1,600 people stranded after rain erodes part of highway 1 near Big Sur, California


Important Takeaways:

  • Rains Wash Away Part of California’s Iconic Highway 1 Near Big Sur, Stranding Tourists, Locals
  • Spring rains washed away part of California’s famous Highway 1 near Big Sur on Saturday, stranding 1,600 people who had to be moved past the collapsed portion in convoys.
  • The rain was coming down at a rate of 2 inches per hour at one point, according to the National Weather service.
  • When the convoy first opened, around noon, an estimated 300 cars were waiting to travel northbound. It took 50 minutes to clear out all the waiting vehicles. This presumably included Easter weekend visitors to Big Sur who were stranded by the closure and had to spend the night in temporary lodging and emergency shelters.
  • The 2023-2024 winter has been the third-wettest winter in parts of California since records began nearly 80 years ago. The rains and snow followed an exceptionally snowy 2022-2023 winter, which broke a five-year drought.

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Big Sur Fire shuts down Highway 1 forces evacuation

Luke 21:25,26 “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken.

Important Takeaways:

  • Wildfire Amid High Winds Prompts Evacuations, Shuts Down Highway 1 Near California’s Big Sur
  • Evacuations were ordered
  • The fire had burned about 2 square miles and was 5% contained
  • The blaze, dubbed the Colorado Fire, broke out despite heavy rainfall in recent months that has eased drought conditions.
  • Fire weather isn’t normally expected this time of year.
  • The fire jumped Highway 1 and the road was shut down in both directions from about 5 miles north of Big Sur to Rio Road in Carmel-By-The-Sea

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Most condors survive California wildfire that destroyed sanctuary

By Andrew Hay

(Reuters) – At least 90% of condors on the central California coast survived a wildfire that tore through their forest range and destroyed a sanctuary for the endangered birds, a wildlife group said on Wednesday.

Word that 90 of the 100 condors in California’s Big Sur had been accounted for came as home losses mounted from much larger blazes burning to the north in the San Francisco Bay Area.

A siege of dry-lightning strikes during a record heat wave sparked blazes that have raced through coastal redwood forests, destroying hundreds of homes and burning California’s oldest state park in the Santa Cruz mountains.

Cooler temperatures for a second straight day helped firefighters battle the largest blazes, as state wildfire authority Cal Fire reported 1,700 houses and other structures burned in fires that have killed seven people.

There were no condors inside pens at the sanctuary when it was destroyed last week, but 10 free-flying birds are missing and four nesting chicks are unaccounted for, said biologist Kelly Sorenson, who is hopeful they may be alive.

“They often nest in redwood trees high off the ground and redwood trees are quite fire resistant,” said Sorenson, executive director of the Ventana Wildlife Society, which ran the sanctuary and is raising funds to rebuild it.

As biologists hunted for signals from the condors’ radio transmitters, fire authorities began going through burned communities to quantify the number of homes destroyed.

“We anticipate that number to grow substantially in the coming days and weeks,” Governor Gavin Newsom told a news briefing. “Once the fires are suppressed and we get back in and start seeing repopulation we’re likely to discover additional fatalities.”

Over 120,000 people remained under evacuation orders and some like Bryan Miller learned their homes had been lost.

“I have one remaining picture of my parents,” said Miller, 31, who stuffed the photograph in a backpack as he fled the fire that burned his studio in Brookdale, one of 538 homes and structures destroyed in the Santa Cruz mountains fire.

Across Northern and Central California over 15,000 firefighters from around a dozen states battled dozens of fires sparked by the barrage of over 14,000 dry-lightning strikes that have scorched an area larger than the state of Delaware.

Newsom pointed to the CZU fire, the largest in recorded history in the area’s coastal rainforests, as a consequence of rising temperatures.

“This is again another testament, a demonstrable example of the reality, not just the assertion, the reality of climate change in this state,” he said.

In the north Bay Area, nearly 1,000 homes and structures, many in farms and vineyards, were incinerated in the wine country of Napa, Sonoma and Solano counties.

The so-called LNU Lightning complex fire, the third-largest in California history, jumped to 33% containment.

In the south Bay Area evacuation orders were lifted for communities across four counties where the state’s second largest fire in history was 25% contained after burning an area larger than Los Angeles.

(Reporting by Andrew Hay; Editing by Tom Brown and Leslie Adler)

Wildfire rages into California town, burning homes, businesses

A burning house damaged by the Clayton Fire is seen near Lower Lake in California,

By Dan Whitcomb

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – A rampaging wildfire that descended on a small Northern California town over the weekend destroyed more than 100 homes and businesses, authorities said on Monday, as crews fought to save more dwellings from the flames.

The so-called Clayton fire, which broke out on Saturday evening, was driven by fierce winds into the foothill community of Lower Lake, some 80 miles (129 km) north of San Francisco, burning everything in its path and forcing hundreds of residents to flee.

A damage assessment team was working to determine how many structures were lost, said Daniel Berlant of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. But he added, “we know it’s well over 100,” mostly homes.

There were no reports of casualties, Berlant said, but Lake County sheriffs deputies were investigating burned-out structures. The nearby community of Clear Lake was also evacuated.

As winds died down on Sunday evening crews began to make progress cutting containment lines around the flames and putting out hot spots, Berlant said, but “we know that as temperatures heat back up again today it’s likely fire conditions will increase.”

“We’ve got over 1,600 firefighters ready to go to battle again when that happens.”

The cause of the blaze, which has so far blackened more than 3,000 acres, was under investigation. Fire managers said it was about 5 percent contained as of Monday morning.

The conflagration is one of 24 major wildfires burning across the drought-parched U.S. West which all together have charred nearly 300,000 acres.

The so-called Chimney fire, which erupted on Saturday afternoon in San Luis Obispo County, had scorched more than 4,300 acres in less than 48 hours, destroying 20 structures and threatening some 150 others as hundreds of residents were told to evacuate.

That blaze was only 10 percent contained as of Monday morning.

The Soberanes fire, one of the largest so far this season, has burned through more than 72,000 acres near scenic Big Sur, destroying 57 homes and 11 outbuildings since it broke out on July 22. It was 60 percent contained as of Monday.

A bulldozer operator died on July 26 when his tractor rolled over as he helped property owners battle the flames, the sixth wildfire fatality in California this year.

Authorities have traced origins of the Soberanes fire to an illegal campfire left unattended in a state park about a mile from Highway 1. No arrests have been made so far.

(Editing by Matthew Lewis)

California wildfire near Big Sur coast steered away from homes

A firefighter stands on steep terrain while fire crews create fire breaks at Garrapata State Park during the Soberanes Fire north of Big Sur, California,

By Steve Gorman

(Reuters) – Crews battling a deadly wildfire burning well into its second week near California’s Big Sur coast have carved buffer lines around a quarter of its perimeter, steering flames more deeply into the forest and away from populated areas, officials said on Wednesday.

The gradual but steady progress being made against the so-called Soberanes blaze comes as wildfire season in the western United States was reaching its traditional peak, intensified by prolonged drought and extreme summer heat across the region.

The 13-day-old conflagration near Big Sur is one of nearly 30 major wildfires reported to have scorched roughly 700 square miles (1,813 sq km) in 12 states, mostly in the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

“It’s bad now and it’s going to get worse,” AccuWeather long-range forecaster Paul Pastelok said.

Authorities said on Tuesday they had traced the origins of the Soberanes blaze to an illegal campfire left unattended in a state park about a mile from the famously scenic coastal drive known as Highway 1, south of Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Since erupting on July 22, the fire has blackened nearly 46,000 acres (18,600 hectares), destroyed at least 57 homes and claimed the life of a bulldozer operator who died when his tractor rolled over as he helped property owners battle the blaze.

He became the sixth wildfire fatality in California this year.

Efforts to quell the Soberanes fire have been complicated by steep, rugged terrain and persistently hot, dry weather, said Erik Scott, a spokesman for the fire command.

As of Wednesday morning, a firefighting force that has grown to more than 5,500 had managed to hack through enough unburned vegetation to carve containment lines around 25 percent of the fire’s perimeter, up from 18 percent a day earlier.

With the fire now largely hemmed in on its northern flank, closest to communities that were threatened, the blaze is moving primarily in a southeasterly direction deeper into the Los Padres National Forest, Scott said.

Some evacuation orders have been lifted, but fire officials said about 300 residents remained displaced and about 2,000 structures were listed as threatened. Several popular California state parks and campgrounds also were closed.

Another fire, burning north of the San Francisco Bay Area along the Yolo-Napa county line, has scorched 4,000 acres of grass and oak woodlands since it erupted on Tuesday, prompting evacuations of a campground and residential community. Dubbed the Cold fire, that blaze was listed as just 5 percent contained.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Milwaukee; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky and James Dalgleish)

California firefighters struggle to slow Big Sur Blaze

A Cal Fire helicopter flies over Williams Canyon during the Soberanes Fire near Carmel Valley, California, U.S.

By Michael Fiala

CARMEL-BY-THE-SEA, Calif. (Reuters) – Firefighters struggled on Sunday to slow a deadly wildfire that has raged for 10 days near California’s Big Sur coast, destroying dozens of homes and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of residents and campers, authorities said.

The so-called Soberanes Fire, which erupted on July 22 just south of Carmel-by-the-Sea, has grown to 40,000 acres (16,187 hectares) of parched chaparral and timberland in and around the Los Padres National Forest.

“Firefighters are meeting challenges due to topography, fuel load, and dry humidity,” said Katherine Garver, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). “The fire is making runs into inaccessible areas.”

Officials ordered evacuations for the famous Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park and other areas on Sunday afternoon.

They had hoped that favorable weather conditions would allow progress to be made in containing the blaze, with strong winds that had been driving the fire for days starting to abate.

By Sunday night, 18 percent of the fire’s perimeter was contained, a slight increase from earlier in the day, officials said.

Extremely hot, dry weather is still hampering the efforts of some 5,300 firefighters, 16 helicopters, a half dozen air tankers and 500 fire engines.

Officials do not expect the fire to be fully contained until the end of August because parts of it are burning in steep and inaccessible terrain. Its cause is under investigation.

Flames have already destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings, with at least five other structures damaged, according to the latest tally. Another 2,000 structures were threatened, with an estimated 350 residents displaced by evacuations unrelated to those in the area of the Zen Center, officials said.

The fire threat has prompted authorities to close a string of popular California campgrounds and recreation areas along the northern end of the Big Sur coastline, including Point Lobos Natural Reserve.

The blaze took a deadly turn on Tuesday when a bulldozer operator hired by property owners to help battle the flames was killed when his tractor rolled over. It was the second California wildfire-related death in a week.

Another fire broke out on Saturday in grass and brush about 30 miles (48 km) northeast of Fresno, in central California, and has since spread to 1,500 acres (607 hectares), threatening 200 homes, according to Cal Fire.

(Writing and additional reporting by Frank McGurty in New York, Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento and Alex Dobuzinskis in Los Angeles, California; Editing by Sandra Maler, Paul Simao and Paul Tait)