The Carmel Valley airfield is a beautiful piece of property with stunning views of our entire valley. It is the scene of one of the community’s most cherished events—Santa’s Fly-In—and during the rest of the year, it provides valley residents and visitors with a lovely peaceful venue for exercising, walking one’s dog, or just appreciating the beauty of our home territory.
But even more importantly, the airfield property has been the strategic staging ground for personnel and equipment during emergency operations during natural disasters. It provided a home encampment for hundreds of firefighters and a refueling base for helicopters during our recent fire disasters that threatened homes and life in the valley, neighboring communities and wilderness areas.
2008 Big Basin Complex Fire
In 2008, the airfield was used as the staging area to fight the nearby Big Basin Complex Fire “Together with the earlier Indian’s Fire, over 240,000 acres were burned, mostly in the Los Padres National Forest. More than 2000 firefighters from all over the United States, including Carmel Valley Fire Protection District volunteers, battled this fire for five weeks before its containment.” * An encampment for 1500 firefighters with mess hall had a capacity to feed 500 at a time.
2016 Soberanes Fire
Then in late summer and early fall of 2016, “CAL FIRE utilized the airfield once again during the Soberanes Fire…that burned more than 130,000 acres and became one of the most expensive wildfires in U.S. History. More than a dozen helicopters and their support operations were stationed at the vintage airfield.”*
1947 fire in Russell Ridge, just east of Hitchcock Canyon.
Photo courtesy of Jeff Ohlson and Carmel Valley Historical Society
Map courtesy of Carmel Valley Watershed Conservancy
*Sources: Research by Jeff Ohlson, Curator of the Carmel Valley Historical Society Specifically A History of the Carmel Fire Protection District and Valley Volunteers 1946-2001 (Published: 2015); A History of the Carmel Valley Vintage Airfield 1941-2002 (Published: 2018)