Pfeiffer Fire

Pfeiffer Fire – December 2013

“Pfeiffer Fire” Investigative Report, USDA Forest Service, August 15, 2014 – Part 1

“Pfeiffer Fire” Investigative Report, USDA Forest Service, October 14, 2014 – Part 2

After months of little to no rainfall, conditions around the State of California were unseasonably and dangerously dry.  Even sitting right next to the Pacific Ocean, conditions in Big Sur were no exception.  State and local fire agencies were on high alert and well prepared for the ever present threat of a wildland fire.  Burn permits were not being issued and fire agencies that would normally start preparing for a winter response were maintaining their wildland fire readiness.

As it would happen, at approximately 11:45 PM on Sunday December 15, 2013, the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade received a report of a wildland fire on the west side of State Highway 1 almost directly across the highway from the Big Sur Lodge in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park.  The fire was moving rapidly up the steep forested hillside directly toward numerous homes in the private residential community on Pfeiffer Ridge.

Upon receiving the notification on her pager, Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade Fire Chief Martha Karstens, who owns a home on Pfeiffer Ridge, stepped out of her home and could see a large volume of fire moving rapidly up the hill towards her property located directly on the ridge.  Chief Karstens immediately notified the dispatch center of the situation and requested additional firefighting resources from neighboring agencies.  Even with on-site water hoses and Fire Brigade members at her residence, the amount of fire racing up the hill was overwhelming and Chief Karstens’ home was one of the first destroyed by the raging wildland fire.  In the first 12 hours alone, at least 20 homes were destroyed by the inferno.

The fire continued to burn for five days until complete containment was declared at 6:00 PM on December 20.  In all, 34 structures were destroyed along Pfeiffer Ridge burning a total of 917 acres.  Miraculously, there were no civilian injuries or fatalities and only a few minor injuries were sustained by firefighters fighting the fire.  A firefighting basecamp was established at Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and at the height of the fire, 1007 firefighting personnel were assigned to the incident.


Read the daily updates of the Pfeiffer Fire as they appeared on the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade website from December 16, 2013 through December 28, 2013 by clicking on the link below:

Pfeiffer Fire Updates: December 16 – 28, 2013


Message from Dick Ravich, Vice-President of the Board of the Coast Property Owners Association 

A Christmas Story: How Crucial Command Decisions in the Pfeiffer Fire got Crews Home for the Holidays – Monterey County Weekly, December 24, 2013

Inmate Firefighters Comprise the Bulk of those Battling the Big Sur Blaze – Monterey County Weekly, December 26, 2013

Image Slide Show of the Pfeiffer Fire – December 16 -20, 2013 by Magnus Toren of the Henry Miller Library

Renowned Photographer Loses Everything in Pfeiffer Fire – KSBW, December 20, 2013

How to Help: Freshly Formed Big Sur Relief Offers a Number of Easy Avenues to Donate and Volunteer. Monterey County Weekly, December 20, 2013

Helping Big Sur Rebuild: Permit Fees may by Waived for Fire Victims – Monterey County Herald, December 28, 2013 

New Pfeiffer Fire Video Offers Inspiration in the Face of Tragedy – Monterey County Weekly, January 3, 2014

During the Pfeiffer Ridge Fire her Home for 23 Years Burned to the Ground – Monterey County Weekly, January 2, 2014

United States Small Business Administration Offers Assistance to California Residents and Businesses Affected by the Pfeiffer Fire – January 23, 2014

Big Sur Fire: Latest Estimate says 25 Structures Suffered ‘Major’ Damage – Monterey County Herald, January 28, 2014

Big Sur Fire: Forest Service Still Investigating How it Started – Monterey County Herald, February 28, 2014

Cause of Big Sur Pfeiffer Fire Released by National Forest Service – KSBW TV8, December 3, 2014

Big Sur: Pfeiffer Fire Blamed on Overheated Electrical Wires – Monterey County Herald, December 4, 2014


Pfeiffer Fire Updates:

US Forest Service – Incident Information System – InciWeb  – “Pfeiffer Fire”

Big Sur Community Emergency Response Team – Big Sur CERT

Coast Property Owners Association – Big Sur, CA

Big Sur Chamber of Commence – The Big Sur Blog 

Big Sur Kate Blog