By Margaret Magnus
On December 4, 2017, the Thomas Fire hit Meher Mount. Within a few days, the damage assessment began. At first, it seemed straightforward: Document the damage. Make a list for insurance. Begin to repair the damage.
There was some thought that in 90 days the fire recovery "to do list" would be complete, pending insurance reimbursement. As fire recovery progressed, the to do list never seemed to get shorter. In fact, each newly completed or half-completed task seemed to generate several more related tasks. The to do list was never ending.
WHAT VICTORY LOOKS LIKE
As the 90-day mark approached, it was clear that the recovery could go on for many more months. At that point, Board President Sam Ervin and Communications Director Margaret Magnus began keeping a daily log of activities, just to feel that there was some progress even if it was not always clearly visible.
Then it dawned on them – draw a line through the task list. When all the recovery projects before that line were completed, declare victory.
Sure, there would still be a long to do list, but fire recovery would be accomplished. All the remaining projects that had been ignited by the fire would then be part of the next phase: renewal.
Now, seven months - 207 days to be exact - after the Thomas Fire, Meher Mount is declaring victory. The task list is still long, but every operational aspect related to fire damage has been fixed.
Break out the champagne, it’s a celebration.
THANK YOU FOR ALL THE SUPPORT
The timeline below outlines some of the major milestones of fire recovery – many of which have a related article or story-blog post that gives a flavor of what happened.
When you look at the milestones, it’s clear that fire recovery was a team effort. It could not have been accomplished without many helping hands: individuals who stepped forward to offer their time, energy and skills, and the hundreds who donated funds in support of this effort.
Thank you for helping Meher Mount continue to serve as a place of world-wide pilgrimage dedicated to Avatar Meher Baba. When He visited on August 2, 1956, Meher Baba said, "I love Meher Mount very much and feel happy here."
TIMELINE OF MAJOR FIRE RECOVERY MILESTONES
Thomas Fire – December 4, 2017: Fire strikes Meher Mount. Manager/ Caretakers Buzz & Ginger Glasky evacuate with their Airstream trailer to Ojai, then to Santa Barbara, and finally to Oceano to escape the fire and smoke.
- Participants: Buzz Glasky, Ginger Glasky
- Story Blog: Meher Mount Survives Largest Wildfire in California History, The Community Responds with Love & Prayers, The Thomas Fire - A Silver Lining
Baba’s Tree Badly Burned – December 4, 2017: High winds and fire shatter the crown and the largest parts of the tree fall to the ground.
- Story Blog: Fire Burns Baba’s Tree – Twice
Assess the Damage – December 6-12, 2017: Several visits to assess the fire damage, take photos and meet with insurance representatives.
- Participants: Buzz Glasky, Ginger Glasky, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Cassandra Bramucci
- Story Blog: Totally Random or Divinely Orchestrated? An Update on the Thomas Fire, Coins on a Mountain
Gather Baba’s Tree Ash – December 16 & 21, 2017: Gather the ash from the heart of Baba’s Tree to preserve for the future.
- Participants: Cassandra Bramucci, Margaret Magnus
- Story Blog: Baba’s Tree – Gathering the Ash
Mapping the Fire Damage – December 21, 2017 & January 4, 2018: Create maps of specific areas damaged by the fire and take photos. Shoot drone footage.
- Participants: Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Byron Pinckert, Russell Latimer, Buzz Glasky, Ginger Glasky
- Story Blog: Mapping the Thomas Fire Damage at Meher Mount, Drone Photos Capture Fire Damage at Meher Mount
Security Fence – December 21, 2018: 100-feet of temporary security fence with screen installed at entryway.
- Participants: Cal-State Site Services, Margaret Magnus, Sam Ervin, Buzz Glasky, Ginger Glasky
Consult with Arborist/Care Plan – January 4, 2018: Meher Mount engages certified arborist Michael Inaba to develop a care plan for nurturing Baba’s Tree.
- Participants: Margaret Magnus, Sam Ervin, Jim Whitson, Marta Flores, Buzz Glasky, Ginger Glasky, Cassandra Bramucci
- Story Blog: Signs of Life in Baba’s Tree After the Thomas Fire
Insurance Claim – January 15, 2018: Submit first round of insurance claims.
- Participants: Sam Ervin, Buzz Glasky, Margaret Magnus
Install Water Pipe to Baba’s Tree – January 18, 2018: Dig trench and install water pipe, faucets and other plumbing to bring water to Baba’s Tree from the pool/reservoir.
- Participants: Jim Auster, Merrilee Bliss, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Buzz Glasky, Ginger Glasky
- Story Blog: Baba’s Tree Survival Plan, Baba’s Tree, Burned in Thomas Fire, Fights for Survival in Ojai, Group Mounting Significant Effort to Try to Save Baba’s Tree
Seclusion Fence – January 17, 2018: Temporary security fence around Baba’s Tree installed.
- Participants: Cal-State Site Services, Sam Ervin, Buzz Glasky, Margaret Magnus
- Story Blog: Baba’s Tree in Seclusion
Phonathon – January 27, 2018: Board and volunteers make telephone calls, send emails, and write letters to raise money for the $7,500 Baba’s Tree Challenge Match. Goal is reached.
- Participants: Margaret Magnus, Sam Ervin, Wayne Myers, Ron Holsey, Robert Turnage, Jim Whitson, Ursula Reinhart, Richard Mannis, Kyle Morrison, Sarah Dwyer
Fire Clean-up Day – January 28, 2018: A team of volunteers cleans fire debris from Meher Mount.
- Participants: Yolanda Koumidou, Jim Auster, Merrilee Bliss, Bing Heckman, Annabelle Orme, Tim DeGraff, Cassandra Bramucci, Jim Whedon, Ian Dibble, Nancy Rugo, Michelle Choug, Buzz Glasky, Ginger Glasky, Khushnam Crawford, Jim Whitson, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Homayar Gandhi, Marta Flores, Fred Stankus, Gigi Driessen, Satya Keyes, Sarah Larsen, Jerry Hittleman, Lynne Goldfarb, Mike Franklin, Terry Mendoza
- Event Announcement: Fire Cleanup Day
- Story Blog: Thomas Fire No Match for Meher Baba and His Lovers
Harvest Baba’s Tree – February 5-7 & February 13, 2018: Harvest, mill and store wood from fallen and burned parts of Baba’s Tree
- Participants: Harold Greene, Peter Harnisch, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Buzz Glasky, Ginger Glasky
- Story Blog: Baba's Tree - Saving the Fallen Wood
Caretakers Last Day – February 15, 2018: Official last day for Manager/ Caretakers Buzz & Ginger Glasky
- Story Blog: A Fond Farewell – Goodbye to the Glaskys
Baba’s Birthday Open House & Farewell to the Caretakers – February 25, 2018: First public event since the fire; celebrate Baba’s Birthday; say goodbye to Buzz & Ginger Glasky.
- Event Announcement: Meher Baba's Birthday Open House
- Story Blog: Fate of Baba’s Tree Is Front Page News
Ray Johnston in Residence – February 15-23, 2018: Former Manager/Caretaker Ray Johnston stays at Meher Mount to help with recovery.
- Participants: Ray Johnston, Margaret Magnus, Sam Ervin
- Story Blog: Seven Days in February – More Progress on Fire Recovery
Replacement Trailer – February 25, 2018: Meher Mount purchases used trailer from Buzz Glasky to replace burned trailer.
- Participants: Sam Ervin, Jim Whitson, Robert Turnage, Buzz Glaksy
Interim Caretaker Cassandra Bramucci Starts – February 23, 2018: Cassandra Bramucci moves her RV to Meher Mount to start as Interim Caretaker.
Water to Pool/Reservoir – March 6, 2018: Electrical restored at the well. Water pumped to pool/reservoir.
- Participants: Sam Ervin, Cassandra Bramucci, Ojai Electric
Restoration Weekend – March 10-11, 2018: Baba’s Tree care, clean-up, tree trimming, road clearance.
- Participants: Eric Turk, Jim Whitson, Tim Hurley, Oanh Hurley, Bing Heckman, Jim Whedon, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Cassandra Bramucci, Kyle Morrison, Lisa Morrison, Lizzy Morrison, Homayar Gandhi, Brad Spurr
- Event Announcement: Restoration Weekend
- Story Blog: Neither Rain, Nor Drizzle, Nor Fog Stops Meher Mount’s Volunteers
Remove Big Eucalyptus – March 8-9, 2018: SCE removes big eucalyptus that threatened electrical wires
- Participants: Southern California Edison, Michael Inaba, Sam Ervin
Remove Eucalyptus Stand – March 27-31, 2018: Burned Eucalyptus grove removed from the property.
- Participants: LNS Tree Service, Southern California Edison, Sam Ervin, Cassandra Bramucci
- Story Blog: What to Do with the Eucalyptus Trees?
Plumbing – March-April 2018: In preparation for a new HVAC system, plumbing work is required. Also, plumbing in the kitchen and bathroom toilets upgraded.
- Participants: Cassandra Bramucci, Sam Ervin
Accounting – March-June, 2018: Track and correctly categorize all expenses, donations, capital improvements, and fire-related costs and reimbursements.
- Participants: Margaret Magnus, Robert Turnage, Vickie Robertson
HVAC – March-June 2018: Upgraded and replaced heating and air conditioning system, cleaned air ducts.
- Participants: Cassandra Bramucci, Sam Ervin, AirTight
Eric Ashelman in Residence – April 3-8, 2018: Volunteer Eric Ashelman stays at Meher Mount to help with mowing and fire abatement.
- Participants: Eric Ashelman, Cassandra Bramucci, Sam Ervin
Robert Turnage & Kristina Somma in Residence – April 18-30, 2018: Board member Robert Turnage and his wife Kristina Somma stay at Meher Mount to help with fire recovery and regeneration.
- Participants: Robert Turnage, Kristina Somma, Cassandra Bramucci
Make Benches – April 19-21, 2018: Three outdoor benches are made from limbs of Baba’s Tree. Reporters from the Ojai Valley News and Ventura County Star visit to write the story.
- Participants: Harold Greene, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Robert Turnage, Aaron Hemeon, Sean Hemeon, Gerry Bond, Eric Turk, Jim Whitson, Ken Pellman, Cassandra Bramucci
- Story Blog: Fire Is a Creative Force – Three Benches from Baba’s Tree, Baba’s Tree Repurpose Effort Is Firmly Seated in History, Damaged in Thomas Fire, Baba’s Tree Limbs Live on as Benches at Ojai’s Meher Mount
Front Fence Replaced – April 2018: Security fence removed; new iron fence installed. Gate painted.
- Participants: DB Fences, Sam Ervin, Bryon Pinckert, Ray Johnston, Eric Turk
- Story Blog: The Heart Gate Once Again Welcomes Visitors
Electrical System Restored – April 2018: Burned components replaced, electrical boxes upgraded, two poles replaced, permits, inspection, coordination with Southern California Edison
- Participants: Sam Ervin, Ojai Electric, Cassandra Bramucci
Water System Restored – April 2018: Burned components replaced, filter upgraded, new pool cover added.
- Participants: Sam Ervin, Ray Johnston, Buzz Glasky, Cassandra Bramucci
Off-site Storage Closed – April 26, 2018: Archival items moved to Meher Mount. Items given to Goodwill. Library is sorted. Extra books available for donations. Other materials available free for visitors.
- Participants: Margaret Magnus, Sam Ervin, Cassandra Bramucci, Eric Turk
Insurance Claim – April 27, 2018: Submit second and last round of insurance claims.
- Participants: Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Cassandra Bramucci
Unveiling of the Benches – May 12, 2018: Open house to unveil benches made from Baba’s Tree.
- Participants: Margaret Magnus, Sam Ervin, Cassandra Bramucci
- Event Announcement: The Unveiling: Benches from Baba’s Tree
Ray Johnston & April Buchwald in Residence – May 15-28, 2018: Former Manager/Caretaker Ray Johnston and his wife April Buchwald stay at Meher Mount to help with fire abatement.
- Participants: Ray Johnston, April Buchwald, Margaret Magnus, Sam Ervin, Cassandra Bramucci
Fire Prevention Weekend – May 19-20, 2018: Weekend culminates in 95% of fire abatement work needed. Attack invasive Spanish thistle and poison oak control. Clean and weed gardens.
- Participants: Cassandra Bramucci, Ray Johnston, Eric Turk, Robert Turnage, Kristina Somma, Jim Whedon, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Jim Whitson, Rudy Duran, Kathy Najar, Khushnam Crawford, Homayar Gandhi, Brad Spurr, Kyle Morrison, Mike Tarpey, Eric Ashelman
- Event Announcement: Fire Prevention & TLC Volunteer Weekend
- Story Blog: “Hard, Hard Work…” Getting Ready for Fire Inspection & Visitors
Telephone Restored – May 2018: Phone line restored to Meher Mount. Cassandra Bramucci spend hours on hold with AT&T to get the service and transfer phone number to mobile phone to receive calls and texts. Same phone number 805-640-0000.
- Participants: Cassandra Bramucci
Ash Keepsakes – May 25, 2018: Collected ash from heart of Baba’s Tree was placed in keepsake vials, packaged and sent to all donors and volunteers for fiscal year 2017-2018.
- Participants: Cassandra Bramucci, Margaret Magnus, Nancy Pinckert, Sam Ervin, Anonymous Donors
- Story Blog: Baba’s Tree Ashes – A Keepsake and a Connection
Battling the Invasives & Poison Oak – May 2018-Ongoing: Fire makes the landscape particularly susceptible to the return of poison oak and the spread of invasive plants. It’s ongoing.
- Participants: Eric Turk, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Jim Whitson, Homayar Gandhi, Kathy Najar
Kyle & Lisa Morrison in Residence – June 1-8, 2018: Kyle & Lisa Morrison stay at Meher Mount to help with recovery and re-opening of Meher Mount.
- Participants: Kyle Morrison, Lisa Morrison
Termite Fumigation – June 5-7, 2018: After all wood is replaced in the trellis, Visitor Center/Caretaker Quarters is tented for termites.
- Participants: Sam Ervin, Cassandra Bramucci, Kyle Morrison, Lisa Morrison, Eveready Pest Control
Pass Fire Abatement Inspection - June 16, 2018: All the weeks of fire abatement work pay off. Ventura County Fire Department gives Meher Mount a thumbs up.
- Participants: Cassandra Bramucci, Ray Johnston, Eric Turk, Robert Turnage, Kristina Somma, Jim Whedon, Sam Ervin, Margaret Magnus, Jim Whitson, Rudy Duran, Kathy Najar, Khushnam Crawford, Homayar Gandhi, Brad Spurr, Kyle Morrison, Lisa Morrison, Mike Tarpey, Eric Ashelman
Trellis Repair/Replacement – June 22, 2018: Initial replacement of wood at burned corner leads to discovery of dry rot and termites. Additional work required, and new trellis shade covering added.
- Participants: Sam Ervin, Cassandra Bramucci, Arturo Lopez, Margaret Magnus
- Story Blog: Fire Damage Turns into a Blessing
Props for Baba’s Tree – June 26, 2018: All the props to support weak limbs of Baba’s Tree are installed. Watering continues.
- Participants: Michael Inaba, Sam Ervin
Victory Declared - June 27, 2018: All major fire projects and tasks related to recovery and regeneration due to the December 4, 2017 Thomas Fire are completed - a total of 207 days.