Rare January fire in Big Sur sparked by embers from pile burning operation, Cal Fire says

Flames burn in brush behind a house.
Flames from the Colorado fire burn behind a house off Highway 1 near Big Sur on Saturday. The blaze was ignited by high winds that blew embers from a pile burning operation onto brush, according to California fire investigators.
(Nic Coury / Associated Press)

State fire investigators have determined what sparked a rare January brush fire in Big Sur, authorities announced Tuesday.

High winds blew embers from a pile burning operation onto nearby brush, igniting the fire, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Such burning operations are used to clear piles of trees and other vegetation that were cut down in an effort to thin combustible fuels.

The blaze, dubbed the Colorado fire, broke out around 5 p.m. Friday in Palo Colorado Canyon, Cal Fire said.


Santa Ana winds are expected to move into the mountain and valley areas of L.A., Ventura and Orange counties and the Inland Empire later Tuesday.

Jan. 25, 2022

Fanned by offshore winds, the fire grew to more than 100 acres within hours. Officials estimated Monday morning that the blaze had reached 1,500 acres, but more accurate mapping later that day downgraded the fire to 700 acres.

After Friday’s initial gusty winds subsided, firefighters got a better handle on the blaze, which at one point threatened the iconic open-spandrel Bixby Canyon Bridge.

As of Tuesday night, the fire was 50% contained and was holding at 700 acres, Cal Fire officials said.