The Tassajara leadership has organized a free retreat for wildland firefighters... what we hope will continue as an annual offering. This retreat is intended to help provide refuge, rest and renewal, as well as trauma-sensitive training in mindfulness, meditation, and sensory awareness. 

This retreat has been in development since 2019, through conversations with wildland firefighters and friends of Tassajara, and through the mutual realization that this kind of offering for the wildland fire community is sorely needed. 

Wildland firefighters experience depression, anxiety, addiction, alcoholism, and PTSD at rates up to ten times higher than the average population. Despite this quiet epidemic of burnout and poor mental health in the wildland firefighter community, there are very limited offerings of this kind available to our wildland firefighters. 

In addition to the gratitude we feel to firefighters for their generous service, Tassajara is particularly in their debt for the aid and agency support we have received over the years, most recently for protecting Tassajara during the Willow fire. Tassajara leadership feel that it is important for SFZC to express our gratitude, to give something back to this community in need, and to cultivate relationships with the wildland community.

Taking Care with Fire

Calligraphy by Shunryu Suzuki

The tradition of firewatch in Japan may have begun in the seventeenth century when night watchmen would walk through the streets hitting clappers to remind people to put out cooking fires before sleeping. This was very important for houses made of wood and paper. Even today, on the eve of the new year in Japan, a group of volunteers will patrol neighborhoods, hitting their clappers and chanting hi no yo jin: be careful with fire!

Years ago the founder of San Francisco Zen Center, Shunryu Suzuki Roshi, represented that phrase in Japanese calligraphy in the piece shown here. It ... reminds us that the traditional warning is as relevant as ever. Fire can both destroy and serve, protect and harm, nourish and deplete. We must balance proper use of fire with its proper care.

Text above and presentation from a SFZC fundraising email sent 12/14/15

Hi no youjin 火乃用心。- thanks Shohaku Okumura

History of Fire at Tassajara

"When Shunryu Suzuki arrived at Tassajara, he'd go right away to the zendo to offer incense and do bows. He'd do the same before leaving. At one such time after having driven him in, I handed him a lit stick of incense at the altar, and before he bowed, he turned to me and said, "Many temples in Japan have burned down from one stick of incense."

Here is a collection of the history of fire in the Tassajara area dating back as early as 1902. By David Chadwick.  

Flag Rock and Tassajara 2008 ~ Photo by Shundo David Haye

Photos from Soberanes Fire, 2016:

Apache Crew

Alpine Hotshots

Tassajara residents the Apache crew, three engine crews including the Angel Fire and Farmington Fire from New Mexico and Benson Fire from Arizona

Wildland Firefighters at Tassajara 1971

photos courtesy of Sue Husari