The fire erupted around 9 p.m. Thursday in an area west of Arroyo Seco Road in Monterey County, and as of 11 a.m. Friday had grown to 200 acres, as KSBW reports.
This mostly uninhabited and rugged landscape has done a fair bit of burning in the last decade or so, and currently, evacuation orders have been given for Tassajara Road from the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center to the China Camp Campground. Other nearby areas are under an evacuation warning.
Latest view of the #WillowFire smoke plume, courtesy of the Millers Ranch camera 📸 near Arroyo Seco. Note the rapid expansion of the smoke plume in response to a wind shift that will continue to steer it towards the north thru the rest of today. #Cafire pic.twitter.com/iarZZEQcKt— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) June 18, 2021
Satellite picking up on the emerging Willow wildfire in the Los Padres National Forest. Dark blue circle is showing heat signature. Light blue outline is 2016 Soberanes burn scar with red line the 2020 Dolan Fire. #WillowFire pic.twitter.com/C7DET4QDwz— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) June 18, 2021
Tassajara, as its known, is connected to the San Francisco Zen Center, and is located beside some hot springs in a remote canyon due east of Big Sur with only a single road leading in and out. The meditation center and resort — which has full-time student residents and staff but has not lately been accepting guests for the usual week and weekend stays — was previously evacuated during the Soberanes Fire five years ago, and it had near misses last summer with the Carmel, River, and Dolan fires, but it remained unscathed. There was also a fire east of Jamesburg named the Tassajara Fire in 2015, but it did not threaten the meditation retreat and hot springs resort.
The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center was directly threatened and surrounded by the Indians Fire in 2008, which was the basis for the book Fire Monks — the story of the monks who stayed behind to defend the place. That experience led to the complex installing a roof-sprinkler system that they call "Dharma Rain," and they now have an experienced fire crew on site.
As the center says in a blog post Friday, "The ZMC Fire Crew will remain in order to run “Dharma Rain” (Tassajara’s sprinkler system) and to prepare the monastery in case the fire reaches the valley. Tassajara has been working on special fire prep projects during the pandemic shutdown and the fire crew has been in place and training for several months. Our water supplies are good and we are well prepared for this situation."
Also, there are reportedly four fire engines already stationed at Tassajara today, two from Cal Fire and two from the Forest Service, which are helping the onsite fire team to prepare.
The Monterey County Sheriff's Office has said that "Fire equipment and [personnel] will be responding to the scene on narrow roadways."
Top image via PG&E