July 6, 2008

Wildfire Deals a Huge Blow to Big Sur’s Holiday Weekend


BIG SUR, Calif. An explosive wildfire ravaged the hillsides above this scenic coastal community Thursday, leaving the popular tourist region mostly deserted ahead of the holiday weekend.

The raging blaze near Big Sur was one of more than 1,700 wildfires, mostly ignited by lightning, that have scorched nearly 800 square miles and destroyed more than 60 structures across northern and central California since June 20, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

The air near Big Sur was thick with smoke and ash, and flames licked the forested hills above the coastal highway. The blaze was only about 3 percent contained and wasn't expected to be fully surrounded until the end of the month. The National Weather Service on Thursday warned of high fire danger in the Big Sur area because of dry and windy conditions. A statewide drought has created tinder- like trees and brush, feeding the flames in California's forests.

Authorities have ordered evacuations for homes and businesses along a 25-mile stretch of the Pacific Coast Highway, but many property owners chose to remain in the fire zone at their own risk.

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