BIG SUR, Calif. – Nearly 500 residents finally returned home Wednesday afternoon after the fast-moving Colorado Fire sent them fleeing on Friday. Officials also reopened Pacific Coast Highway after closing the 18 miles between Andrew Molera State Park and the Garrapata Creek Bridge.
The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) determined that high winds blew embers from a "pile burning operation" into vegetation igniting the fire in the Palo Colorado Canyon. Winds gusted up to 50 mph along the Monterey County coast Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The fire scorched 700 acres and is still only 55% contained. Cal Fire reported that winds are light and the humidity higher which will help firefighters continue to mop-up hot spots and strengthen control lines.
The fire, south of Carmel, burned across the scenic Pacific Coast Highway and up to the north end of the historic Bixby Bridge.
"All the right conditions stacked up so that we had a fire of this magnitude in January in Big Sur," Cecile Juliette, Cal Fire Public Information Officer, told FOX Weather. "That's when it usually gets a lot of rain out here, but we just haven't seen that the last few years."
January wildfires are unusual as the start of the new year is usually the rainiest part of the year. A typical January in Big Sur sees an average rainfall of 8.52". So far in 2022, the area has only seen 0.08" of rain.
California is heading into its third year of drought.