Big Sur wildfire is fully contained

By HAVEN DALEY, Associated Press
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In this Dec. 16, 2013 photo, a fire burns the hillside in the Big Sur, Calif., region. (AP Photo/The Californian, Travis Geske)

In this Dec. 16, 2013 photo, a fire burns the hillside in the Big Sur, Calif., region. (AP Photo/The Californian, Travis Geske)

BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) – A late-fall wildfire in central California’s Big Sur region is now fully contained, officials said.

Mark Nunez, the incident commander in charge of battling the blaze, announced Friday night that firefighters had achieved 100 percent containment of the blaze after working nonstop for nearly four days.

Nunez says the fire had burned through a total of 917 acres, or just under 1 square miles, destroying 34 buildings, including 14 homes, including that of Big Sur Fire Chief Martha Karstens.

Rain and higher humidity helped firefighters battle the blaze in the Los Padres National Forest, said U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kathleen Phelps.

Evacuations were still in effect Friday for the 100 or so people forced to flee their homes.

The Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade said Friday on its Web site that utility crews were working hard to restore power and other services to the affected area. Even after residents are allowed to return, a water boil order will be in effect, it said.

Lygia Chappellet, a Big Sur resident, said she was comforted by what she saw on Thursday.

“Seeing the green trees all around us this morning in the light as opposed to the burned landscape across the canyon here, it’s a huge relief,” she said.

The blaze began Sunday and was fueled by dry vegetation and winds. The cause is under investigation.

Two firefighters suffered minor injuries. One hit his knee on a rock in the rough terrain and another suffered from heat exhaustion, officials said.

Big Sur – miles of rugged coast, cliffs and wilderness – is a popular tourist destination about 150 miles south of San Francisco with high-end resorts and beautiful views of the ocean. The fire was burning a little more than a mile from Ventana Inn and Spa, a favorite spot among celebrities where former Facebook president and Napster co-founder Sean Parker got married in June.

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

A wildfire so late in the season there is unusual, but conditions have been particularly dry this year. The area received less than 20 percent of its average rainfall in 2013, officials said.

Associated Press writers Terry Collins, Channing Joseph and Sudhin Thanawala in San Francisco contributed to this report.

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