A wildfire burning on Monday in the Big Sur area of California destroyed at least 15 homes and forced about 100 people to evacuate as it chewed through dry vegetation on its way towards the ocean. No injuries were reported.
One of the homes destroyed was that of Big Sur fire chief Martha Karstens.
“She left thinking that she was going to go protect other people’s homes,” said Los Padres National Forest spokesman Andrew Madsen. “And it turns out that her own home has been consumed.”
Madsen said the flames burned about 200 hectares in the Pfeiffer Ridge area of Los Padres National Forest near state Highway 1, with “zero per cent containment”.
Residences were scattered in the path of the fire – which is unusual in this time of year – which was being battled by 625 firefighters. Officials also brought in air tankers and helicopters.
Officials were hopeful they could contain the blaze this week.
“This is a completely wind-driven fire,” Madsen said. “We’re cautiously optimistic that we’re going to pin this thing down within the next couple of days.”
The Red Cross set up an overnight shelter for people who have been displaced by the fire, Madsen said.
Big Sur is a popular tourist destination along the central California coast, with high-end resorts and views of the Pacific Ocean.
Evacuations of the area remained in effect as of late Monday.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
A wildfire so late in the year is unusual but not surprising given that California is in the midst of the driest calendar year on record.
A lightning-sparked wildfire in 2008 forced the evacuation of Big Sur and blackened a 650-square-kilometre swathe before it was contained. That blaze burned more than a dozen homes.