BIG SUR, Calif. (KRON) — The Willow Fire burning in the mountains of Big Sur is still zero-percent contained and mandatory evacuation orders remain in effect, officials with the U.S. Forest Service and Monterey County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
The Willow Fire has scorched nearly 2,400 acres since it ignited Thursday. Hotshot crews and air attack teams are leading the firefight in Los Padres National Forest, where steep terrain is extremely difficult for ground firefighters to access.
But firefighters have one crucial element in their favor. The Willow Fire is burning near where other major wildfires burned last summer, including the Dolan Fire. The 2020 wildfires’ burn scars have pre-drawn bulldozer containment lines and less vegetation for fuel.
The Tassajara Zen Mountain Center remains under mandatory evacuation orders, and 200 more residents who live along Tassajara Road remain under an evacuation warning.
About 30 residents — mostly Buddhists monks — live at the zen center. Half of its residents evacuated, while the other half stayed behind to protect the Buddhist monastery.
“People stay behind to defend their castle,” Monterey County Sheriff’s spokesman John Thornburg said.
The Forest Service said its goal for containment is July 11.
The Forest Service wrote Monday, “Hot temperatures combined with windy conditions and low humidity made for opportune conditions for the fire to spread yesterday afternoon. The fire burned through the night with moderate intensity moving about a mile to the east. Moderate to active fire behavior is expected toward Arroyo Seco, as well as northerly and southerly spread due to slope runs. Firefighters on the ground are making a strong effort to stop further spread to the north and west flank of the fire line with the assistance of air support. Crews are continuing to prepare for structure defense in the Tassajara Zen Center and the Arroyo Seco campground area.”