Dozens of homes evacuated in fire in Big Sur area

BIG SUR, Calif.

The evening's milder temperatures did little to slow down the fire. Evacuations have affected 100 people in the Big Sur area, while those who are a bit farther away from the fire have been told to be prepared to leave at any moment.

"We've been told to pack some bags and prepare in case we do get evacuated," said Dasha Taraban, a Big Sur resident.

Investigators don't know how the fire started. There are 300 firefighters who have been called in and so far, 15 structures have been destroyed, including the home of Big Sur Fire Chief Martha Karstens. She took a still photo not long after the flames raced through her property.

Firefighters aren't used to fighting a fire of this type in the middle of December, but considering the lack of rain over the past year, it's not that surprising.

"It's probably the driest year, like many other parts of the state, that we have in the history of Monterey County. Big Sur is historically one of the wettest places in California and we've had virtually no rain here all year, all season," said Monterey County Sheriff Scott Miller.

So far the fire has been burning west of Highway 1. Firefighters say the main objective is to keep the flames from jumping the highway. And so far, so good, but the wildcard factor is of course is the wind. Big Sur residents are hoping firefighters get the upper hand soon.

"I feel really sad to see all of the wilderness being burned down and everything," said Guadalupe Serrano, a Big Sur resident.

Much of the fire is burning in steep, inaccessible terrain, which is why firefighters are looking forward to daybreak. That's when they can resume fighting the flames from the air.

A lightning-sparked wildfire in 2008 forced the evacuation of Big Sur and blackened 250 square miles before it was contained. The blaze burned more than a dozen homes.

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