Fire crews battle Colorado Fire along Big Sur coast to 25% containment

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The rare winter Coastal Fire near Big Sur, dubbed the Colorado Fire, threatened some 200 structures on Sunday after overnight winds pushed the flames before subsiding somewhat, and fire crews battled to increase the containment beyond 25%. Hundreds of people remained evacuated.

Highway 1 remained closed Sunday from Andrew Molera State Park in the Big Sur area to the Granite Canyon Bridge just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, Caltrans said.

Residents of about 500 homes who had been forced to flee after the blaze erupted on Friday waited until the flames died down on Sunday so evacuation orders could be lifted, Cal spokeswoman Cécile Juliette said. Fire. No injuries were reported. Juliette said the area where the fire was burning was not heavily populated, although a community in the area was threatened by the flames.

By Sunday, the Colorado Fire had spread to 1,050 acres and fire crews contained it to 25%. A yurt was damaged and the fire also burned down trees.

January’s fire eruption underscored a growing warning from Cal Fire amid wildfire seasons that have been longer and fiercer in recent years: California’s fire season is now almost all year.

“Usually we slide, we don’t burn,” Montery County spokeswoman Maia Carroll said Sunday, referring to wet-weather landslides that sometimes render Highway 1 impassable. “We have some pretty big fires in Big Sur, so that’s something we’re expecting in late summer. It’s very unusual.

The Colorado Fire at one point skipped Highway 1, on the west side of the Coast Scenic Drive, the California Highway Patrol said. Photos from the weekend showed the flames lighting up the sky along the causeway and burning near the oft-photographed Bixby Bridge.

Weather forecasts call for windier conditions in Monterey County on Tuesday, with winds of 15 to 20 mph — not as strong as the gusts that fanned the Colorado Fire on Friday and Saturday. The weather is expected to remain “pretty calm,” said National Weather Service meteorologist David King.

Firefighters hoped the expected increase in humidity heading into Monday would help alleviate the dry ground vegetation and pine needles that fueled the blaze. Humidity levels near 40% were expected Tuesday morning, compared to 20% to 30% over the weekend.

“We’re starting to see a gradual improvement, but it’s still pretty dry,” King said.

Juliette called wildfires at this time of year “extremely rare, but increasingly common”. She added: “It’s multi-year drought, climate change and a hundred years of great fire suppression.” The suppression of forest fires over many decades – instead of leaving more area to burn naturally – has meant that unburned undergrowth and ground vegetation has accumulated into a dry, dense bed of fuel that intensifies fires.

After the Colorado Fire erupted on Friday, it spread through an area that had little history of wildfires, according to the National Weather Service. Despite spells of soggy weather in recent months, vegetation dried out quickly enough to ignite and spread the flames.

National Weather Service meteorologist Ryan Walbrun characterized California’s long drought as “acting like a chronic condition where even recent rains and cold winter (weather) don’t help keep fires from growing. “.

A boil water advisory was in place for evacuation areas due to damage to local water infrastructure and loss of pressure due to power outages. Residents were advised to use bottled water or boiled water.

The Red Cross shelter for evacuees at Carmel Middle School was scheduled to close Monday morning. Few people had come except for information, Carroll said.

When it comes to fires in Big Sur, we are very resilient and used to being evacuated; many have places to stay,” Carroll said.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals of Monterey County provided pet food and other pet supplies and said it was hosting six cats and a dog evacuated from the fire.

Gwendolyn Wu is a staff writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. Email: [email protected]

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