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Fire near Big Sur burns nearly 20,000 acres, destroys 20 homes

East Bay Times

Evacuees, residents pack meeting on Soberanes fire near Big Sur

Evacuees and community members packed a meeting Monday night, July 25, 2016, at Carmel River Elementary School to hear how the Soberanes fire would impact their towns. As of Tuesday morning, the fire was 10 percent contained and had scorched about
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Evacuees and community members packed a meeting Monday night, July 25, 2016, at Carmel River Elementary School to hear how the Soberanes fire would impact their towns. As of Tuesday morning, the fire was 10 percent contained and had scorched about

A relentless wildfire that has scorched nearly 20,000 acres of land continued to rage Tuesday morning in Monterey County, threatening homes and leaving hazy skies in its wake.

Fire crews have contained only 10 percent of the Soberanes fire, which through 6:30 a.m. Tuesday had burned 19,311 acres, according to Cal Fire. The blaze has destroyed 20 homes and two outbuildings, and is threatening far more damage; 1,650 structures are threatened, according to the agency.

The weather isn’t expected to help firefighters either. A warming trend Tuesday was expected to take temperatures into the 100s in much of Monterey County, as well as into the 90s in areas of the South Bay, meteorologist Roger Goss of the National Weather Service said.

The high-pressure ridge that is causing the temperatures to rise is also spreading smoke, and hazy skies will be present through much of the area, he said.

“We’re not seeing a lot of strong northwest wind,” Goss said. “That’s allowing the smoke to spread to the greater Bay Area and inland, as well as up into the Sierras.”

Normal wind patterns typically would take the smoke over the Pacific Ocean, Goss said, but the high pressure ridge is expected to remain intact until the weekend, when a trough from the northwest is expected to break it down a bit and lower temperatures.

Smoke from the blaze contributed to the Bay Area Air Quality Management District’s Spare the Air alert for Tuesday, the 10th so far this summer. Hot temperatures and light winds, combining with vehicle exhaust and smoke from the Soberanes Fire led to the alert.

The low humidity associated with the current weather pattern is not helping fire crews according to Cal Fire.

Air tankers and crews on the ground continued the fight Tuesday morning, but access remains difficult. More than 300 residents have been evacuated.

“The fire grew because it is hard to get to with steep terrain and remote access being the biggest factors,” Cal Fire spokesman Raymond Martinez.

Crews have closed several roads, including Palo Colorado Road at Highway 1, Robinson Canyon Road (south of Penon Peak Trail) and Weston Ridge Road at Highway 1a State Park.

A total of 2,305 firefighters are battling the fire.

More than 300 people packed the auditorium at Carmel River Elementary School on Monday night in search of answers.

There wasn’t a lot of good news.

“Cal Fire had a very busy day in the north sector,” said George Gonzalez, a Cal Fire captain.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered at Palo Colorado Canyon, Rocky Creek and Weston Ridge Road, Highway 1 at Old Coast Road south to Old Coast Road at Bixby Creek Road and Garrapatos Road. On Monday afternoon the Monterey County Sheriff’s Office placed Corona Road, east of Highway 1 and Riley Ranch Road, east of Highway 1, in Carmel Highlands under evacuation order.

Evacuation advisories also were issued for Carmel Highlands south of Rancho South Carlos, White Rock, Old Coast Road south from Bixby Creek Road to Little Sur River.

An evacuation center remains open at Carmel Middle School, 4380 Carmel Valley Road.

Highway 1 was closed for a short period of time Monday afternoon when a utility pole caught fire and fell, but the road reopened shortly after.

The cause of the blaze, which started near Palo Colorado Canyon and Garrapata State Park, remains under investigation.

Monterey Herald staff writer James Herrera and Bay City News Service contributed to this story.

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