Blaze Destroys Esalen Institute Staff Housing
October 11, 2011
A fire broke out at Esalen Institute's South Coast Center staff housing, 2 miles north of the institute's main campus, on the night of Oct. 9. (Above is a photo Mike Gilson took around 10:30pm that night.)
"When I see the damage, it's a miracle that nobody was hurt," says Elizabeth Stacey, Esalen's director of advancement.
Stacey says the blaze likely sparked inside one of the staff cabins, but the cause is still under investigation. Four firefighting crews, including the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade (which stores vehicles on Esalen's South Coast Center site), Carmel Fire Department and Cal Fire, responded shortly before 9pm.
Esalen evacuated 48 people from its two rows of staff housing. "Twenty-one of them pretty much lost everything," Stacey says. "They got out with either the clothes they were wearing or whatever they were able to throw out the window."
The lower level of cabins was unscathed, but the upper level of nine cabins was destroyed, Stacey says: "The whole thing is going to have to be demolished."
Martha Karstens, chief of the BSVFB, wrote the following dispatch about the fire:
"The BSVFB was paged out for a structure fire at the South coast center at 20:44 on Sunday evening. Upon the arrival of our first Brigade member, several of the units were already fully engulfed with fire. The Brigade responded with 3 engines, 2 water tenders, a patrol and 18 members. We also received assistance from USFS E18 and mutual aid from Carmel Highlands, Carmel City and Hunter Liggett Fire. Most engines and members were released through out the early morning hours with about 5 members remaining on scene until about 11:00 the following day. Matt Harris did an excellent job as IC, and a number of our new probationary members got some great live fire training."
Donations can be directed to Esalen Institute, Fire Relief Fund. 55000 Highway 1, Big Sur, CA 93920.