The Cambrian

Quick response douses flames

Cal Fire firefighters douse a brush fire on the south side of Highway 46 west of the Santa Lucia Range summit on Sunday, Aug. 1, as an air tanker begins dropping fire retardant.
Cal Fire firefighters douse a brush fire on the south side of Highway 46 west of the Santa Lucia Range summit on Sunday, Aug. 1, as an air tanker begins dropping fire retardant. PHOTO BY RALPH NOVOA

“Summer’s greatest fear –realized,” San Simeon Creek resident Michele Oksen said of a fire Monday, Aug. 2, that scorched 15 to 20 acres in the upper San Simeon Creek area, according to a Cal Fire estimate.

The fast-moving wildland fire, reported just before 1 p.m., burned across the Gideon, Oksen and Hindmon properties on upper San Simeon Creek Road near its intersection with Rocky Butte Truck Trail, killing some animals and destroying or damaging several outbuildings, along with brush and trees in the rugged terrain about 7 miles northeast of Cambria. No human injuries were reported.

On the first report of smoke spotted in the area about 12:53 p.m., Cal Fire immediately hit the rural fire with as many resources as possible, including seven fire engines, three water tenders, two bulldozers, three fire crews, four air tankers, two bulldozers, two helicopters and a spotter plane, totaling about 80 firefighters in all.

The helicopters scooped up water from a pond on the Warren Ranch to drop on the fire.

Cal Fire declared the Rocky Fire contained at 5:31 p.m., but crews continued mopping up and monitoring the fire through the night and Tuesday, Aug. 3.

Oksen’s land was “just a grassy

pasture away from the fire’s edge,” she said in an e-mail to The Cambrian. She wasn’t home when the fire began, and neither were neighbors whose lands also were ablaze. Their mountain neighbors were the first responders. Two dogs were saved because nearby good Samaritans came to their aid.

News of the wildland conflagration “spread as fast as the fire,” Oksen said, alerting owners that their land was burning. The “long drive up San Simeon Creek Road to Town Creek Truck Trail, where the fire was located, was filled with anxiety about what remained, if anything, of homes and pets.”

When fire victims arrived at the scene, they found helicopters dropping orange fire retardant from directly overhead. “Engine crews, convict crews, planes, heavy equipment, people and commotion were everywhere,” Oksen said.

“It was a restless night spent watching headlights and listening to bulldozers and hard-working firefighters,” Oksen recalled. “Early morning light was hazy with smoke. Mop-up crews continued to diligently uncover and extinguish remaining hot spots.”

Oksen praised firefighting personnel for an “outstanding job containing the fire… Gratitude is abundant in the Santa Lucia Mountains. Residents are thankful for the physical help, the emotional support and the fact that all homes were spared.”

The investigation into the cause of the fire is continuing, according to Cal Fire.

Second fire in two days

It was the second wildland blaze on the North Coast in two days. The first started just west of the Highway 46 summit about 3:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 1. The grass fire on a slope on the south side of the road was doused less than 45 minutes later, according to CHP reports.

Smoke from the fire caused drivers to slow on the highway. Several stopped to try and help extinguish the fire before Cal Fire units arrived.

Cal Fire is also continuing to investigate the cause of that fire.

  Comments