incident Commander of the Type II team is Mark Nunez.

A community meeting is tentatively planned for Tuesday afternoon at the Multi Agency Facility. More information to follow.
*************************************************       PFEIFFER RIDGE HIT BAD

         ***UPDATE 4:25 PM***

(Source: Monterey County Weekly)

Eyewitness accounts indicate that number could climb significantly, according to Diana Ballantyne, general manager at Fernwood. She said that a firefighter that she spoke to told her that every home along the Pfeiffer Ridge area he was fighting was completely laid to waste.

“There was nothing left,” she reported him saying.

Nineteen engines are working the fire—six from Cal Fire and 13 from various departments across the county. There are also six hand crews, one bulldozer, and two water tenders (large tanks that serve as mobile fire hydrants). Cal Fire also confirmed that multiple planes and helicopters are working the fire, but were unable to give an exact number at this time.

The fire is reportedly burning through several different types of terrain, from brushy chaparral, redwoods and oaks, and riparian habitat like the sycamore trees in Sycamore Canyon.

No cause of the fire has yet been confirmed, but Ballantyne says that she heard from firefighters that it started somewhere between the Pfeiffer Lodge group camps and Buzzards Roost. “And it just took off up Pfeiffer Ridge real fast,” she says.

Ballantyne has evacuated Fernwood’s guests, but says she will stay open for locals and firefighters.

~~~~UPDATE 1:10 PM~~~

Per AA all aircraft has been set down due to smoke conditions…the 2 copters are at Monterey Airport on hold….fixed wing at Hollister. This is from a post on BigSurKate’s blog, by BEUSCANNER.

****UPDATE 12:40 PM**

KTVU and AP Wires

BIG SUR, Calif. —

A wildfire burning through the picturesque coastline near Big Sur had grown to 500 acres early Monday,  forcing area residents to be evacuated and destroying 15 structures including homes, authorities said.

The fire was moving quickly though the tinder-dry hillsides near Big Sur. The region was in the grips of one of the driest years in history.

State fire spokesman Jonathan Pangburn said Monday morning he was still working on determining how many people were evacuated and how many homes were threated.  At least 15 structures including homes have been destroyed by the fire.wildfire firefighter file photo   photo: Getty Images

UPDATE 11:10 AM:

As of 10:50 a.m., the wildfire was zero percent contained, U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Lynn Olson said. Offshore winds are blowing the fire toward the ocean, but flames have not crossed Highway 1 yet and remain on the east side of Highway 1.

“Standing here at the base to Pfeiffer Ridge and hearing propane tanks blowing up and seeing the ugly thick dark smoke indicating more properties have been destroyed. It’s the saddest moment imaginable,” Big Sur resident Toby-Rowland Jones said.

The blaze broke out at midnight on a hiking trail called Buzzards Roost Trail, firefighters said, and flames spread along Pfeiffer Ridge Road and Sycamore Canyon Road.

Mandatory evacuations are in progress, residents are evacuating north to Carmel, and the Red Cross set up an aid center at Big Sur Grange Hall.”(from KSBW Action News)

~~~~~~10:30: 20 homes gone, 500 acres burned. Spread expected to Sycamore Canyon within next 15 minutes. (This is a report I got from Shiry Escobar who is currently safe at Blaze.) From ‘coastroad’ on Big Sur Kate’s blog. Kate is the best place for the current news.

****UPDATE 10:45 AM: From local resident Chelsea Davey: (Monterey County Weekly Report):

“Going back down the (Sycamore) canyon now for another load from the house. I have all the family photos and some heirloom pieces but there’s still time for one more trip before Sycamore Canyon gets cut off.”

As air support arrived, with two tanker planes, a spotter and a helicopter in the sky – as of around 8:50am – Davey had safely evacuated to Apple Pie Ridge. 

“A whole neighborhood has been engulfed,” she emails. “At least a dozen homes. Maybe more. I can finally hear planes.”

10 AM:  Three homes destroyed, not identified where, fire headed toward ocean. Smoke visible from Carmel, Carmel Valley****

Started around midnight, early Monday, December 16 and scattered news is coming in.

Estimates between 100-300 acres burning on Pfeiffer Ridge, the closest ridge to the Pacific west of Highway One. And leaping to Clear Ridge, east side of Highway One, with reports of structures burned. 

Sycamore Canyon Road, which is Big Sur’s main beach road to Pfeiffer Beach, looks like it’s about to be closed off, and some structures possibly scorched or burned. Residents are evacuating along with precious possessions. I know Big Sur, that includes the animals. Even the recalcitrant pot-bellied pigs and goats. The horses are herded to the beach.

130 Firemen and equipment deployed, and air support expected by dawn, or underway now. It’s being called a vegetation fire, source unknown.  Evacuees are headed to Fernwood and the Grange. Residents are felling trees near homes. Sheriffs are alerting locals.

We haven’t had much rain at all this year and it always sets an undercurrent of worry along the Central Coast. It’s dry. The driest year on record in California.

I’ll keep updates here as they come in. Pfeiffer Ridge and Sycamore Canyon are probably the most beautiful places on the planet and always will feel like my home.

God Bless beautiful Big Sur and it’s wildlife and extraordinary geography, and the good-hearted pioneers who relish their exceptional lives in that redwood to ocean brilliance.


10 thoughts on “Big Sur Fire: Evacuations, Updates

  1. This is what I found: just googled Big Sur wildfire.

    1. Big Sur wildfire destroys 15 homes, spreads across 550 acres ……fire…big-sur/-/…/-/index.html‎

    by Amy Larson
    20 mins ago – Firefighters are battling a 550-acre fire in Big Sur that’s scorching rugged mountains and large houses between Pfeiffer State Beach and .
    2. Big Sur wildfire rages out of control; Forces evacuations,… | www … › News › Local‎

    5 hours ago – A wildfire burning through the picturesque coastline near Big Sur had grown to 500 acres early Monday, forcing area residents to be evacuated .

    Its is damn difficult when it is so dry. V.

    • Thank you, Vera. I can’t seem to find a word about which homes and exactly where. No injuries reported. It’s an experienced group of pioneer types living there who’ve been through much.

    • Thanks, Gunta. It sounds to me like Big Sur Kate is in the thick of things, not surprising, and the updates are coming from witnesses and friends. Too horrific. The areas being hit are some spared by the fires in 2008….i.e. my old homestead on Sycamore Canyon Road, just short of Pfeiffer Beach, and Pfeiffer Ridge, probably some of the world’s most spectacular places, as you well know. Hoping for the best. As neighborhoods go, this is a can-do crowd. Thanks again.

  2. Wildfires are terrifying and many times difficult to control. I hope that you’ll be safe where you are.
    Besides the danger to people and animals, forest fires leave behind areas of devastation that look terrible. And yet this is one of nature’s ways to clear natural debris and to renew itself. Some of the conifers cannot sprout unless the pine cones are scorched by fire. Only then the seeds are released and new trees can germinate in the soil enriched by the remainders of the wildfires. When we go and want to live deep in nature we become part of nature’s cycles of death and rebirth. It is inevitable. I hope that nobody is hurt in this fire. Keep us posted please. I am now going to check your local newspapers to see what they say.
    Here in Idaho there where large wildfires this last summer that could barely be contained but were expected to be eventually put out by the snows of Winter.,. fortunately they were out there far away in the pristine wilderness – but it blew my mind that only nature itself could take care of the situation. Men could not.
    Keep us posted.
    I cannot put a ‘like’ to this but I am with you in thoughts and hopes. Vera

    • Thanks, Vera. Three years going on four out of the last devastating Big Sur fire and I’m hoping this will be quickly put out. The fact that houses are already burning is horrifying, structure fires are rare. I lived on Sycamore Canyon, the original Pfeiffer homestead next to the beach and I pray it survives. This sounds bad, and fast, but is being attended to by all forces available.

      • Is California in the 11 years drought by any chance? I feel for those who lost their homes, that is an awful blow.

        BTW have you read ‘To a god unknown’ by Steinbeck ? it is a powerful book about homesteading in California and its dry spells. Read it when the fire has been contained and put out.

        • Thanks Vera. I don’t think we’re 11 year droughting, but we’ve had a couple of years without much, and this past year the driest in CA. Trying to get new news and there’s not much. I expect everyone on scene is working on lives and wildlives and property much loved all. Will look for Steinbeck’s view.

    • Hi Bette. I’m NOT in direct contact, but I’m guessing that it being winter and a Monday, Fernwood et al are going to run out of food for the refugees. But watch those roads. Someone reported that they were evacuating Sycamore Canyon home and expected it to be closed off. There’s a back road but it leads to Pfeiffer Ridge, which sounds like it’s fully engaged in fire. Two houses said to be burnt, oh God DAMN, too horrific. Let me know if you hear the who and where. Love to you all….keep an eye on exit routes….

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