Crews Work to Save Zen Mountain Center

July 4, 2008

Author: Dennis Taylor

Source: The Herald

About 20 priests, students and residents maintained battle lines Thursday in the Ventana Wilderness area of Los Padres National Forest to defend the oldest Buddhist monastery in the Western Hemisphere against flames that were about 1½ miles away. The Monterey County Sheriff's Department evacuated about 75 guests from the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center on June 23, and another 33 chose to leave two days later, said David Zimmerman, director of the monastery and resort.

The 14 who remained have since been joined by six others, and are staying despite the mandatory evacuation order. The 20-person crew has been asked to provide authorities with the names of their dentists for identification purposes.

"But we're feeling fairly confident here. Every firefighter who has come in and seen what we've done has told us the complex is defendable," said Zimmerman, who has been among those on the front lines, trenching out 10-foot-wide firebreaks, rigging makeshift sprinkling systems, and clearing leaves and other highly flammable materials from the area. "This is our spiritual home. It is a very precious place to us.