Now topping 81,000 acres, the massive, four-week-old Soberanes Fire in Big Sur and to the east continues to burn and spread as Cal Fire estimates they have it 60 percent contained. Over half of the burned area now lies in Los Padres National Forest, and as Monterey County Weekly reports, that means the U.S. Forest Service will be taking full command from here on out. And contrary to an earlier estimate that the fire would be contained by the end of this month, authorities are now putting full containment at September 30, a full five weeks from now.
Unlike the much smaller but more destructive Clayton Fire in Lake County, the Soberanes Fire has primarily been burning through rugged and uninhabited state and federal parklands, and has destroyed 57 homes compared to the 175 already burned in Lake County.
Also, because this is Monterey County we're talking about, firefighters keep stumbling onto illegal marijuana grows and sometimes facing off with armed men trying to keep them hidden, as KSBW reports. Of course this is idiotic, because only the firefighters are bringing any hope of said marijuana grows not being burned up in a puff of smoke, and three weeks ago a group of illegal marijuana growers posing as hikers had to be rescued from the forest after they became surrounded by flames.
Firefighters have been trying to maintain fire lines to keep the fire out of populated areas of Big Sur, however the fire has now burned well into the popular Pfeiffer Big Sur State Park. And as KSBW notes, the fire is burning through areas that were previously burned by the 2008 Basin Complex Fire, and the 1977 Marble-Cone Fire.
Meanwhile, as CBS 5 reports, smoke from the massive fire has finally come north, and is causing haze and an air quality alert around the Bay.
The San Francisco Fire Department is cautioning those sensitive to wildfire smoke to remain indoors.
Smoke from wildland fires are lingering in the air https://t.co/8WDXXNlq7n— San Francisco Fire (@sffdpio) August 19, 2016
Please be advised: https://t.co/lGTcoi9FKl— San Francisco Fire (@sffdpio) August 19, 2016
The fire has spread significantly to the south and east since it began on July 22 with a single, illegal campfire in Garrapata State Park.
With federal authorities taking command over the firefight, more federal resources can now be called up, including 350 Army National Guard members that include trained firefighters.
According to Monterey County Weekly, U.S. Army Lt. Col. Gilbert Roldan, speaking outside of the National Guard’s operation headquarters at Cal Fire's Salinas base camp, said, "The units work on cutting fire lines and cleanup efforts. Outside of supporting wartime efforts, we have a mission to respond to any type of emergency disaster."
The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, buried deep in a valley that is in the path of the fire and that burned in the Basin Complex Fire eight years ago, remains under threat and according to Facebook they have now decided to cancel all of the rest of their guest season. The expect the fire may reach the center by next week.
There are currently 2,690 firefighting personnel on site, and 410 structures remain threatened.