On Monday, December 4, 2017, sometime after the Manager/Caretakers Buzz and Ginger Glasky evacuated around 10:00 p.m., the Thomas Fire struck Meher Mount.
On December 6 and 8, Buzz and Ginger visited Meher Mount reporting minimal or no damage to structures or the tractor. The water system is out of commission due to the fire damage to pipes, electrical and equipment. Baba’s Tree at Avatar’s Point suffered major damage from wind and fire.
On December 12, Buzz and Ginger, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus and Cassandra Bramucci made a follow-up visit. Margaret and Sam share their observations.
BY MARGARET MAGNUS & SAM ERVIN
When we arrived at Meher Mount on Tuesday, there was a sense of serenity.
Looking at the Visitor Center and the Topa Topa Patio attached to the Workshop, you would not know there had been a fire. It felt as if little had interrupted the flow of life on the mountain.
Going down the familiar path to Baba's Tree there was a calmness only broken by our sense of anxious anticipation regarding the wind and fire damage to the tree.
The burned part of Baba’s Tree is now a beautiful sculpture. The limb that forms an arch over the spot where Meher Baba sat during His 1956 visit is still there creating a frame for that sacred space.
Our feeling is that Baba’s Tree will have a new life and incarnation. The essence of Meher Baba’s physical presence will always be there. He left an invisible fountain of spiritual energy on the entire mountain.
Exploring the Property
We proceeded, almost like explorers over other parts of the property seeing what was burned, what was untouched and what had changed.
Much of the underbrush and some of the trees burned in places along the Well Road, at Avatar’s Point, in the Prasad Orchard and along the Prasad Orchard Trail.
In the canyon to the well and at Avatar’s Point much of the underbrush was gone, and you could see the shape and flow of the land. It was an opportunity to view some of Meher Mount’s topography in a starker, but intriguing, way.
We chuckled when walking along the Well Road remembering a day-long work party several years ago to trim the bushes and branches so that the road was passable. All those bushes and branches had burned in a matter of minutes, and the pathway was relatively clear.
SURPRISINGLY LITTLE DEBRIS
There is surprisingly little debris. In fact, it looks as if the fire cleaned up some piles of trash that had been hidden away.
The debris – or lack of it – is interesting. In the 1985 New Life Fire, which burned four houses, a large barn, and various outbuildings along with an automobile and a tractor, it took about 40 people two full weekends to clear away the debris.
Because no man-made structures and little equipment were burned, there is very little debris. The natural environment suffered most of the fire, and Mother Nature takes care of what’s left to use as part of the regeneration process. Clean-up is not a major issue with the 2017 Thomas Fire.
CARETAKERS NOT HOMELESS
Another interesting comparison between the 1985 and 2017 fires is the fate of the caretakers. Agnes Baron, who was living at Meher Mount in 1985, was homeless after the fire, and all her possessions were destroyed.
In 2016, Buzz and Ginger Glasky, purchased an Airstream travel trailer in anticipation of the next phase of their life touring the country. They are not homeless. They were able to hook up the trailer and safely evacuate with a roof over their heads.
And their possessions at Meher Mount? They were untouched by fire, except for some smoke damage. Amazingly, embers and hot ash blew under the doors at Meher Mount – but didn’t set the floor-to-ceiling curtains on fire.
Sam Ervin has written a preliminary damage outline and is coordinating with an insurance adjuster who plans to assess the damage the week of December 18, 2017.
The team is also identifying resources and costs for repairing the water system. At an initial glance, the issues are melted PVC pipes, two burned electrical panels, electric wires, and replacing an onzonator with UV light. A full assessment cannot be made until there is power at Meher Mount, and the electrical box is repaired or replaced.
First estimates were that it would take one-to-three months for Southern California Edison to return power to Sulphur Mountain. On December 12 when we drove up Highway 150 from Santa Paula toward Meher Mount, there were power crews all along the way, cutting down fallen limbs and restoring power lines. There were also a couple of crews along Sulphur Mountain Road. So, progress is being made.
In the coming weeks and months, there will be a more detailed plan of action. Thank you to all who have volunteered and donated. Stay tuned.
THE THOMAS FIRE CONTINUES
While the news for Meher Mount is good, the news for many others in the path of the Thomas Fire – past and present – is not so bright. Please continue your prayers for those who are still threatened, those who are now faced with recovery, and for those fighting the fires day after day.
On Friday, December 15, 2017, CalFire reported that 252,500 acres had been burned, and the Thomas Fire was 35% contained. The expected containment is estimated to be January 7, 2018. There has been one firefighter fatality and no civilian fatalities. A total of 972 structures have been destroyed, and 94,607 citizens have been evacuated or affected.
The firefighting statistics: 8,369 total fire personnel; 1,012 fire engines; 158 fire crews; 32 helicopters; 78 dozers; and 62 water tenders.
In looking at the burned areas in Santa Paula and on Sulphur Mountain, you can see that the fire came to the edges of a number of homes and yards. There were handmade signs along the road thanking the firefighting crews. It’s been a long siege, and the firefighters are still on the fire lines.
TOTALLY RANDOM OR DIVINELY ORCHESTRATED?
In passing through the fire areas surrounding Meher Mount, walking Meher Mount's property, and talking to neighbors, the pattern of the fire felt that it was either divinely orchestrated or totally random.
Some would say, that “totally random" is "divinely orchestrated."
MEHER MOUNT TEMPORARILY CLOSED
Meher Mount remains temporarily closed in order to assess and repair fire damage, including getting water and power back on line.