The deadly Soberanes Fire, which began July 22 and continues to burn just north of Big Sur and just south of the oceanside town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, has grown to encompass more than 72,000 acres.
It is now larger than the area of San Francisco, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire).
And it’s expected to get bigger before it’s all over. A lot bigger.
According to California Interagency Incident Management Team 1, which is comprised of federal, state and local authorities, the Soberanes Fire is estimated to have a final size of 170,000 acres (265 square miles).
That’s roughly equivalent to the size of Singapore.
Pushed by strong southerly winds, the blaze recently shifted away from coastal homes and began moving southeast into the heart of the Los Padres National Forest, CalFire spokeswoman Maria Lara said. That’s good news for coastal homeowners, but bad news for the national forest, as it means more acreage burned in the drought-parched chaparral, grass and timber of Los Padres.
In addition, Lara said, “It’s steep terrain to put our crews in, and sometimes we don’t have access to those areas.”
The Soberanes Fire has prompted the closure of six state parks along the Central Coast, as well as all trails and roads in the Monterey District of Los Padres National Forest.
More than 500 fire trucks, along with 14 helicopters and six air tankers, have been deployed to fight the blaze. The estimated cost of fighting the fire is now about $6 million a day.
As part of this effort, crews are using fire to fight fire with back burns, which utilize a low-intensity flame set beyond the fire’s edge. This flame is then allowed to burn up to the fire, thereby stopping the larger blaze in its tracks.
And in a wildfire season which seems destined to offer no relief, a new wildfire — this one in Fresno County — has quickly spread, damaging homes as it more than doubled in size to 1,800 acres. Dubbed the Goose Fire, the blaze began in the foothills near Prather, causing mandatory evacuations for hundreds of residents.
The fast-moving inferno is being fueled by hundreds of dead trees amid triple-digit temperatures and single-digit humidity. (See related article, “California Drought Breeding More Wildfires.“)
Residents of the rural area surrounded by rolling hills told reporters they scrambled to evacuate with their animals as the wind-driven blaze swept through dry slopes.
“It just keeps getting bigger and bigger,” one local resident told reporters.