US Forest Service crews arrived on Tuesday, Sept 30 and worked for three days I wasn’t expecting them for a couple more days so that was a surprise. It was good, however, to recognize Pete Harris from his work here during the Basin Complex fire. He knows the reserve, where our buildings are and what our “light on the land” policy is. Pete conferred with us that, while protective actions in the Reserve were “contingency” at this point, there is no really good place for a fire break between our watershed and the fire’s location. Cone Peak and Twin Peak are in between us and consist of some of the steepest and inaccesible country in the mountains. There is a significant chance that this Chalk fire will eventually make it here. So it didn’t take long for us to consider what needed to be done. In 1999 the Kirk Complex fire approached Big Creek from this same direction, the southeast. In order to protect the Whale Point cabins and the cabins in Devil’s Creek Flat, they cut a hand line up from the common cabin, over Highlands Ridge, and down to the road to Circle M Ranch where Bob and Joey Milton live. The idea is then to fend the approaching fire off and send it around to the north of Devils Creek, over Mining Ridge, into Big Creek and up to Dolan Ridge. This same approach will be employed this time, except the crew leaders decided that the road from the canyon will be sufficient to use from the bench above Whale Point and down to the first left hand hairpin in our road heading to Devil’s Creek Flat. From there, they will cut a hand line straight down to the common cabin. Then they will also use the road from the bench down to Circle M. In order to do this, crews trim the roadside so that when the fire backs down to the road, there will be less fuel and will be easy to put out. Using the road means that we get some free roadside pruning and avoid cutting a swath across the ridge.Here are the crews reopening the hand break at the bottom of the canyon road at Devils Creek Flat and “brushing” the roadsides. You can just imagine how much poison oak these firefighters end up with!
According to the USFS supervisor working in Big Creek Reserve at the moment (I worked with him during the Basin Fire as well, so good to see a familiar face-got a hold of him through the IAP you posted-thanks!), there is no hand line being build along the Vicente Flat-San Antonio trail. Don’t believe everything you read, he said. A fact I can confirm with you is that they are building a hand line here in the Reserve and will use that plus our road to backfire and protect our structures and Bob and Joey’s house down at Circle M when (if) the fire gets here. Unfortunately, and things could change, they are preparing for the fire to round Cone Peak, probably from the east but maybe from the west and drop into Devils Creek or Vicente Creek. His story is that the fire is hung up above Fresno campground along the ridge there but that they have kept it below the cone peak road just west so far.
Now, you don’t have to take his or my word for it, call it “contingency” but here at Big Creek they are fully expecting this fire to burn north to the Basin and Indians perimeters. We shall see. We’re just glad we have good support here on the ground and we’re already pretty prepared from our experience with the Basin Fire being stopped on Dolan Ridge.