Chalk Peak Fire Threat Looms Over Big Sur Monastery

The Chalk Fire that has burned over 16,000 acres between the Plaskett and Eselan on the south Big Sur Coast. Smack in the path is the Camaldoli Hermitage.

The Hermitage is home to 25 monks who live peacefully on the property 1,300 feet above the ocean. The Hermitage has burned once in its 47 year history but this threat will be defended by the U.S. Forest Service and elements of the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade.

Unlike the abandonment of Tassajara during the Basin Complex the monks at the Hermitage will have help if the fire visits the property.

The morning fire report indicates the Chalk Fire is at 16,000 acres and is close to 90% contained.

Chalk Fire commentary 6:00 AM 10/23;

The 12 and 24 hour values at risk state;

12 hours:
Lime Kiln State Park, Hermitage, Harlan Ranch, California Condors and Cultural Resources
24 hours:
Lime Kiln State Park, Hermitage, California Condors and Cultural Resources

Actions planned for next operational period:
Structure Group – Protect structures in the Hermitage and Lime Kiln State Park.

The fire growth potential is deemed moderate though the difficulty of terrain is described as extreme.
The Chalk Fire command team believes the fire will be contained by October 25.

Big Sur Kate has been on top of this fire (literally) since the fire started September 27. I have relied on her first rate coverage for fire news and local perspective.

This summer has been traumatic for those who live along the Big Sur coast. The Chalk Fire will likely be the last significant fire event of 2008 in northern California. There is a symmetry to the Big Sur fires this summer that has formed as the Hermitage braces for a potential assault.

The Tassajara Zen Center defined more or less the eastern boundary of the 160,000 + acre Basin Complex. The Buddhist monastery was saved by the heroic efforts of five Monks that stayed behind to defend their home.
The Pico Blanco Boy Scout Camp loosely defined the northern boundary of the Basin Complex and was saved by a Forest Service firefighters. The Hermitage sits just below the southern edge of the Basin Complex and will be defended by Chalk Fire firefighters. Buddhists, Catholics and Boy Scouts braced for devastation but were spared.
In total almost 300,000 acres burned in Big Sur and the surrounding Los Padres National Forest and Ventana Wilderness. Numerous homes burned and a community was tested.

Memorial Day to Halloween with fire burning almost continuously in that time.

Lastly, I did not intend to send any personal Christmas cards this year but after looking around the Hermitage website I found out they have a store with art I like. The image below is an example of what they offer. Check out their store here.


  • Mike says:

    Hello Avis, it is “mikeswebmail at gmail”Anything I can do to help!

  • Avis says:

    Hi Mike.My name is Avis and I work at Lucia Lodge. I’m working on a project that will help benefit the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade. I’d like to email you with the details but could not find your email here. Also I love those cards and paintings by Father Paulin. His work is done by pointalizm. Thousands of tiny dots. Amazing huh?Nice site.

  • Danny says:

    Hi Mike,Thanks for making this blog and keeping it updated. It’s a valuable resource for those of us in, and out, of the area. I’m planning on taking some students down the coast over Thanksgiving break on an educational tour. Where can I get more info on road, park, and trail closures?Thanks

  • Anonymous says:

    Mike–Thanks for that link to the Hermitage. I did not realize that they have a store!! Hope the fire does not come to them. Best, karin

  • Mike says:

    Thank you for the kind words Kate. I hope everyone takes a look at your coverage and the great fire images you and your neighbor took.Fire reflecting off the ocean, never seen that before.

  • wmtls says:

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  • bigsurkate says:

    lWhat a beautiful and well written piece, Mike. Kudos.And to think, I usually only buy Xmas fruitcake from the Hermitage! I love that card you posted, so I’ll definitely be checking out their store!What a treasure.bigsurkate