Soberanes Fire Scorches 40,000 Acres and is 18 Percent Contained

Fire officials say a deadly wildfire burning near California's dramatic Big Sur coast has destroyed 57 homes and is threatening 2,000 more — and it's causing huge plumes of smoke to settle in the South Bay. 

The blaze, which has been burning for 10 days now, has torched 40,000 acres and is 18 percent contained, according to Cal Fire officials on Sunday evening.

Off Highway 101 in the South Bay, the thick smoke is causing air quality concerns.

"Obviously, it's closer so they're more impacted," said Kristine Roselius, a representative from the Bay Area Quality Management District, on the South Bay's smokey surroundings. "It's also moving the smoke east and also north, and that's why we're seeing the impacts there right now." 

Some South Bay residents say the smoke is so bad it makes them feel sick. 

"It's really bad. I use the attic fan at night time to let the cool air in, and it's bringing the smoke in," explained Debi Snyder. "It actually made me sick to my stomach." 

Another Morgan Hill resident, Frank Ellis, said that the smoke was most noticeable in the morning.

"You get up first thing, and you really smell it and see the visible smoke," he said. 

A total of 57 residences and 11 outbuildings have been destroyed in the fire, according to Cal Fire. Three other homes and two outbuildings have been damaged.

The blaze also killed a bulldozer operator working the fire line last week.

Fire officials warned that crews will likely be battling the wildfire raging in steep, forested ridges for another month, which has scared away tourists from the popular Big Sur area.

Big Sur establishments were already reporting as much as a 50 percent drop in business, said Stan Russell, executive director of the chamber of commerce. That's even though the only signs of the blaze were fire trucks and an occasional whiff of smoke along the famously winding and scenic Highway 1.

Normally, this time of year "is when everybody really runs at 100 percent," Russell said Friday about tourism in the area. "This is when we make our money."

Highway 1 remained open, but signs along the narrow route warned travelers that all state parks in the area were closed because of the fire.

Residents have been evacuated along Cachagua Road from Nason Road to Tassajara Road and along Tassajara Road from East Carmel Valley Road to the Tassajar Hot Springs Zen Center. The evacuation order includes all roads that extend from the above roads, Cal Fire said.

Road closures include Palo Colorado Road at Highway 1, Robinson Canyon Road south of Penon Peak Trail and Weston Ridge Road at Highway 1.

For more information on the Soberanes fire and other California wildfires, visit the Cal Fire website.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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