Wildfire in Big Sur area destroys 15 homes, forces 100 people to flee

By Los Angeles Times

LOS ANGELES -- A 500-acre wildfire raging out of control in the Big Sur area destroyed at least 15 homes and forced about 100 people to flee flames in the Los Padres National Forest near state Highway 1, officials said Monday night. One of the homes destroyed belonged to Big Sur Fire Chief Martha Karstens.

But fire crews were optimistic as night fell, officials said.

"The weather is kind of cooperating," Los Padres spokesman Andrew Madsen said in a telephone interview from the scene.

He said ground crews planned to work throughout the night to cut containment lines around the blaze, which broke out Sunday during unseasonably warm weather near Pfeiffer Ridge Road and Highway 1 in Monterey County.

"It looks like a good night to cut some line and fight some fire," Madsen said.

Earlier Monday, fire crews on the ground were aided by water-dropping helicopters as thick clouds of smoke drifted into the sky. Winds were gusting up 20 mph and the temperature was 81, officials said.

The National Weather Service said Tuesday was expected to be warm and dry in the Monterey County area before a storm system brings cooler temperatures Wednesday.