A brush fire that started late Friday night has flared into an out of control wildfire near Big Sur, California. The cause of the fire, first reported around 7:30 p.m. local time, remains unknown. The National Weather Service described the rapidly growing conflagration, dubbed the Colorado Fire, as “surreal”.
Due to the impact of climate change, California’s wildfire “season” has been extended throughout the year. Conditions were conducive to fire this month despite storms that brought heavy rain to the state in the last three months of 2021. The Colorado Fire swept through the region due to dry air, high pressure and strong winds.
While late January isn’t the typical time of year when wildfires start, the winds involved nonetheless created challenges for crews maintaining the perimeter, according to CalFire.
George Nunez, a CalFire captain, told the New York Times that it normally has 17 units but was reduced to two when the official fire season ended on January 3. He said, “Everyone says California has a year-round fire season. And that’s only part of it.
Mandatory evacuations were issued on Palo Colorado Road, where the fire started, and evacuation advisories were in effect along Route 1 at 10 p.m. The blaze was mapped over 683 acres by the Fire Integrated Real-Time Intelligence System (FIRIS) aircraft around 5 p.m. On Saturday. A satellite flyby at 1:22 p.m. local time Saturday showed the fire had spread from the south side near Rocky Creek and from the northwest side southeast of Notleys Landing south of Palo Colorado Road.
As of midnight Saturday, the fire was 0% contained, prompting officials to go door-to-door to ensure evacuation orders were followed. Rocky Creek and Bixby, Calif., were also evacuated.
The iconic Scenic Route 1 was closed in both directions near the Andrew Molera State Park entrance in Big Sur to Rio Road in Carmel. At the start of the fire, winds were blowing at around 25 to 30 mph in the area.
An evacuation shelter was opened at Carmel Middle School by the American Red Cross late Friday evening for area residents who received mandatory evacuation orders as the fire moved dangerously close to the community.
Cécile Juliette, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told The Associated Press: “The fire aligned with the wind and the terrain and that gave the fire a lot of energy to do a great race.
“It is unusual to have a fire of this size here on the coast at the end of January. The fact that we had a fire of this magnitude is very concerning,” she told the AP.
As of Sunday evening, more than 30,000 customers in California were without power, according to PowerOutage.us, although power was restored for most customers Monday morning. The Monterey County Health Department has issued a “boil water advisory” until further notice for residents of the Colorado fire-affected area due to likely damage to the infrastructure of the water system and loss of water pressure due to power outages.
The Colorado blaze was 35% contained Monday, fire officials said.
The wildfire raged as the Santa Ana Winds picked up in Southern California, which are treacherous high-velocity winds that blow and sometimes blow from the mountains toward the Southern California coast and can cause rapid spread of forest fires.
High wind warnings from the National Weather Service took effect Saturday from the Sierra Nevada to southern California, with winds easing across the region on Sunday.
“Winds continue to create challenges for crews along the fire perimeter,” CalFire wrote in an update on its website. “Seasonal temperatures are expected for much of this week and relative humidity readings are expected to increase on Monday. Firefighters continue to reinforce control lines and clear hot spots.”
But no precipitation was forecast for the week as a stagnant air regime grips the western United States. With stagnant high pressure over the wide area, winds are expected to be calm for the next few days, which will help firefighters contain the Colorado Fire.
At the end of September 2021, in California, there were 10 large fires burning nearly 2 million acres, none of which were fully contained at this time. According to CalFire, “In October,  the state of California, particularly in northern areas where most of the fires were, received its first rain in more than 200 days, reducing wildfire risk for much of the state.
The 2021 fire season in Northern California has been so severe that CalFire made it a point to notify firefighters and the public in its September 26 action plan for the Fawn Fire that “the Northern California continues to see heavy fire activity and multiple crew deployments and will likely experience an extended fire season. It is important to be aware of fatigue and manage it for all resources. »
Weather reports indicate that year-round wildfires have become common across the state and in the Pacific Northwest. A May 2021 article in the San Jose Mercury News confirmed that the California fire season is now 12 months long.