Since starting over a week ago, the rare January wildfire near Big Sur is currently at least 85% contained — up from 75% yesterday — as of Saturday morning; many recruited fire engines and crews have now also returned to their respective home stations.
As the climate crisis worsens — the result of increased greenhouse gas emissions, excessive drought conditions, and a host of other human-induced climate change activities — winter wildfires could well become a new normal. Prior to the Colorado FIre, which began glowing just outside of Big Sur on January 21, the stretch of coastline had seen "little to no" fire activity in its recorded history, according to the National Weather Service.
To light a #PrescribedFire, land managers use various ignition devices - fusees, drip torches, propane torches, terra torches and heli-torches - to ignite the vegetation for a #PrescribedBurn. Resources such as equipment, personnel and a water supply are essential, too. pic.twitter.com/W9Blt3tKGg— CAL FIRE (@CAL_FIRE) January 29, 2022
But the state's years-long drought and fire-prone ground conditions have exacerbated wildfire risks across California, including in areas that are historically fire-free (for the most part). And last weekend's high winds — in some cases clocking in at 40 mph — quite literally fanned those flames.
However, CAL FIRE fighters have made significant progress in containing the 700-acre blaze. As of Saturday morning, at least 85% of the Colorado Fire has been contained, per the firefighting agency's most recent report on the wildfire, though "unseasonably warm and dry weather conditions" will continue throughout the weekend. Light offshore winds are also expected, which could potentially slow progress for on-site firefighters.
Updated Drought Monitor released today. Unfortunately the trends for the rest of the month and into February continue to look dry for much of CA. #DroughtMonitor pic.twitter.com/gSHtkZxeT0— NWS Bay Area (@NWSBayArea) January 27, 2022
Additionally, all evacuation orders and road closures have since been lifted; a damage inspection has been completed, which revealed one structure was charred due to the Colorado Fire. Because of the improving containment figures, fire crews from nearby counties, like San Mateo, have returned back to their home stations.
As of publishing, Santa Cruz, as well as the entire Bay Area, is currently categorized as experiencing "D2 (Severe Drought)" conditions, per the U.S. Drought Monitor map — a descriptor that's unlikely to improve as February looks to be a drier month than expected.
Related: Nevermind About That Rain Next Week
Colorado Fire Grows to 700 Acres, Containment at 35% and One Structure Damaged
Photo: Getty Images/nathanphoto