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Friday, August 19, 2016


by Jennifer Lagier

#SoberanesFire #Monterey #BigSur Image source: KPCC Fire Tracker

Concours d’Conflagration: Day 15, 35% containment

Overnight, another five thousand acres vanish,
vaporized by voracious fire’s roiling run.
Dani Ridge, Jackson Camp and Post Summit are tinder,
will soon blaze into charred oblivion.

Crews doze, back burn East Molera Ridge,
protect campgrounds, cabins, cliff-side resorts
while incoming caravans of Bentleys, Rolls Royces,
Ferraris, Maseratis, clog all the roads.

Carmel Valley and Big Sur smolder as
the Concours d’Elegance, an annual car show
for arrogant millionaires and their groupies,
carelessly rolls into town.

Evacuation of Big Sur: Day 17, 45% Containment

A reverse 911 call comes at 3:11 a.m.
Fire has jumped the southern containment line.
Flames ignite ridges east of Mt. Manual,
revisit terrain devastated in 2008 by the
Basin Complex/Ventana Wilderness burn.
Consumed acreage swells.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office orders
a mandatory evacuation for the Big Sur Area
from Point Sur Lighthouse to Deetjen’s Inn,
Henry Miller Memorial Library and Nepenthe
in its fiery path, both sides of Highway 1.

Tourists are allowed free access
to evacuated areas while residents
are ordered to pack necessities, hit the road north.
In Carmel Valley, air tankers and helicopters
load supplies, hot shot crews, finally take flight.

Smolder: Day 19, 50% containment

By now, over 67,000 acres have burnt.
Smoke wreathes coastal ranges.
Fire runs into Big Sur Valley.
Satellite sweeps reveal heat perimeter
expanding south and east.

Rumors and second guessing abound.
Were air tankers erroneously stopped
from scooping ocean water because of
sanctuary status of Monterey Bay?
What if cell phone coverage had been available
permitting faster reporting, response?
Why didn’t crew commanders enlist assistance
from locals familiar with rugged terrain?

Hand lettered signs, commercial banners
thanking fire fighters line street shoulders.
One friend cynically posts on social media
“How could one little campfire possibly hurt?”

Firing North Coast Ridge Road: Day 23, 60% Containment

Hotshots with drip torches ignite underbrush,
work their way along rugged dirt road.
Crews labor twenty-four hour shifts, inhale ashy smoke,
backburn from containment line, deny advancing blaze
vulnerable homes, chaparral, any flammable fuel.
They focus, not on orange flames, but on green,
look for fly-away sparks.
We give thanks for morning’s drippy fog,
Ventana Double Cone’s granite face.

Officials move staging camp from Carmel Valley
to California State University, Monterey Bay,
nearly an hour north of where needed,
repurpose golf course to accommodate carriers
for upcoming Car Week’s expensive designer vehicles.
Therapists offer free PTSD counseling.
Local poets and musicians raise funds
to assist the displaced.

Combustion vs. Carmageddon: Day 26, 60% Containment

Highway 1 south reopens as CalFire continues
removing blasted redwoods, burnt vegetation.
Portions of roadway have buckled from heat.
The power company replaces destroyed poles, melted wire.
In Cachagua, crews begin restoration, evaluate charred terrain.

Twenty-six miles north, Carmel barricades side streets
and main thoroughfare to permit an all-day display
of vintage Porches and Ferraris.
Monterey erects a tent over Custom House Plaza,
Sotheby’s auction site, to prevent falling ash from
marring the paint of rare luxury cars.

Jennifer Lagier has published twelve books and in literary magazines, taught with California Poets in the Schools, co-edits the Homestead Review, helps coordinate Monterey Bay Poetry Consortium Second Sunday readings. Newest books: Scene of the Crime (Evening Street Press), Harbingers (Blue Light Press). Forthcoming chapbook: Camille Abroad (FutureCycle).