The Battle For Tassajara Hot Springs

The Zen Center at Tassajara Hot Springs has been preparing for the arrival of the Basin Fire for almost two weeks. Fire crews have been in and out over the course of the last two weeks but now they are gone according to supporters and friends of the Center.
I have been covering the Basin Complex Fire since the start and all the information I have gathered left me believing firefighters would be available to help the residents of Tassajara should the fire make its way to them.

It seems apparent the fire will visit Tassajara. Barring an unexpected change in the weather the five persons remaining at the center can expect the fire to test how well residents prepared the property.

The fire looks to be within .5 miles or closer to them at the moment. I don’t want to second guess Basin Fire command and I won’t, but it seems to me this compound deserves some resources.

The monks and other residents have cooperated fully with fire representatives and have prepared the grounds carefully, even under supervision to an extent. The Center serves as a spiritual center for many. The occupants are decent guardians of the land and need help.

From the looks of the image below there seems to be adequate escape zones. The fire survived the Marble-Cone Fire and personal accounts recall those on the ground did have adequate safety/escape zones. To what extent the grounds have been improved now I can’t say but the property doesn’t look like anything that can’t be defended with a few engines, a hand crew or two and some air support.

The Center is the only set of buildings on that side of the fire, really the only place that needs defending. Certainly fire officials are watching the situation. I personally believe the cavalry will come riding to the rescue before things really heat up.

.

26 Comments

  • Anonymous says:

    This is such good news! THANK YOU to those who stayed and all who helped prepare in the face of this monster – your bravery and fortitude are astonishing. You are an inspiration to my daughter – who just happens to be named Tassajara.

  • Mike says:

    Fantastic news! The five that stayed are to be commended. Quite a story, well done!

  • Jane says:

    Sorry, I should have corrected Gene’s “boys”, I was just too damn happy to notice, and you can’t blame him, since he doesn’t know Mako and you can’t tell from the name.She is a wonderfully strong and balanced presence, and was last year’s fire marshall for Tassajara–one of the people I most hoped would get to (and choose to) stay on, when all this began.

  • Melinda says:

    Thank you, especially to Mike for this informative and inspiring blog.in reference to “and the boys”, one of the brave people defending Tassajara is a woman. Mako.

  • Jane says:

    Mike– here’s an update I just received by email, and it sounds like the good news is really TRUE:IT IS 5:30 PM ON THURSDAY (7/10) I JUST GOT OFF THE PHONE WITH LESLIE AT JAMESBURG. STEVE STUCKEY AND THE BOYS STOOD THEIR GROUND. IT LOOKS LIKE THE FIRE HIT TASSAJARA FROM 3 SIDES AND BLEW RIGHT THROUGH…. INVENTORY IS BEING TAKEN … WE LOST THE BATHROOM STRUCTURE AT THE POOL HOUSE. WE LOST (POSSIBLY) THE UGLY BATHROOM BY THE BATH HOUSE. WE LOST THE COMPOSTING BUILDING IN THE FLATS…… THAT’S IT SO FAR WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO I CAN’T BELIEVE IT THE FIRE IS BLOWING DOWN TASSAJARA CREEK EAST AND IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE IT’S COMING BACK. PRAISE BE TO BUDDHA……. BREATHE OUT. GENE http://sittingwithfire.blogspot.com/

  • Jane says:

    Mike, you’re fantastic, thank you so much! (I’ll give you a phone number in a separate post so it stays private, but I’m only home until 10 a.m. tomorrow, then need to fly to NY for unpostponable family crisis–Kathryn will be a great spokesperson, if this comes through.) I was just on the phone with Ted, who directed me back here, re your request.The latest news from MoCO EOC (do you know what that stands for? Monterey County something?) is that they are saying the fire has gone through Tassajara and all staff is safe, all buildings intact.Wonderful news to hear, and I would like simply to leap up and down with joy. But this also seems a bit fast to me, from what I remember of ’77, and Ted and I are both very curious what “has gone through” actually means… if both sides of the creek have burned enough fuel to really be proof against anything catching further, or if there are still unburned areas, for instance. The statement also omits the infamous rolling burning yucca root balls scenario. So I am both hugely encouraged by the news, but also wondering what the real details behind it are. Do you know any way to find out? My Google Earth forays are not showing up to date images.Thank you enormously for your support of us. Today has moved almost as quickly as fire can, from last night’s initial thought that there had been a total evacuation, to this recent news that the worst might possibly be over.

  • Kathryn says:

    I just spoke to Timothy Johnson, MoCo EOC, Fire Branch Manager, who told me that the fire has now burned through Tassajara and that all 5 staff are safe and all buildings are intact. There is no longer a threat to Tassajara according to him.

  • Mike says:

    Lori, you all are wonderful advocates for your Center. Special people, special place.

  • Lori says:

    I certainly hope they are able to get the resources they need to save this wonderful area. My thoughts go out to the five who are there. Hoping that Rep. Farr’s involvement will help. Thanks, again, Mike for the great coverage of this and all of the other fires around the state!

  • Mike says:

    Thanks for the numbers Ted and Kathryn.Sent on, hope it produces for you.The news of Representative Farr getting on the case is certainly uplifting.May all go well.

  • Anonymous says:

    Representative Sam Farr (http://www.farr.house.gov/) and staff are closely monitoring developments at Tassajara, working with federal and state agencies to protect Tassajara. Moments ago I telephoned his office in Santa Cruz. Before I finished my calm and reasoned appeal, the staffer broke in reassuringly, “We’re already following the situation closely and working to assist Tassajara…” As of 2:15 pm today (7/10), “the fire has entered Tassajara” (http://www.sfzc.org/tassajara/display.asp?catid=4&pageid=1237). Appreciation is powerful: call Rep. Farr to acknowledge his proactive initiative and encourage continued action to protect Tassajara: Salinas office 831-424-2229; Santa Cruz office 831-429-1976; Washington office 202-225-2861. Wishing safety and well-being to all.

  • Kathryn says:

    I just spoke with MoCo EOC about an hour ago and was assured that both ground and air support are active in the Tassajara area. She said several engines and crews are working all along the road there and that air support is ongoing. Hope it’s true!

  • Mike says:

    Ted, Kathryn, Joan, If one of you leave a contact number I have someone who may be able to get the word further out.This involves a major media concern.I will not publish the number.Mike

  • Anonymous says:

    ted, is they are unable to allocate men and resources to your suggestion (which is excellent), is there a contracting fire service nearby? Ex-guards or firefighters would also have the experience you call for. (and could possibly work while appeal for public help continues)

  • Anonymous says:

    The fire has already reached Tassajara: (7/10/2008, 2:40 PM PDT)At 2:15 today, Director David Zimmerman reported via telephone that everyone is safe at Tassajara and that the fire has entered Tassajara. The crew is putting out spot fires, and they are continuing to water down the buildings and the grounds. The feeling is that with the watering, the riparian valley is defending against the fire. We will continue to update you as information becomes available.—-Also, the heliport area no longer exists that close to Tassajara.

  • Anonymous says:

    Hey Fireman Mike, you are the BEST! Thank you for your comments, particularly this one but also your previous really clear, informative ones letting us know what’s going on with this fire.All best to you and a deep gassho / bow fromanother lover of zen and tassajara

  • Ted says:

    Mike, thanks very much for your comments. What perhaps has not been mentioned is the availability of a hiloport on a ridge to the immediate west of the structures. It was used daily following the Marble Cone Fire in 77′. It would be very easy to drop off a couple of firefighters. Guidence and expertise is what is most in short supply there. They have 3 pumps, a 50,000 gal. pool, a stand pipe system, extensive roof sprinkler set ups, foil wraps on many buildings, 10 foot firelines throughout, lots of hose flaked out and ready. What is lacking is experience and confidence, which translates to possibe deficiencies in saftey and effectiveness. These are very good people trying to save a 160 year old treasure.How would you suggest that we effectively appeal for help? Thanks so much.

  • Kathryn says:

    I just got off the phone with MoCo EOC and was told that Tassajara is receiving both ground and air support at this time. The fire is within 1-1.5 miles.

  • Kathryn says:

    I’d like to add my thanks for your appeal for Tassajara. Yes this precious place and the people remaining there deserve assistance! It is the first and oldest Buddhist monastery in the U.S. and a haven of peace for many and, as stated, a thoughtful and responsible steward of the land and forest. How can we make a direct appeal to those who are allocating resources? I echo the words: may it not be too late!

  • Anonymous says:

    Thany you Captain Mike, thank you. Our thoughts are with all in the Tassajara commmunity, including our son who is at Tassajara now. They have prepared very carefully, but I am sure they could use and would welcome any available assistance.Walter

  • Joan says:

    Thank you Mike for your appeal for help for Tassajara. From Carmel Valley right now, I see two large columns of smoke from the direction of Tassajara. May it not be too late.

  • Mike says:

    Hi Jamie and both Anons,Only a very small voice here. I hope you guys get help. I say this as the fire just now looks to be VERY active to the north.Best to you all.Mike

  • Anonymous says:

    With deep gratitude to Captain Mike for making this appeal and for keeping those of us watching and waiting up to date. We know fire resources are stretched impossibly thin all over California right now; still, there is hope that a small amount of resources could help this historic and spiritually precious place.

  • Jane says:

    Bless you and thank you for writing that– may it reach the ears it needs to!Jane (who was one of the ones who stayed in and fought the ’77 Marble Cone fire, successfully defending Tassajara with the help of a few absolutely essential official firefighters)

  • Jamie says:

    Thanks for thinking of us, Captain Mike. Is it possible for fire trucks to still go in, now that the fire has crossed Tassajara Road?

  • Anonymous says:

    There are many many many people praying for additional resources at this time to help the 5 people who stayed behind. They do have some wildland fire experience but they could really use some air support as they are now cut off by the fire crossing the tassajara road.

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Mike Morales

Retired Cal Fire/CDF Fire Captain

FE Talk: Humpday Hangout

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  • Comments
    bigsurkate
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