UPDATE 9/11/16 9:22 PM: More than two dozen people have decided to stay and protect the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center despite an evacuation order from the Soberanes Fire.
Director Linda Galijan told KION 13 people left the center over the weekend and 29 others are staying behind.
Those who stay will sign a waiver that states they accept the risks they are taking by choosing not to leave. Galijan said the waiver is standard protocol when there is an evacuation order.
"We want to stay and defend and protect Tassajara and everything we have heard from firefighters who have looked at the facility has been that they have confidence in its defensibility and high rate of survivability so we feel confident we can safely defend Tassajara."
Galijan also said they are not encouraging anyone to stay behind.
"We have not asked anyone to stay. It is everyone's individual choice," said Galijan.
UPDATE 11:30 a.m.: Twelve people at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center will be leaving, according to Director Linda Galijan.
ORIGINAL STORY: About 30 people have decided to stay at the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, despite a new Soberanes Fire evacuation order issued Saturday night.
Speaking by satellite phone, Zen Center director Linda Galijan told KION this morning that they spoke with a liaison from the U.S. Forest Service around 8 a.m. and remain in close dialogue.
So far, seven people have decided to leave, but the number may change. “We’re waiting to hear what the timing is. We’re coordinating closely so that we don’t impact the roads,” Galijan said.
Tassajara Road is a one way, rocky road that snakes around high cliffs.
While the fire is still about 2-1/2 miles away, there is increased fire activity.
“Yesterday there were dramatic smoke plumes,” Galijan said. “When those columns collapsed they filled the valley with smoke. We haven’t seen so much of that before.”
KION reporter Mariana Hicks visited the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center on Labor Day. Fire crews have worked to help protect the 150 year old facility. The Zen Center also has its own fire team that is doing everything from creating defensible space around the buildings to using sprinklers to keep everything damp.
Soberanes Fire officials have said safety is a top priority and fire crews would leave the area if the fire moved in.
Some of the Zen Center’s trained firefighters began training at night on Saturday.
Zen Center residents say they are prepared. “We’re feeling really solid,” Galijan said Sunday morning.
The Zen Center director also expressed her appreciation for the Monterey County Sheriff’s Department, which visited them last night to make sure they knew about the evacuation order, and the U.S. Forest Service and other agencies.
Tassjara is the first Zen training monastery outside of Japan and offers monastic training, according to its website.
The summer guest season was cancelled due to the ongoing Soberanes Fire.