Tuesday, August 30, 2016

The Heart of Summer

   An artist ponders a picturesque setting and strikes a pose.

   Accompanied by sunshine and blue sky the La Familigia picnic and bocce tourney at the Stolo Family Winery farmhouse was a gentle day.

gentle calm, welcomed
    The day was a transition for many on the central California coast. The Chimney fire is now 75% contained. 46 thousand acres were ravaged and 49 homes and 21 other buildings were destroyed. Almost 4,000 California firefighters battled the blaze that began August 13. They have been received as heroes in this area. The cause is still under investigation. In our near 10 years in California I have come to learn arson investigators are experts and thoroughly diligent. It sometimes takes a while but they generally find the cause and in some cases it leads to prosecution. Fighting fire in California is a multi million dollar proposition and is tantamount to going to war.
    Thanks to so many of you for your concern and words of encouragement. While Cambria was never directly threatened, the blaze was only a few miles away.  When you can see fire from your home, your concern level rises. People here are grateful. We get back to summer joy.

     See you down the trail.


Saturday, August 27, 2016

Breathing Easier and Jackson Browne

"no matter what fate chooses to play"
Jackson Browne "For A Dancer"
 Jackson Browne at Vina Robles 8/26/16
photo by Trisha Butler KSBY TV
Chimney Fire at Lake Nacimiento
     There is an emotional and intimate quality to Jackson Browne performances and coming on the night Cal Fire offered good news in the face of a tough battle it was even more so.
      The good news is this-the Chimney fire is 51% contained and grew very little beyond the 45 thousand acres it has claimed.
      The Hearst Castle is still threatened however and 49 homes and 21 other structures have been destroyed. 
       Trisha Butler of KSBY TV in San Luis Obispo captured extraordinary images of the Chimney Fire.
photo by Trisha Butler
Trisha Butler
Trisha Butler
Trisha Butler
     3,985 firefighters remain on the job. 325 engines, 116 hand crews, 4 air tankers and 16 helicopters continue to fight the erratic and stubborn fire including in rugged terrain. 
      Citizens gathered in Paso Robles for a kind of thank you parade along the route that fire crews travel as they switched shifts.

photo courtesy of Cal Fire
photo by Cal Fire
   With thousands of firefighters and support personnel in the area they've made camp where they can. The image below is  at the public use area of San Simeon Campground just north of Cambria.
      SLOSTRINGER has gathered incredible images of the Chimney Fire battle as you have seen in the last several posts. SLOSTRINGER has also gone the extra length to feed cats and dogs that were left by people who were forced to evacuate.
    Another great photographic presence has been EPN564.
     An LA Fire Captain observes as his team hand fights a part of the Chimney Fire.
     Air is slightly better and for that reason too people along the central California Coast are breathing a bit easier.  
     Even though Hearst Castle remains threatened, it appears defensive efforts in place will hold. We are hopeful cooler and overcast conditions today and tomorrow will give the firefighters a chance to further contain the blaze, including those lobes that threaten Hearst and communities miles away on the north side of the fire.
poignant observance
  Browne performs For A Dancer and dedicates it a friend who passed two days ago.
        "Keep a fire burning in your eye
         pay attention to the open sky. 
       You never know what will be coming down....  
       I don't know what happens when people die
      Cant seem to grasp it as hard as I try  
      It's like a song I can hear playing right in my ear 
      That I can't sing..."
  Browne got a rousing response when he paid tribute to the Firefighters. 
   The audience cheered when he said "...some people build walls and others open doors."  
    Browne has long been aligned with social justice and environmental causes, including in San Luis Obispo County. 

   Lana and I have been fortunate to see Browne perform 6 times over the years and as Lana observed last night, "His music speaks to you.  It goes directly to your heart." 
  And he can rock it too! Last nite's crowd at Vina Robles were chilled by a stiff breeze, carrying evidence of the Chimney fire, but they were ready for some release and the troubadour delivered.   

map by Joe Tarica San Luis Obispo Tribune

    "These days I seem to think a lot
     About the thing that I forgot to do 
    And all the I had a chance to"
            Jackson Browne These Days

    Something I don't want to forget to do is to again thank the heroic firefighters. Also to express admiration for journalists who have done admirable work. The San Luis Obispo Tribune and The Cambrian staff, including my friend Kathe Tanner have produced excellent reporting and coverage. 
KSBY and KCOY television are appreciated. SLOSTRINGER has provided extraordinary photo coverage. 

     See you down the trail.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

Day 13

castle defense
    A modicum of good news as the Chimney fire continues to plague California's central coast, Hearst Castle is well defended. 
    Cal Fire and Hearst Fire personnel say the landmark is still threatened but precautions and fuel burns have lowered the risk slightly. In this erratic fire any help is good.
 photo by cambriacoffee
     Air quality remains poor over most of the area and people are fatigued by the constant tension. Evacuation orders around Lake Nacimiento have been lifted in some areas and imposed in others. People living along a mountain road between Cambria and San Simeon have been put on alert.
   Media coverage has also focused on the appreciation of residents for the valor and endurance of the fire fighters. 3,972 are on duty at this fire. There are now 327 fire engines, 105 hand crews, 16 helicopters and 7 air tankers. The hand crews struggle against the rugged terrain as well.
    Presently we all hold on to hope that favorable weather conditions will give the firefighters a couple of days to bring more containment. 43 thousand acres have been burned. 48 homes and 20 other structures have been destroyed. The fire is 39% contained. Hot weather and more wind is expected the first of the week.
       The Chimney fire burns within view of the Pacific Ocean.
The juxtaposition of a port town just a few miles away and the raging mountain fire is mind boggling to me.
     Wild fires on the coast seem absurd, but extreme drought and untended wild land are a dangerous combination.
     The fire has given us an opportunity to examine what has been the incredible lack of judgment by local government that has refused to fund a forest management plan. We'll examine this in more depth next week.
     So we continue to watch and wait. We also find joy in small pleasures, meals with friends, being able to enjoy the comfort of our home and an occasional sight that brings a smile.
      We caught this "throwback view" in San Luis Obispo near the train depot. There was a time in Boomer lives when back yard clothes lines were a special playscape. 

      See you down the trail.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


    17 Helicopters continue to fly into harms way as they battle the Chimney fire that has now grown to 37 thousand acres. They are part of a small army at war with an unpredictable fire.
photo by EPN564
     The shot above is part of the staging area in Paso Robles for the Cal Fire army. 
     3,983 firefighters are on duty. They are equipped with 326 engines, 107 total crews, 7 air tanker planes, 62 water tenders and 46 dozers. Coordination and communication itself is an extraordinary task. Firefighters from around California answer the call. 
     The logistics of attacking wildfire are vexing-whom to put where and in what role. There is a meteorologist on duty, for example, as the fire creates its own weather. The air temperature along the borders of the fire will range from 70 to 90 degrees and the humidity wildly fluctuates as well. The heat of the burning scrub, trees and grasslands mix with different microclimates and the fire behaves erratically. 
     Signs, social media posts, conversations and letters to editors by central coast residents praise the firefighters and offer prayers and other encouragement. These men and women do long and extended hours of dangerous hard work and many of them have been moved from other fires. Some go weeks without being home or seeing family.
     The statistic sighted are according the AM Cal Fire incident report. As of this morning 1,830 structures are threatened in the Lake Nacimiento to Lake San Antonio area.
      As the fire has tracked north in the last several hours the threat to Hearst Castle has lessened. But crews remain deployed on the Castle grounds and all tourist activity has been stopped.
      As seen below a Kern County Unit assess the situation at the Castle. 
    As long as winds permit the 7 air tankers continue to route over the central coast and drop retardant. Coordinating their flights and those of the 17 helicopters is also a challenge.

 photo by Joe Johnston San Luis Obispo Tribune
 photo Captain Lucas Spelman Cal Fire
photo Captain Lucas Superman Cal Fire
    There is a frightening edge to a large fire that grows so rapidly. The graphic below prepared by Joe Tarica of the San Luis Obispo Tribune shows how it has grown day by day.

        As noted previously, we watch and wait. We also admire those thousands on the front line.
      We also appreciate the work of journalists and free lancer SLOSTRINGER for their efforts to keep us informed.

      See you down the trail.

Monday, August 22, 2016


watch and wait
Courtesy CAL FIRE- photo by Etericsson
   Ten years on the California coast has acquainted us with the fire season. This year it is closer to home.
 Courtesy USFS
   3,785 Firefighters now battle the Chimney fire that  threatens the Hearst Castle.
 Photo by Tom Cochrun
   The blaze has grown to 31 thousand acres and is some 3 miles from the famed Castle.  
   The private Hearst Ranch has moved cattle but lost out buildings including an historic fishing cabin.
 Courtesy Cal Fire
   Cal Fire says the blaze is erratic and they continue to bolster the effort. 14 Helicopters, 7 air tanker planes, 50 dozers, 43 water tenders, 311 fire engines, 104 crews and some 3,700 firefighters continue to battle the blaze that feeds on drought parched wild land.
 Photo by Joe Johnston-Courtesy San Luis Obispo Tribune
   The Castle has been closed to visitors. The fire is 35% contained.  
Courtesy USFS
    The southern end of the fire borders the Paso Robles appellation wine territory. Air quality has been affected and a coating of ash continues to settle on cars and homes. 
    California media is experienced at fire coverage and long time residents take it all in stride. Evacuation procedures and plans are discussed. We assure ourselves we are far enough and fire fighting efforts will halt its advance, but it is an uneasy inner truce. One can not help but feel powerless as nature plays its hand.
    I think it is reminiscent, in a small way, of the Brits during the Nazi bombing blitz of WWII. They continued with life and tried to make it as normal as possible, despite the nightly bombing. Here we go about our routines, watch the smoke clouds over the mountains, pay extra attention to the media, we may even listen to special frequencies hearing the emergency command center, pray for the safety of the fire crews and wait desperately to hear the containment percentage increase.
      As tense as that may be, we know that for a few dozen families in the fire zone homes are gone and more than one thousand others are threatened. 
      Watch and wait is what we do.

       See you down the trail.

Friday, August 19, 2016

We Lost a Great Bud and Local Fire Update

     Bud Goff was a guy who made you think you could go on forever. 
     Several years ago as I was learning to play tennis I was invited to substitute in a foursome that had been together for a number of years, only later would I learn how long that was.
     When Dr. Ed moved from Cambria I was invited to join Bud, Ellie and Jim every Thursday morning at 7:30, year round. These were crafty, veteran players who knew angles, spin and shot placement. They called Ellie a backboard, always returned shots. Jim, who was a physicist had learned some of the most vicious spin and English you can imagine. And then there was Bud who ran like a deer, as a lefty he could drill you with a serve and was as proficient at the net and getting to it, as anyone.  
      A relatively new retiree, I knew I was younger. I figured Bud was maybe mid to late 70's. A few years ago when a fellow was subbing with us he asked Bud how old he was. Bud said he was 88. My jaw dropped. Some 4-5 years later, just a few months ago, Bud had a pacemaker installed. He took about three weeks off and came to the court. He'd ask to take a break once in a while when we first began the days play as he said to "let everything get in sync." Frankly I worried a bit but he continued to play an aggressive and skilled game and he loved it. 
      A couple of weeks ago, Bud did not show up. He was usually the first person to the court. I called his beloved Viv and she said he'd had a heart issue. They gave him a stent.
      He got home in a couple of days and as we talked on the phone he said he was ready to come back, but then he began to feel ill. He was readmitted to the hospital. 
       I spoke with Bud three days ago. He told me what he had been diagnosed with and said as soon as they finished the chemo therapy he'd back on the court "probably in a couple of weeks."  In the mean time he said he just wanted to "get back living again."  He hated being in a hospital bed.  I told him that traffic at the farmers market last week was backed up on Main Street, something that never happened when he was the fellow in control. He greeted everyone, had a treat for kids and pets and got all the cars parked. I told him the traffic jam was probably because everybody was asking about him.  He chuckled.
       He told me my daughter, a nurse, had visited with him and he spoke glowingly about her. I told him we hoped to see him back on the court in a couple of weeks and he said he'd be there.  Bud passed away yesterday, while undergoing treatment.
      He was 92, maybe 93. I don't know what you picture when you see a 92 year old man, but I'll bet it isn't a picture of Bud. He smiled all the time. Was fit, trim and as noted, he ran on the court like a deer. He recently bought a new car and was talking about programming the radio. Same with a new smart phone. There'd be days when he'd stop the play to point out a beautiful cloud formation, or watch hawks soar and chuckle at the calves as they ran on a nearby grazing slope. He was a gentleman, a coach and mentor, civic volunteer and he seemed ageless. I'll miss my Thursday mornings with Bud, but I'll remember him well and with a smile.
local fire update
    The Chimney fire east of the Santa Lucia mountains in northern San Luis Obispo county has become a source of anxiety for those of us on the coast.
   Air quality has been affected when the wind pushes smoke and ash our way. It is being able to see the blaze that has claimed some 12-13 thousand acres that is disquieting. 
It is less than 40 percent contained and the southern track is in rugged wilderness where it is difficult to fight. 

      The famed Hearst Castle is to the south in San Simeon. The private Hearst ranch has begun to move animals. Locals are paying close attention and wondering. Friends in San Simeon have begun to prepare for evacuation, just in case.
    There are two fires on the Central Coast, the Soberanes fire north of Big Sur and the Chimney Road fire in near Lake Nacimiento.  There are currently 22 major fires in California.
     This is a state with a history of battling wild fires and the skill level is extraordinary.  It is a huge budget item for the state and people who have been here a long time have learned to live with the risk. We are getting better about that, but we still keep a wary eye on the smoke plumes and anticipate hearing that containment has been achieved.

      See you down the trail.