Basin Complex Fire Commander Mike Deitrich slipped out of camp July 14 with no fanfare from what I see. Deitrich was not honored by Big Sur in the same manner commander Molumby of the the Zaca Fire was feted by grateful Santa Barbara residents last year.
Molumby and his staff were toasted by Comedian (and Montecito resident) Jonathan Winters at the toney rooftop restaurant of the Hotel Andalucia.
Deitrich didn’t even get a bowl of granola.
Deitrich managed the Basin Complex Fire wonderfully. Tactically it was brilliant, he did his job minimizing injury to firefighters and saving the buildings in Big Sur. While dozens of homes and outbuildings burned, scores more were saved by some very good fire management.
The public relations side of the equation is another story. The community allowed him to slip out the back door without a celebration because while he was good at firefighting he failed at public relations.
He failed to appreciate the character of the community. He only needed to work with them. They stayed, as it was their right. They wanted to help. He could not officially allow that but he didn’t offer to help them when they needed it.
Two examples where he blew it was Apple Pie Ridge, where one family member was arrested at gunpoint, and at Tassajara where five resident monks were left alone to save their compound.
The monks worked 6 hours beating back spot fires and spraying down flames that hit them from all sides July 10.
The family and friends on Apple Pie Ridge also fought alone to save their homes and outbuildings. One brother, an ex seasonal firefighter used a backfiring technique to save the property. He was arrested. I’m not making a judgment on that but the situation could easily have been avoided.
For instance the Tassajara Zen Center the Apple Pie residents were known to fire command. In the case of the Zen Center they actually had a structure protection plan drawn up. Deitrich knew better than the residents those properties were doomed if unattended. He knew residents intended to stay yet he committed no firefighters on the ground.
Antipathy is born from such action, or inaction.
All he had to do to have a statue, (or redwood totem) erected in his name was to personally go up to the brothers on the hill with a couple of engines and a water tender in tow. For the monks one experienced blue card crew of 17.
Instead he punted the monks to fate and one of the brothers to faces charges.