After starting Friday night, the Colorado Fire in Monterey County swelled Saturday from around 150 acres to 700 acres in size, damaging at least one structure; all previously placed evacuation orders are still in effect.
Winter wildfires are uncommon in Northern California. The region, too, has received record-breaking rains over the past three months — making the Colorado Fire, now the only blaze under the CAL FIRE's incident report, all that more unusual. But the fact of the matter remains: All of Northern California is still experiencing severe drought conditions, which made Friday's high-wind conditions even more precarious and capable of fueling the fire's sudden growth.
GOES 17 satellite imagery picking up the Colorado Fire located near Big Sur, CA. Fire started in Palo Colorado canyon. The blue outline is the 2016 Soberanes Fire. Dry northeast winds pushing the fire in a southwest direction towards Highway 1. #ColoradoFire pic.twitter.com/HPEHfe6X1D— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) January 22, 2022
It's a series of events that, per CAL FIRE spokesperson Cecile Juliette, should make us all "take notice."
While the strong winds have diminished over the region this evening, dry offshore flow is allowing for a mild temperatures at this hour. It is still 67° in Downtown San Francisco as of 5 PM PST. #CAwx #BayAreaWX pic.twitter.com/ZasafnWJdr— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) January 23, 2022
“What everyone should really take notice of is the fact that we have a fire of this size in this area, so close to the Pacific Ocean, in late January," Juliette said to the Chronicle. It’s cause for concern,” Juliette said, adding that the strong winds and low humidity were able to dry out the area quickly despite recent rain. “Everybody needs to be fire aware all year long.”
Pictures of the wildfire glowing behind the Bixby Bridge, just north of Big Sur, are ominously uncomfortable. And could well be a sign of future off-season wildfires amid the climate crisis. This stretch of coastline has "little or no fire history," according to the National Weather Service. The weather agency also mentioned that it's "pretty surreal" it occurred in the first place.
A view from Hollister Air Attack Base this weekend. Despite our heavy December rains, wildfire remains a year-round problem for California. Defensible Space is sensible space - today is a perfect day to get started on wildfire preparedness. #readysetgo pic.twitter.com/3XlJXOHPpV— CAL FIRE SCU (@calfireSCU) January 23, 2022
Per the newspaper, Monterey County sheriff’s officials have ordered evacuations for areas west of 3800 Palo Colorado Road to Highway 1 and south to Bixby Creek. Local law enforcement contacted about 500 people to evacuate; these evacuation orders remain in effect.
Winds on Sunday should continue calming down to about 10mph, which are expected to create better conditions for firefighters; updates on the Colorado Fire can be found at fire.ca.gov/incidents/colorado-fire.
Related: Wind-Fueled Wildfire Near Big Sur Visible in Santa Cruz
Photo: Courtesy of Twitter via @ImSh4yy
This post has been corrected to show that the fire grew to 700 acres, not 1,050, and it is now 35% contained.