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The Basin Complex Fire

Started by lightning on June 21, 2008, a massive wildfire raged through the Ventana Wilderness south of Carmel Valley.  It destroyed 27 houses along the Big Sur Coast, and burned to the edge of Highway One. Only the tireless efforts of firefighters from around the world kept it from destroying the beautiful village of Big Sur. For those not living in the fire’s path, news that Big Sur had been saved ended the story. In truth, the battle was just beginning.

As the fire raged north and east through the wilderness, firefighters managed to keep it from reaching into Palo Colorado Canyon, saving numerous homes in the process. Breaching containment lines as they were being constructed, the fire raged through the Tassajara area nearly destroying the MIRA Observatory and the world famous Zen Center.
Using the same containment lines torn in the earth during the massive 1977 Marble Cone Fire, firefighters managed to keep the flames from reaching the Cachagua Valley and Carmel Valley Village.


The Basin Complex Fire, which merged with the Indians Fire started almost a month earlier, burned more than 240,000 acres, 83% in the Los Padres National Forest. To put things in perspective, this is an area 40 miles long by 15 miles wide.  Finally declared contained on July 27, 2008, suppression and containment costs for both fires exceeded $139.7 million.


As a member of the Board of the Carmel Valley Fire Protection District, I was afforded a "backstage pass" to the fire, allowing me to document the efforts of the fine people working so hard to protect our lives and property.  Images from this fire can be viewed in the gallery below.

Controlled Burns


The Monterey County Regional Fire District is one of the largest independent fire districts in the County, comprising more than 350 square miles.  It's firefighters are among the finest professionals anywhere.  "Controlled burns" are designed to restore native habitat and prevent devastating wild fires in areas prone to such events.  Conducted under strict guidelines designed to contain the blaze within specific boundaries, selected areas are burned only during optimum conditions ensuring that the flames only affect the areas intended.  Below are some images depicting our fire fighters in action.

Wildland Fire School: Fort Hunter-Liggett


Fire departments require constant training to ensure the most effective response to emergencies, including wildland fires. The Monterey County Regional Fire District regularly conducts "fire-on-the-ground" exercises designed to give its members hands-on training using real-time fire scenarios whenever possible because the only way to effectively learn how to fight wildland fires is to actually do it. Given the attendant risks to the environment and personnel involved, opportunities for such training is limited. Fort Hunter-Liggett in southern Monterey County is ideally suited for this training. Controlled burns are conducted on its lands each spring, affording fire departments an opportunity to practice their skills while mitigating the chances for a major conflagration as fuel loads become too heavy. 


The images below were taken during our latest wildland fire training session. At first glance it may appear that the blaze has escaped control or that personnel safety has been compromised. This is not the case. No one was injured, nor were structures threatened in any way. This is actual hands-on training under controlled circumstances.  

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Gallery Three