Wildfire in Northern California Shuts Down Highway, Forces Evacuations

·2 min read
Photo by Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Image
Photo by Karl Mondon/MediaNews Group/The Mercury News via Getty Image

A brush fire ripped through Northern California on Saturday, forcing over 500 residents to evacuate the Big Sur area.

As of Sunday morning, Cal Fire said the fire had grown to 1,050 acres, and was 25 percent contained. The California Highway Patrol closed Highway 1 outside of Carmel-by-the-Sea, just north of Big Sur.

Cecile Juliette, a spokesperson for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told CBS SF that “the winds played a huge part” in the fire spreading throughout the night.

“The fire lined up with the wind and the terrain and that gave the fire a lot of energy to make a big run,” Juliette said. “The winds absolutely played a huge part in what happened last night. We had wind gusts of up to 50 miles an hour. Everything is just so dry that it just really allowed this fire to spread very rapidly in the middle of winter.”

Dr. Craig Clements, Director of the Wildfire Research Center at San Jose State, told CBS that a lack of rain in the area this month contributed to the fire.

“The timing is quite unique because in January, we generally don’t have a lot of fires,” Dr. Clements said. “Given the fact that we haven’t had rain at all in January and we had a big off-shore wind event, these are the conditions that lead to wildfires typically in the Fall, not in January. So it’s just something that is quite surprising.”

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.