Question Why Tassajara Received No Help

The Tassajara Zen Center blog offers some details about the battle to save the compound yesterday.

In part;

“….the Tassajara grounds are an island of green in a sea of black. A testament to the recently installed sprinkler system and the twice daily irrigation of the site.
The fire approached quickly from three sides shortly after 1pm and passed over Tassajara mercifully fast. The crew were able to move around outside the safe space and keep the sprinkler system working.Several small buildings were lost: the Bird House, the compost shed, the wood shed and the pool bathroom. The radio-phone and half of the lower garden were also destroyed.”

Here is my question; did they receive air support in the way of helicopter or tanker drops? If not why?
Readers will recall my post yesterday describing the situation as the Basin Complex fire approached the isolated cultural center.
Apparently Center representatives were told by fire officials it was too dangerous to commit ground resources to save the buildings.

It would not be fair to second guess this, that’s a field call. What I would like to know is if they were helped in any way from above?

Update:
Kathryn had submitted a comment to the queue in yesterday’s post that may have answered my question, in part.

Kathryn offered at 1:57 pm July 10 to Firefighter Blog;
“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. “

That comment was unfortunately overlooked by me. This morning I found two comments that were temporarily orphaned.

Thank you Kathyrn!
I look forward to the full story.

8 Comments

  • Ronald Rodrix says:

    Why did they do like that? It is so curious Mike. Thank you for posting this such a nice topic. ————————Trivia Game Challenge

  • Mike says:

    “I’m very curious to hear from the volunteers about what they actually saw and when.”Me too Tony, this is the story to hear!You can be sure air attack was watching from above. I would like to know if and how many water bucket loads or tanker drops were delivered in support.Reports exist somewhere.

  • Tony says:

    I became very involved lobbying for additional support for Tassajara late Thursday morning between 11am – 12pm. I received conflicting reports. Jamestown said that they were currently not receiving air support but that it had been suggested, not promised, that they might get it if the winds picked up in the afternoon.When I called USFS, the person I spoke with said Tassajara was receiving air support, but when I told him of Jamestown’s report he backed off and said he wasn’t sure.The east branch fire magager (?)Monterey OES was certain that Tassajara was receiving air support as we spoke (and his information in other matters turned out to be accurate).I’m very curious to hear from the volunteers about what they actually saw and when.BTW, what was NOT jumbled was the very clear but different thinking on the part of both the firefighters (and leadership) AND the volunteers who stayed at Tassajara about what their individual acceptable levels of risk were given their different relationships to Tassajara. I was very moved and impressed by how each group/individual had drawn the line of risk that they were willing to take, and respected their decisions all around. The firefighters felt that they had done a complete job of protecting Tassajara and that it was simply too dangerous to stay without a certain escape route (the fire having crossed the road). Their #1 priority is safety and they had made their assessment of the danger. They were monitoring the situation, knew of the volunteers, and were ready to go back in as soon as it was safe.The volunteers, obviously, were willing to risk more because of their deeper valuing and associations with Tassajara. It’s all quite understandable, and I’ve never been so close to such a situation before (or perhaps mature enough to appreciate it).

  • Mike says:

    Thanks for the comments Preston Jane and Joan. I removed my own comment after I read Kathryn’s note from yesterday.I can’t wait to read the full story.

  • Preston says:

    It seems to me that the Tassajara folks got just the help they needed from the fire officials. Buildings were wrapped and gelled, firebreaks were made, supplies were left, preparations were validated by the professionals.After all of that, the 5 people remaining at Tassajara seemed to be more than adequate to the task of protecting their property from the fire. Their preparations for fire, including years of fire drills and planning, paid off.

  • Mike says:

    Well said Jane.I hope to read the full story from yesterday at some point.Mike

  • Jane says:

    Mike, first thank you again–as you know, many (including the parents of some of the five who remained at Tassajara throughout) were very heartened by yesterday’s blog post, at a time of high anxiety for all.I thank you for asking this question, too–obviously all turned out well, but I was curious whether we were not receiving some kind of help perhaps invisible to us, by the managing of the fire’s approach (or even directly above Tassajara–there’s been so little communication out, perhaps that happened and we just haven’t heard about it yet). On the Wildfire Today site yesterday I saw someone saying that when the evacuation happened Wednesday, with little notice, tankers were diverted from the Church Creek area in order to ensure safe passage over the road. I don’t know if that’s true or just rumor, but if true, it should be acknowledged, with due gratitude for the extra risk the firefighters on the ground elsewhere were caused by that diversion.Similarly, I’d just like to acknowledge that an enormous amount of help was given us before the fire arrived–while I still don’t know all the details, it sounds like many buildings were wrapped in foil and/or protective gel–these are new technologies since the ’77 fire, so I don’t know much about them, but my guess is that many, many more structures would have burned without that assistance from the fire teams who were there beforehand. Five people just can’t be everywhere at once. And then there was the earlier assistance with both advice and the work done on firebreak lines and clearing by an inmate crew and others. (Somewhere I’ve seen the actual teams named, of those who helped.) So along with your question about whether or not there was management from the air (which was what I was hoping would happen), I did want to be sure that it’s acknowledged that the help we were given was real help, time consuming and no doubt costly, and that it proved effective. If the call was made that our five monks were safe without further assistance, and if firefighters elsewhere were at risk of life without those tankers, then it turned out to have been the right call, if a slightly breathtaking one from the point of view of those who stayed in and those who watched from afar.I hope we do get some real answer to your question–it’s been a question for some of us out here as well, who would love to know the answer.

  • Joan says:

    Thank you Captain Mike for questioning appropriate support for Tassajara. I also wonder why the ground crews left when it was so well prepared for their safety.

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Mike Morales

Retired Cal Fire/CDF Fire Captain
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