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HomeTassajara2008 Tassajara FireFire Watch and Updates

Letter from Robert Thomas, President: 7/17/2008

The Tassjara Five

“…It still amazes us—Abbot Steve Stücky, Mako Voelkel, Graham Ross, Colin Gipson, and myself—to recall the speed in which the fire descended and converged on Tassajara simultaneously from four sides: from Flag rock to the northeast, with 30- to 40-foot flames; from Hawk mountain to the northwest, rushing down right above the hill cabins with 10- to 15-foot flames; over the Hogback and Suzuki Roshi Memorial trail to the west, and from the south via the Overlook ridge, its progress cloaked by the canopy of trees above us. It was difficult to determine which head of fire would reach us first, so we split up…”

-- from Tassajara Director David Zimmerman’s account of the Tassajara Fire

Robert Thomas, President


On behalf of everyone in the Zen Center sangha, I would like to express our deep and heartfelt appreciation to the five Zen monks who saved Tassajara, forever to be known as the “Tassajara Five.” Your spontaneous and personal decision to turn back toward the fire in the face of evacuation orders will live on as a decisive moment of courage, clarity and truth for all of us to witness and learn from, and for future generations to be inspired by. A deep bow to each of you.




Fire behind ZendoI would also like to express our sincere gratitude to each and every person in the Zen Center sangha. During this time of crisis, all around us we have seen Zen students from Tassajara, Green Gulch Farm, and City Center, as well as members of the wider sangha, pulling together to support each other with their cool minds, ready bodies and strong practice. I myself have witnessed and heard many stories of people responding with great care and kindness; each person in their own way, standing up courageously to do whatever is necessary in the face of a very challenging situation.

Lastly, I would like to express my thanks to everyone who has so thoughtfully sent in notes and emails wishing for the safety and well-being of the Zen Center community and Tassajara, and in particular, those of you who have responded so generously with donations. I also want to acknowledge and thank the many people who have shared various perspectives and contributed to a lively discussion on the Sitting with Fire blog.

We are sincerely grateful to everyone for their support during this time of uncertainty.

View more of Mako Voelkel's photos of the fire at Tassajara. View a compiled and edited album of Shundo David Haye's photos of fire preparations.

I hope that while you view these amazing pictures and contemplate the current state of Tassajara that you will consider doing whatever you can to support Tassajara and the Zen Center at this time.

Robert Thomas
President of San Francisco Zen Center

Donate Now

 (7/17/2008, 7:15 AM PDT)

Here are some photos of some of the people who helped to prepare Tassajara in the days preceding the fire. These include the Fenner Canyon Inmate Strike Teams, Indiana crew and, of course, the residents of Tassajara. Some of Tassajara residents who left in the first wave of resident evacautions are not pictured here. And there are many who directly supported Tassajara, such as fire crews and captains that visited Tassajara, the air support, the fire commanders and all of the people who support and continue to support Tassajara from afar. We are grateful for everyone's efforts. (Click to enlarge any of these images)

Fenner Canyon Inmate Strike Team

Tassajara and Indiana Crew

Tassajara students