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Soberanes Fire: Reliable information resources on closures and more, plus how to help

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With deep gratitude for Robert Oliver Reagan III coming to our assistance in Monterey County, this post is dedicated in memory of Robert. A bulldozer operator and CAL FIRE partner, he died July 26, 2016 while fighting the Soberanes fire. To learn more about Mr. Reagan, please scroll down.

Investigators determined that the Soberanes fire resulted from an illegal campfire at Garrapata State Park, as reported by the Monterey County Weekly. The illegal campfire was about two feet by two feet; the wildfire that resulted burned 132,127 acres.

After 83 days, on October 12, 2016, the fire was 100% contained (not 100% out).

View from Garrapata Ridge along the Big Sur Coast

View from Garrapata Ridge along the Big Sur Coast (2009 photo by Mari)


[Update – 10/31/17 via Kate Novoa: ]

Special restrictions are in effect due to the Soberanes fire, including that many California State Parks are closed until further notice. Among closures are Andrew Molera State Park, Garrapata State Park, Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park, Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park, Pt. Sur Lighthouse State Historic Park, Point Lobos State Natural Reserve, Pine Ridge Trail to Sykes Hot Springs, and Mount Manuel Trail. For complete list, details, and any updates, check Cal Parks website or local sources below.

Among other fire-related restrictions, all trails and roads in the Los Padres National Forest – Monterey Ranger District are closed; see LPNF website for details. As the National Forest Service July 25, 2016 Emergency Closure Order indicates, violation is punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual or $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for not more than 6 months, or both.
Toro Park is also closed, effective July 24, 2016. For Toro Park reopening date, check with Monterey County Parks. Toro is serving as fire command station for crews battling the Soberanes fire.

Please make use of our most reliable

local resources for updates and to learn more.

Among these are:

  1. CAL FIRE Public Affairs Bureau for San Benito and Monterey Counties and CAL FIRE Public Information Officer Berlant
  2. Big Sur Kate (During this busy time, kindly refer first to Kate’s blog, Facebook posts, tweets, etc. to avoid contacting her with unnecessary questions. Thanks for your understanding.)
  3. Keith Vandevere / Xasáuan Today
  4. Greg Pool 
  5. Monterey County Sheriff’s Office
  6. Monterey County Weekly, e.g., Ana Ceballos, David Schmalz, Sara Rubin
  7. Monterey County Herald, e.g., Dave Kellogg, Tommy Wright 
  8. National Weather Service – Bay Area 
  9. Monterey Bay Air Resources District, e.g., July 26, 2016 Soberanes Wildfire Air Quality Advisory
In addition to all official closures, please also respect requests posted by Big Sur Kate and recommendations of the Monterey County Sheriff about avoiding certain roads and other areas even if they aren’t closed. For example, unnecessary traffic can make it more difficult for bulldozers, fire engines, and other firefighting equipment to reach areas most efficiently and safely. If you’re eager to see firefighters in action and views of the fire’s impact on public lands, etc., check the work of local professional photographers on the scene, including David Royal and Vern Fisher of the Monterey County Herald,  Nic Coury of the Monterey County Weekly, and others.
A reminder to media and all: Just as on any other day, respect private roads and private property. No trespassing. Unless you are a firefighter, law enforcement professional, utility company worker, etc. and are acting in official capacity, do not proceed onto private roads and private property without property owner’s permission.

* * *

Deepest gratitude 

to all visiting and local firefighters.
This post is dedicated in memory of

 Robert Oliver Reagan III

3 January 1981 – 26 July 2016.

Mr. Reagan, a private bulldozer operator and CAL FIRE partner from Friant, California, gave his life in fighting the Soberanes fire.
To assist the grieving wife and young daughters of Robert Reagan, a crowdfunding campaign has been established:
“Bereavement Fund: Soberanes Fire” at Click here.

Robert was a private contractor who was fatally injured during nighttime operations when his dozer overturned in steep terrain, as documented by the U.S. Fire Administration.

Robin Hamelin commented: “As a firefighter for CAL FIRE for 34 years, I simply want to encourage others to help the Reagan family. The loss of [Robert] is tragic and financially destructive for his wife and daughters….The public should understand that there is no large fund to help people in these situations. [Robert] was a hero to his family, his fellow firefighters and to the residents of Monterey County.”

Learn more about Mr. Reagan in “Robert Reagan, Yosemite grad and race car driver, killed while battling Soberanes Fire” in the Sierra Star. Among additional stories: “Soberanes Fire update: Bulldozer driver killed…” by James Herrera in the Monterey County Herald, 7/26/16; “Bulldozer operator killed fighting Soberanes Fire identified,” KSBW, 7/28/16.

A 9-page preliminary Informational Summary Report from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection / CAL FIRE can be accessed via KQED’s 8/5/16 story by Ted Goldberg, “Cal Fire Probe Details Death of Dozer Driver in Big Sur Blaze.” (As of 8/8/16, the report had apparently not yet been posted to the CAL FIRE website.)

* * * 

For recommendations on making other contributions in support of firefighters and residents affected by the #SoberanesFire . . . 

Please check with local sources listed above. Among recommended recipients are Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade, Community Foundation for Monterey County – Soberanes Fire FundCoast Property Owners AssociationMid Coast Fire Brigade, and Monterey County Recovers (MCR’s website is managed by Community Emergency Response Volunteers of the Monterey Peninsula).

Numerous fundraising events are planned, and Big Sur Kate will likely soon have a comprehensive list of these.

* * *

August 6, 2016 update

My calls received today included one from the Monterey County Health Department, which continues to make calls to many local residents as a result of the Soberanes Fire. The fire, burning since July 22, requires the continued necessity of some air quality advisory calls. Normally Monterey County air quality is excellent. In April, the American Lung Association’s annual report stated ours was the cleanest county in the continental U.S. for both ozone and particle pollution, and our largest city, Salinas, was the only California city reporting zero days of unhealthy air quality. That’s been temporarily changed by this fire, which is why Monterey Bay Air Resources District is among the links I include above.

It’s vital that “teach your children well” life skills priorities include respect for the regulations and wise practices that protect our natural resources. As reported August 2, 2016 in the Monterey County Weekly, investigators determined that Soberanes Fire was  started by an illegal, unattended campfire in Garrapata State Park, where campfires and camping are not allowed. If you and your family haven’t had Scouting or other experiences where the importance of campfire safety is emphasized, please make up for that now; a good start is

“Loving Big Sur to death” was already an issue of great importance to most local residents and others who treasure the Big Sur coast. This July 22 campfire resulted in the death of firefighting dozer operator Robert Oliver Reagan III, who left a widow and two young daughters –; the death of countless wildlife and plants; the death of many dreams for people who lost 57 homes and more; and scores of additional tragic results. Smokey the Bear says, “Only you can prevent wildfires.” It didn’t take a thunderstorm or other unavoidable act to cause all this death; it just took someone with lack of respect for a “no campfires” sign.

This post was published on 27 July 2016. One or more changes last made to this post on 5 June 2019.

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