California's Willow Fire spreads to 2,000 acres as record drought, heat continue to grip state

California's Willow Fire spreads to 2,000 acres as record drought, heat continue to grip state

June 19, 2021

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California’s Willow Fire exploded overnight, jumping from 750 acres on Friday afternoon to 2,000 acres early Saturday morning. 

The blaze, located in Los Padres National Forest near Monterey County’s Big Sur, began Thursday night shortly at 8:10 p.m. PT. 

More than 300 firefighters from multiple agencies responded to fight the fire, fueled by chaparral, tall grass and brush and rugged and steep terrain.

In a tweet, the Los Padres National Forest’s U.S. Forest Service account said the Willow Fire was 0% contained as hot and dry weather and an increase in winds pushed the fire in the Ventana Wilderness towards the Arroyo Seco Recreation Area close to the Tassajara Zen Center and Hot Springs.

In a description of the incident, the Los Padres National Forest’s U.S. Forest Service said that spotting and runs were expected to increase the growth of the fire and detailed state and local response,

“There are approximately 337 firefighters on the ground including 5 Type I Interagency Hotshot crews assigned to the fire. Air support including fixed-wing air tankers and water-dropping helicopters are assisting crews on the ground,” the agency wrote, noting that temperatures around the fire had hovered around 100 degrees Fahrenheit with low humidity levels and winds of 5 to 10 mph with gusts of up to 20 mph.

According to SFGate, the fire also emitted a large pyrocumulus cloud that rose up to 14,000 feet above ground level.

Video of the smoke plume was posted on the National Weather Service’s Bay Area Twitter account.

Residents in the surrounding area were reportedly evacuated to China Camp and evacuation warnings were issued for areas north of Arroyo Seco Campground to Anastasia Canyon, west of Carmel Valley Rd. and east of Tassajara Rd.

Road closures were also announced nearby. 

The cause of the fire remains unknown. 

California and much of the western U.S. are in the midst of both a sweltering heatwave and are threatened by a historic drought.

In this photo provided by Joseph Pacheco, a wildfire is seen burning in Globe, Ariz., on Monday, June 7, 2021. Firefighters in Arizona were fighting Tuesday to gain a foothold into a massive wildfire, one of two that has forced thousands of evacuations in rural towns and closed almost every major highway out of the area. (Joseph Pacheco via AP)

The Golden State’s Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom issued emergency orders to address both issues as images showed critical reservoirs were almost barren. 

Nearby, Arizona’s San Carlos Reservoir – located in between the state capital of Phoenix and Tucson – was reportedly also in trouble as firefighters in the Grand Canyon State also worked to fend off fires amidst record-breaking heat.

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According to AZ Family, firefighters told state officials at the Capitol on Wednesday that there was not enough water in lakes to aid in firefighters’ efforts.

The outlet said that while the San Carlos Lake can hold a capacity of 19,500 acre-feet, right now it’s just 50 acre-feet.

While firefighters look to monsoons for relief, the heat is not forecast to shift any time soon.

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