After 83 days and the scorching of 132,127 acres of mostly remote, forested mountains, the Soberanes Fire is finally 100 percent contained. And after two and a half weeks and nearly 4,500 acres burned, along with a dozen homes, the Loma Fire in the Santa Cruz mountains also reached 100 percent containment today, much to the relief of residents there. Both fires punctuated what has been a busy and destructive fire season in Northern California, with Loma Fire burning much faster and evading containment longer than firefighters initially expected, after breaking out on September 26 near the summit of Loma Prieta Mountain where officials are investigating a possible illegal pot grow as the source. The Soberanes Fire, meanwhile, after burning nearly three months across some vast and not easily accessed terrain, will go down as the costliest firefight in US history, possibly exceeding $235 million. (By comparison, the Rim Fire in 2013 in the Sierra Nevadas cost $127 million to fight.)
The Soberanes Fire, sparked by an illegal campfire in Garrapata State Park on July 22, burned many miles of woodland and chaparral to its south, with the containment line reaching a total circular distance of 246 miles, as the Chronicle reports. A total of 57 homes were destroyed, but the final southerly fire lines ended up sparing the communities of Jamesburg and Tassajara Hot Springs, with the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center announcing two weeks ago that they were welcoming back students for the winter practice session.
The Monterey County section of Los Padres National Forest remains closed, as do several popular state parks along Highway 1 in Big Sur. As KSBW reports, "The only recreation sites that remain open are Plaskett Creek and Kirk Creek Campgrounds, Pfeiffer Beach, Sand Dollar Beach and Willow Creek Day Use areas."
As for the Loma Fire, which threatened as many as 300 homes, the wildfire broke out in an area of the Santa Cruz mountains that has historically been prone to fire, including another fire dubbed Loma that burned 485 acres about a mile from this one in 2009. As the the Chron notes, many residents still remember the much more devastating Lexington Fire of 1985, which burned over 14,000 acres and destroyed 23 homes.
Let's cross our fingers that this is the end of this fire season in terms of significant blazes, now that big rain is headed our way tonight. A couple of small fires are still burning, however, including the Sacata Fire in Fresno County, and the Owens River Fire in Inyo County.