Archive for September, 2011

As I am sure you are all aware by now there was a structure fire that spread into the vegetation on September 15th.  Unfortunately this fire turned out to be a fatality fire.  The Pine Cone reported the individual to be Robert Coakley.
There are currently numerous rumors spreading about our community at lighting speed.  Here are the facts:
Phone service went out on Wednesday when a large euculaytus tree went down on Highway 1 just south of Palo Colorado Road.  Phone service was not restored until Friday.
The fire was originally noticed around 4:30 am but went unreported as there was no phone service. The fire was visually seen around 6:30 am and reported via a 9-1-1 cell phone call placed on Highway 1 @ Palo Colorado Road at 07:10 and reported as a vehicle fire at that location.
All Mid Coast and Cal Fire responding units could not locate the fire on Highway 1
Monterey County Sheriffs had responded to the report of the vehicle fire on Highway 1 to assist with traffic control and followed fire units up Palo Colorado Road
A neighbor went to Norm Cottons home and notified Norm of the fire who radioed the correct location to Cal Fire and all the units on Highway 1.
When fire crews arrived the trailer and cabin were a total loss and the fire had spread into the surrounding vegetation eventually burning one tenth of an acre (finally received the correct figure from Cal Fire).
Phone service goes out frequently in our community.  Do you have a plan in the event of an emergency?
I am hoping to have the Mid-Coast Web Site www.midcoastfirebrigade.org updated within the month that will showcase every fire brigade member and their location in our community.
They say from every tragedy good can come.  I hope that the good that comes from this tragedy is to inspire you to install and/or check your smoke detector to ensure its operation and to install a carbon monoxide detector.  Batteries should be replaced once a year (unless you have a newer 5/10 year detector, then check it once a year as well).
Let us all say a prayer for the Coakley family during their time of personal tragedy and keep them in our thoughts.
Cheryl Goetz,
Fire Chief

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Fire brigade to AT&T:
Phone backup and Internet will help save lives


THE MID-COAST Volunteer Fire Brigade — which serves the
north Big Sur Coast — has tried unsuccessfully for more than two
years to strike a deal with AT&T for it to use fire brigade’s generator
to keep phone company’s equipment functioning when the power
goes out. The fire brigade has also sought, without success, to connect
AT&T Internet service to its fire house.

MCVFB Chief Cheryl Goetz told The Pine Cone this week that
despite countless phone calls to AT&T, the generator and Internet
issues remain unresolved. “There’s so much red tape,” Goetz
explained. “There is no clear person to talk to.”

AT&T provides the only telephone service for residents of Palo
Colorado, which is hemmed in by mountains and usually out of the
reach of cell phones towers. And without Internet service for the fire
department, or landline phone service to anyone during a
power outage, Goetz said public safety is compromised in the
rugged, fire-prone community.

“The fire station is considered a critical facility, and
AT&T is unable to work with us to resolve an issue of such
importance,” she said.
When the electricity goes out in the Palo Colorado area —
which is home to several hundred residents — a battery backup
once kept the phones operating for 12 to 16 hours, according
to Goetz. But that was before the Internet.
“Unfortunately, the battery time has diminished significantly
since Internet came to the community [because when
the power goes out] everyone jumps on the Internet to find
out what is going on, which drains the batteries in several
hours now,” she explained.

In 2008, a resident donated a 35-kilowatt generator to
power the firehouse and residential phone service during an
electricity outage. Goetz assumed it would be a simple task
for AT&T to tap power from the generator so residents would
be able to call 911 in the event of an emergency.

Also frustrating for Goetz is the absence of Internet service
at the firehouse. At one point, the fire chief said she was
on the phone with an AT&T representative and was told the
firehouse is located too far from AT&T’s connection box. In
response, Goetz said she was standing “within spitting distance”
of the box. Meanwhile, residents living more than a
mile from the box have Internet service, she observed. But
Goetz’s plea was unsuccessful. “No amount of explaining
would change their mind,” she reported.

The phone dilemma was underscored last week when a
Palo Colorado area resident, Robert Coakley, burned to death
in his home. As the result of a downed eucalyptus tree at
Highway 1 and Palo Colorado Road, electricity — and phone
service — were down when the incident occurred.

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Man dies in undetected Big Sur house fire


PALO COLORADO resident Robert Coakley, a 1982 graduate
of Carmel High School, died Sept. 15 after the mobile home he was
living in caught fire, according to the Monterey County Sheriff ’s

Coakley, who grew up in Carmel Valley and was the son of
Carmel Valley Lodge owner Peter Coakley, was 47.
“He was great guy,” recalled fellow CHS graduate John Franklin,
who had known Coakley since they attended middle school together.
“He has happy-go-lucky, and he always seemed to be having fun.
He was a very gentle person. Everybody seemed to enjoy his company.”
Coakley lived atop Green Ridge, a neighborhood located about
three miles east of Highway 1.

According to several of Coakley’s neighbors, nobody was aware
— at least at first — that his home was on fire, due to a thickfog that blanketed the ridge. According to detective Diana
Schumacher of the MCSO, the fire likely started sometime
after midnight. She said her agency received a call regarding
the fire at about 6 a.m. It is not clear how the call was made
since phone service was out in the Palo Colorado area
because a large eucalyptus tree crashed down on Highway 1
the day before and took out a power pole.

Later the same day, Schumacher surveyed what remained
of the dwelling. “It looked like a plane that had crashed,” she
said. “It was obliterated. The fire burned very, very hot.”
While Schumacher said the origin of the fire is under
investigation, she dispelled rumors that it was caused by an
exploding propane tank or a drug lab. She said two propane
tanks located nearby did show cracks from the blaze.
Remarkably — and likely due to the fog — the fire didn’t
spread far beyond Coakley’s residence, despite the fact that
Green Ridge is covered with dense, fire-prone vegetation.

Mid-Coast Volunteer Fire Brigade Chief Cheryl Goetz
reported that the blaze scorched just less than an acre.
“Everybody in this community was very lucky,” Goetz

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State of California • Department of Transportation


Today’s Date: Friday, September 23, 2011
District: 05 – Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Monterey, San Benito and Santa
Cruz Counties
Susana Z Cruz (bilingual) or Colin Jones
(805) 549-3138 or 549-3189


MONTEREY – A three-mile safety project from just south of the Hwy. 68/1 (south)
separation to the Hwy. 68/1 (north) separation to remove dead Monterey Pine trees
within the State’s Right of Way is scheduled to begin, mid-November, Caltrans officials
have announced.

Traffic control will consist of night time ramp closures from 7:30 pm to 6 am with minimal
delays anticipated. No two consecutive ramps will be closed at the same time. Work is
expected to be completed by mid-February 2012, weather permitting.

Monterey Pines in the area are rapidly dying from Pitch Canker, a fungus believed to
be spread by native beetles. This project is intended to remove only the dead trees
that have the potential to cause damage. On a positive note, it appears that many of
the dead trees have numerous saplings sprouting at their base, which will be protected
during tree removals. It is hoped that some of these trees will be resistant to the Pitch
Canker fungus.

More information will follow as it becomes available.

Caltrans reminds motorists to move over and slow down when driving through

Caltrans work zones.

State of California • Department of Transportation



For traffic updates on other state highways in Monterey County, motorists can call
Caltrans District 5 Public Affairs at (805) 549-3318 or visit the District 5 website at:

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