U.S. – Wildfire alongside California’s Big Sur shuts down part of highway
Strong winds pushed a wildfire that broke out in the rugged mountains above Big Sur to the sea, forcing hundreds of residents on this precarious stretch of the California coast to evacuate and authorities to shut its main roadway.
Fanned by wind gusts of up to 50 mph (80 kph), it quickly burned at least 2.3 square miles (6 square kilometers) of brush and redwood trees, said Cecile Juliette, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
The weather agency points to California’s drought conditions as a possible reason for the unusual January fire. According to the National Integrated Drought Information System, more than half of the state is experiencing severe drought, which makes for longer fire seasons with “high burn intensity, dry fuels and large fire spatial extent.” In the area of the wildfire, rain is not forecast for the next seven days or so, according to the NWS.
The most recent drought monitor report, released Thursday, shows moderate to severe drought across nearly all of California, with a few areas in the northern part of the state still experiencing extreme drought. As recently as October, nearly all of the state was in exceptional or extreme drought, the two highest categories.