'Fire Monks' Ready To Defend Monastery From Big Sur Blaze

In this photo provided by the California Interagency Willow Fire Incident, firefighters work in steep terrain at the Willow Fire near Big Sur, Calif., on Sunday, June 20, 2021. (California Interagency Willow Fire Incident via AP)

BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) — A group of firefighting monks was ready to defend a Buddhist monastery being threatened Tuesday by a wildfire burning in the rugged central coast mountains south of Big Sur.

The seven monks have been clearing brush from around the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center and running a sprinkler system dubbed “Dharma rain,” which helps keep a layer of moister around the buildings, said Sozan Miglioli, president of San Francisco Zen Center, which operates the monastery.

“The blaze is about a mile away but we've been lucky with the weather, it has really cooled down,” Miglioli said.

The fire was climbing uphill among chaparral, grass, and scrub. The steep, remote area meant that the 500 firefighters had to hike in to battle the flames. They were aided by water-dropping aircraft.

Most people evacuated the Buddhist center but members of the fire crew stayed. Other firefighting monks joined them from the San Francisco Zen Center and the Green Gulch Farm Zen Center, a third monastery in the Marin County mountains.

The group of firefighting monks was created after a 2008 blaze reached the Tassajara monastery and a dozen stayed behind to defend it. They got their name from a book titled “Fire Monks” about those who stayed to fight that blaze, Migliogli said.

The monks train every year with professional firefighters and reside in the three monasteries. They travel to centers where they are needed, he said.

Despite all the work, they are still meditating every morning and holding service, Migliogli said.

On the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, the Inyo Creek Fire in the Whitney Portal area near the town of Lone Pine thwarted hikers planning to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States.

The fire was officially estimated at 640 acres (259 hectares) .

Hikers were unable to begin treks at Whitney Portal and rangers were in the wilderness to divert returning hikers to other longer egress trails. Hikers were still being evacuated Tuesday evening, fire officials said.

The fires were among dozens that have scorched large swaths of the West, including in Arizona, Utah and Colorado.

A lightning-caused wildfire crept closer Tuesday to Flagstaff in northern Arizona, threatening to force people from their homes. The mountain city has nearly 80,000 residents, a state university and an observatory where Pluto was discovered.

Evacuations were in place because of several other wildfires across Arizona, affecting mostly rural residents and campers, and many local roads were closed. Half of the national forests in Arizona will to close entirely to the public because of wildfire danger and limited resources, authorities said.

If you are looking for a way to become an interfaith leader, work for racial equity and build bridges, please check out our free curriculum "We Are Each Other's" and start your interfaith leadership today

more from IFYC

The average congregation these days is small — about 70 people — but the majority of churchgoers are worshipping in a congregation of about 400 people.
The metaverse has dramatic implications that should make all of us sit up, lean in, and claim our role in shaping the worlds within the world that is being created.  
Decades of silence, stigma, and structural barriers to treatment and testing have allowed the epidemic to spread, claiming the lives of far too many of our Black friends and families.   
Mawiyah Bomani, a Tarot reader in Louisiana, used to make her own Tarot cards until she found a deck celebrating spiritual practices throughout the African Diaspora. "I hoped and wished to find a deck with me in it," she says.
In this week's round up, a Buddha gets a paint job, a Black interfaith social media account goes viral, and Indigenous activists speak out.
A new U.S. Army program called the Spiritual Readiness Initiative is designed to help soldiers connect spirituality across many faiths, and no faith. The chief Army chaplain introduced the program, which includes a three-day retreat.
The fiberglass Buddha belongs to the Pittsburgh Buddhist Center, which practices the Theravada vehicle of Buddhism common in Sri Lanka. The auto shop that repaired the statue said the Buddha "was a big hit" with customers.
Faith-based activists who met at protests against oil pipelines are joining forces to fight deforestation in the manufacture of products like toilet paper and shampoo. "We are connected spiritually," one activist said.
Religious challenges to COVID-19 vaccine mandates are growing across the nation.

The opinions contained in this piece are solely the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of Interfaith Youth Core. Interfaith America encourages a wide range of views and strives to maintain a respectful tone with a goal of greater understanding and cooperation between people of different faiths, worldviews, and traditions.