Big Sur wildfire nearing full containment

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Updated: 12/20/2013 12:08 am

BIG SUR, Calif. (AP) — Officials are optimistic that a wildfire in California's Big Sur region that has destroyed 14 homes and several other buildings will soon be put out.

Rain and higher humidity Thursday helped firefighters battle the blaze in the Los Padres National Forest, which was 88 percent contained as of Thursday. That was up 9 percent from the previous day, after having burned about 1 1/2 square miles, said Mark Nunez, the incident commander in charge of battling the blaze.

U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Kathleen Phelps said Thursday that the weather was helping.

"We've gotten a little bit of moisture and a whole lot more humidity. That's really helped the firefighters be able to complete almost all of the lines so far," Phelps said.

The hundred or so people who were evacuated should be allowed back in their homes Friday, she said.

The fire has destroyed 22 buildings, including 14 homes, Nunez said.

Flames were no longer visible from Highway 1 in the morning, as it continued to drizzle in the area.

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.

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

 

©2013 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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