M.C. NOW - Sara Rubin

Three months later, the Dolan Fire is still burning. 

Good afternoon. 

Sara Rubin here, bewildered by my sense (or lack thereof) of time during this pandemic. Was it eight days or eight months ago that shelter-in-place began? And was it truly three months ago today that the Dolan Fire, the third of three major fires to ignite in Monterey County within as many days, first started burning? 

Yes, it was Aug. 18 when suspect Ivan Gomez allegedly started the Dolan Fire, which U.S. Forest Service officials estimate has cost $63 million and counting to fight. The “and counting” is important because today, well into November, the fire remains 98-percent contained, the same as it’s been for weeks. And Forest Service officials expect it to remain that way for the time being. Per the latest incident report: “The Dolan Fire will be considered contained/controlled/out when we receive sufficient rainfall.”

Meanwhile, a skeleton crew of 49 firefighters remains assigned to the blaze, which remains within its 124,924-acre footprint—nearly the size of Zion National Park, and roughly 5 percent of the entire area of Monterey County—while unburned “islands” of green material inside that footprint continue to smolder. 

One firefighter who narrowly survived the blaze was only recently released from a 50-day hospital stay. Twenty buildings were destroyed, including 14 residences. It’s done untold damage to wildlife and habitat. The Los Padres National Forest remains under a closure order that extends until at least Dec. 31. 

It’s possible the fire will still be burning a month from now, when Gomez is set to next appear in court on Dec. 16. The full scope of the damage is immense and still unknown (next, brace for slides as rain hits the steep terrain of Big Sur, without root structure to hold the dirt together). The impacts on the community are likely to persist well after Gomez’s case has wrapped up.

-Sara Rubin, editor, sara@mcweekly.com

Sara Rubin loves long public meetings, red pens and reading (on newsprint). She has been editor of the Monterey County Weekly since 2016, and has been on staff since 2010.

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