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Big Sur fire: 769 acres, 22 structures lost but rain possible

BIG SUR, Calif. — A late-season wildfire in Big Sur that has burned 769 acres and 22 structures is expected to be fully contained later this week as crews are assisted by cooler temperatures and the chance of rain showers.

The Pfeiffer fire, which seemed to roar out of nowhere shortly after midnight Monday, was 20% contained by Tuesday afternoon — up from 5% earlier in the morning — and full containment was expected by Friday, according to U.S. Forest Service incident commander Mark Nunez.

Although two dozen structures in the heart of the fire zone had been saved, 22 were destroyed, at least 14 of them homes.

Calm winds and a 20% chance of showers Thursday morning were expected to aid the more than 800 firefighters battling the blaze on the ground. Crews were able to make "good progress" Tuesday, with 38 dozers helping to cut containment lines around the fire, according to a U.S. Forest Service update.

Monterey County Supervisor Dave Potter, meanwhile, told residents late Tuesday that the board had passed a disaster proclamation and forwarded it to the governor.

Nearly all of the homes that burned were on Pfeiffer Ridge, including one belonging to Martha Karstens, chief of the Big Sur Volunteer Fire Brigade. She stood before a sympathetic community Tuesday afternoon and struggled to compose herself.

"Martha, all our hearts go out to you for your loss," Rep. Sam Farr (D-Monterey) told her.

Losses like hers were felt deeply here.

"Her house was the first to go and she built it. It's her dream," said Tracey Roginson, 58, a 30-year resident who works at the Ripplewood Resort store. "Everybody there built their own homes, and they didn't live there because they are rich, they lived there because they bought the land a long time ago.... This fire is the most heartbreaking because I know all these people personally."

Pfeiffer Ridge had not burned in 100 years, and despite brush clearance efforts that Nunez commended as exceptional, the foliage was as dry as tinder.

Potter promised residents an expedited permit system for rebuilding.

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lee.romney@latimes.com

Twitter: @leeromney

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