Over the weekend, strong offshore winds (70-80 mph) ignited multiple wildfires across California.
On Friday night, a fire sparked in Big Sur’s Colorado Valley, dubbing it the “Colorado Fire”. The National Weather Service’s Bay Area branch described the fire activity as “stubborn” and “surreal”, suggesting that “the long term drought is acting like a chronic illness where even recent rains and cold winter [weather] isn’t helping to keep fires from developing.”
The fire burned 700 acres, prompted evacuations for residents in the nearby town of Carmel-by-the-Sea, and caused a portion of the oceanside Highway One to close, as the fire threatened Big Sur’s iconic Bixby Bridge. As of this writing, wind gusts have decreased and firefighters have managed to contain approximately 35 percent of the fire, and only one structure – a yurt – was destroyed in the blaze. This part of Big Sur has not experienced fire in nearly a decade.
A second, less severe fire also broke out in Alexander Valley near Geyser’s Peak. The “Geyser Fire” was much smaller and burned 1.5 acres after 90 mph winds bore through the Mayacamas Mountains, near the footprint of devastating wildfires of years past, including the Tubbs (2017) and Kincade (2019) fires. Fortunately, there were no downed power lines or trees, and structures were not threatened. Firefighters had doused the fire by the next morning, though its cause is still under investigation.
A similar high-wind event occurred nearly a year ago on January 18, 2021 and resulted in a “red flag warning” in the San Francisco Bay Area, which indicates that weather conditions could be ripe for fire activity.