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Central California coast fire now 2,000 acres with no containment Saturday

by CBS San Francisco staff reports |

BIG SUR, Calif. (CBS/Bay City News/AP) — A wildfire burning in the Los Padres National Forest near Big Sur in Monterey County, Calif., grew to more than 2,000 acres early Saturday with no containment and prompting evacuations.

The National Wildfire Coordinating group said in an update about 10 a.m. Saturday on its website that the fire would continue to spread.

“Winds from the west are pushing the fire towards the Tassajara Zen Center and Hot Springs, Miller Canyon, Chews Ridge Lookout and Mira Observatory,” according to the update.

The Ventana Wilderness includes a “thermal belt” that “causes fire activity to increase in the evening hours contributing to rapid fire growth,” according to the update.

Authorities warned that evacuation orders could be coming for other parts of the area, which is south of Carmel Valley between Big Sur and Highway 101.

According to U.S. Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen, the blaze began around 8 p.m. Thursday in the Los Padres National Forest in the Ventana Wilderness northwest of the Arroyo Seco recreation area.

The fire was burning east toward the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a Buddhist monastery located in a remote valley. However, no buildings had burned.

Flames were climbing uphill among chaparral, grass and scrub and had covered about 2,000 acres by Saturday morning. No containment percentage has been released.

About 337 firefighters, including five hotshot crews, were assigned to the fire on the ground. They were being assisted by fixed-wing air tankers and water-dropping helicopters, according to the coordinating group.

They were aided by water-dropping aircraft.

Most people evacuated the zen center but members of the zen center’s fire crew stayed in order to run a sprinkler system dubbed “Dharma rain,” said Sozan Miglioli, president of San Francisco Zen Center, which operates the monastery.

“Our water supplies are good and we are well-prepared for this situation,” Miglioli said in a statement.

The Willow Fire is burning near burn scars of two other recent major wildfires, last year’s Dolan Fire and the Soberanes Fire of 2016.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, though Olson said thunder was observed in the area Thursday.