Soberanes Fire: Massive wildfire burns over 17 500 hectares (43 400 acres) in California, thousands threatened


The Soberanes Fire, a massive blaze the size of San Francisco, between Monterey and Big Sur, California has been burning for 11 days to date. It burned about 17 563 hectares (43 400 acres) and was 18% contained, as of August 2, 2016, according to CalFire. Thousands of residents are still threatened as the fire continues to burn, fueled by favorable weather conditions. During the weekend, another fire, named the Goose fire, broke out in the Fresno County, causing hundreds of people and animals to evacuate the threatened areas.

The Soberanes fire sparked in the region along Soberanes Creek in Garrapata State Park on July 22 and had since spread into Los Padres National Forest. So far, 57 homes and 11 buildings have been destroyed while six state parks were forced to close down. As the blaze continues to threaten local communities, hundreds have been evacuated, and one person died.

A natural-color image of the Soberanes fire as smoke blew north and east over the California Coast Ranges and into the Central Valley, July 30, 2016, captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite. Image credit: NASA/Aqua MODIS/Jeff Schmaltz, LANCE/EOSDIS Rapid Response. Caption by Mike Carlowicz.

Over 5 200 firefighters have been involved in the incident. The ground personnel used hoses and axes while aerial forces used helicopters and planes. The backfires have been set up on ground locations on the south end of the fire, where the weather conditions were found most unfavorable, to stop the flames from progressing further. Firefighting base camps have been set up in Pfeiffer State Park, Rancho Canada, and in Toro Park.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on the Landsat 8 satellite acquired high-resolution images of the Soberanes fire. In the natural-color image, thick smoke mostly obscures the land surface. The second image combines shortwave infrared, near-infrared, and green light (OLI bands 7-5-3) to penetrate the smoke and provide a clearer view of the burn scar. In this false-color view, active fires are bright red and orange, scarred land is dark red, and intact vegetation and human development are shades of green. Image credit: Jesse Allen/USGS/NASA/OLI/Landsat 8

Firefighters have been facing difficulties due to steep, rugged terrain and limited road access. Prevailing high temperatures, low humidity and "an above average cured grass crop", according to CalFire, conditions, have played a major role in the incident. An unusual local weather pattern of, up to 5%, lower night humidity rates, caused the fire to grow after dark, according to meteorologists.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered in portions of the Carmel Valley, along the Cachagua and Nason Road, at the intersection of Cachagua and Tassajara Road, and at the Hot Springs Zen Center over the weekend.

Video credit: SLOStringer

Video credit: John Meyer

As of August 2, evacuation orders were still in place for Palo Colorado, Old Coast Road, Bixby Creek Road from Highway 1 south to Mesa, Garrapatos Road, Weston Ridge Road , Robinson Canyon Road from San Clemente Trail to White Rock Gun Club, South of San Clemente Trail from Robinson Canyon to Rancho San Clemente Gate House, to include Arroyo Sequoia Road, Cachagua Road from Nason Road to Tassajara Road, Tassajara Road from Carmel Valley Road to the Tassajara Hot Springs Zen Center, Nason Road.

Evacuation warnings are in effect for all the residents of White Rock, Old Coast Road – south from Bixby Creek Road to Little Sur River, North of San Clemente Trail/Dormody Road, including Black Mountain Trail , Touche Pass, the community of San Clemente and all of Long Ridge Trail – Black Mountain is the boundary, Carmel Valley Road from San Clemente Drive to Country Road, Carmel Valley Road from Cachagua Road to Nason Road.

Evacuation orders have been lifted for For Santa Lucia Preserve, Riley Ranch Rd and Red Wolf Drive, Corona Rd and all of Carmel Highland.

Video credit: Cheryl Coyote

Goose wildfire in Fresno County broke out during the weekend of July 30 and caused 303 people and between 400 and 600 animals to evacuate the region, according to the Fresno County Sheriff's Office. As of August 2, the fire burned down 817 hectares (2 020 acres) and was 30% contained, CalFire reported.

Evacuations were ordered for Hwy 168 @ Lockwood to Gooseberry including homes accessed by Gooseberry and Lockwood, Black Mt. area including Whispering Springs Ln to Lodge Rd, everything South of the 4 lanes at Hwy 168 to lodge and everything west of Old Tollhouse Rd, Gooseberry and Sky Ridge Ln east to Lodge Rd including Black Mountain.

An evacuation warning was issued for Hwy 168 from Lockwood to the bottom of the four lanes at Hwy 168 & Lodge Rd, Hwy 168 from Gooseberry Ln to Nicholas, Nicholas, and Tollhouse to Tollhouse and Lodge, and all Roads North of Tollhouse and East of Hwy 168.

Video credit: KBCW/CBS SF Bay Area

According to media reports, the wildfire is currently moving faster toward the communities of Rancho San Carlos and White Rock. Dry and hot weather is expected to dominate the region over the next couple days, and may contribute to the fire strengthening. Temperatures between 15.6 and 21.1 °C (60 and 70 °F), humidity rate of 75%, and winds up to 19.3 km/h (112 mph) have been forecast. CalFire stated the fire might not cease to burn until the end of the month, at worst.

Featured image credit: KBCW/CBS SF Bay Area

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