Big Sur – Protecting the community of Big Sur and areas along Highway 1 is the priority for firefighters working the Basin Complex Fire. Elsewhere the fire remains open and active and fire officials say it could burn for a month. "The fire lasting a month is not unusual for us. These fires that we get from lightning strikes in the back country have lasted as much as two months, but lasting a month and having it be down on the coast is unusual. So it means a disproportionate amount of dislocation for families and businesses, so it's a little more stress," said Frank Pinney, Fire Chief with the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade.
Pinney doesn't believe everyone under current evacuation orders will have to stay evacuated for the duration of the fire, rather that evacuation lines will shift. Still, some families will have no house to return to. As of Wednesday, the fire had destroyed sixteen homes in this tight knit community. "The houses are called by the name of the family. We very seldom find ourselves using an address. So we know the people that are affected and some of them are our own firefighters that are affected by this so it's definitely a very personal thing and it hits a little harder," said Pinney.
While the Gallery Fire has caused most of the destruction, the Basin Fire remains unstaffed. Incident Commander Mike Dietrich explains, "When we looked at that in the middle of the wilderness, based on the availability of resources -- and this country is straight up and down and brushy and very unsafe -- it was determined that it was highly likely that the two fires would merge together and become one fire and that's a strategy that we're looking at."
Looking at the big picture, Dietrich says firefighters will go on what they learned from the Marble Cone Fire that burned here in 1977. "The Marble Cone Fire is of particular significance because it burned for a long time and despite all the efforts to try to make headway within the wilderness area, fight the fire within it, it eventually ended up where it did. We have to learn from those lessons, that based on the number of resources that we have, there's no good place in the middle of the wilderness to fight the fires."