Fire jumps Chews Ridge fire line near Mira Observatory on Saturday prompting mandatory evacuation order for Jamesburg residents in Carmel Valley.

Trying to Keep It Cool: An air tanker works the White Oak area near Chews Ridge on Saturday afternoon, to support the fire crews on the ground.

"There are complicated fires and political fires and this one has been both."

That remark was made by section 23 Branch commander, Jack Frogatt, as he surveyed a new fire that had jumped the fire line on Chews Ridge below Mira Observatory on Saturday night. Frogatt was mapping his strategy in the division’s staging area, a cattle grazing field adjacent to Fred Nason’s barn, about ten miles up Tassajara Road. With the early morning winds out of the south there was significant enough concern that the fire’s energy, prevailing winds and low relative humidity could push the fire towards the populated area downhill. As a result, the sheriff department issued a mandatory evacuation order issued for parts of Jamesburg and Cachugua on Saturday.

Frogatt clarified that the fire he was working to get a handle on Saturday, near the White Oak Campground, was not a political one at all. "But it sure has its own ideas on how it wants to behave."

The fire had jumped a key fire line during the night while crews were doing some back firing operations, and the spot fires that erupted in the White Oak area had connected and were running a line to reach the larger fire on the south side of Chews Ridge.

Hand crews, engines and bulldozers, along with significant air support from up to eight air tankers and 17 helicopters where working to building a new “box" around the fire by re-opening contingency fire lines that had been constructed during the 1977 Marble Cone fire. Additionally, the U.S. Forest Service incident command requested and quickly received permission — in about an hour according to Frogatt — for the fire crew to cut a new fire line down the ridge and drainage area from Chews Ridge, through the DP-306 camp on Nason’s property, connecting east towards Carmel Valley Road. C-130s and other large air tankers could be seen working the north side of the fire to “cool down the area” and make it more hospitable for crews on the ground to do their work. A number of helicopters were working the south side of Mira also.

Crews on the ground continued their work through the night but did not complete the new box containment area.

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“This is our problem child today,” stated Bernie Pineda, a public information officer for the U.S. Forest Service out of the King City office, referring to the White Oaks fire Sunday morning. He added that the good news was that the fire had not grown much from the previous day and it appeared that the weather would cooperate: the marine layer was pushing humidity levels up, winds were low, and the wind was expected to shift to the northwest by late day. Still, a new division had been assigned to the White Oak area as crews hoped to contain a fire that would threaten the Cachugua area if it moved downhill.

As of Sunday morning, the Basin Complex fire had consumed 120,000 acres, nearly 180 square miles. It is Monterey County's largest recorded forest fire.

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