Big Sur wildfire nears full containment; evacuees anxious to return

A wildfire in Big Sur that has burned more than 900 acres and destroyed two dozen homes is nearly contained, with crews aided by a short burst of wintry weather on Thursday.

The Pfeiffer fire was 88% contained by Thursday night after having burned 937 acres, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Full containment of the blaze, which started overnight Monday near Pfeiffer Ridge in the Monterey Ranger District of Los Padres National Forest, was expected Friday.

With more than 1,000 firefighters getting a better grip on the blaze, many were being sent back home, local media reported. One of them, Carmel Valley Fire Capt. Eric Ulwelling, told KSBW-TV that he was glad to be heading home in time for the holidays after being among the first on the front lines.

"It feels great," he said. "I spoke with my wife yesterday, she had one question -- 'Are you going to be home for Christmas?' -- and I told her yesterday I'm confident I will be and it feels good to be headed home."


Fourteen households, mostly in Pfeiffer Ridge, will have to find other accommodations after losing their homes to the blaze. Eight other structures were also destroyed, according the Forest Service.

Firefighters were aided Thursday by cooler temperatures and high humidity levels, with clouds producing some light rain showers. Friday was expected to be mostly sunny, with highs in the mid-50s with winds of 10 to 13 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Forest Service officials have said they expect to reach full containment of the blaze by 6 p.m. Friday, although that remained a moving target.

Meanwhile, residents who were evacuated from the area were anxiously awaiting word on when they'd be allowed to return to their properties.

Evacuations of Pfeiffer Ridge Road remained in effect Friday morning, with closures also in place for Clear Ridge Road, and River Inn to Pfeiffer Ridge Road. Andrew Molera State Park was still closed.

Matt Glazer of the Big Sur Roadhouse restaurant told KSBW that despite the property loss, the weeklong ordeal has brought the community together.

"As bad as things are, people come together and they support each other," he said. "There's a lot of strength in the community; that's what's touching, especially coming into the holidays."


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