California Highway 1 closed by fierce wildfire

  • 09/08/2016
Firefighters battle the fierce blaze near San Bernadino (Reuters)
Firefighters battle the fierce blaze near San Bernadino (Reuters)

An epic wildfire that has killed one person and blackened about 60,000 acres along the California coast, has forced authorities to shut down a portion of the scenic Highway 1 near Carmel-by-the-Sea.

The closure of the highway on Monday, which runs along much of the Pacific coastline and is famed for its dramatic ocean views, was prompted by an increase in fire and wind activity in the Big Sur area, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.

The road was expected to be closed to traffic in both directions from 10pm (local time) on Monday until at least 6pm on Tuesday (local time), the department said.

The so-called Soberanes Fire, which has destroyed 57 homes and 11 outbuildings, has been burning since July 22. A bulldozer operator died on July 26 when his tractor rolled over as he helped property owners battle the blaze, becoming the sixth wildfire fatality in California this year.

Authorities have traced origins of the blaze to an illegal campfire left unattended in a state park about near Highway 1. No arrests have so far been made.

California Highway 1 closed by fierce wildfire

As of Monday, the more than 5000 firefighters battling the flames had put containment lines in place around 45 per cent of the fire's perimeter.

Firefighters are making gradual but steady progress against the blaze as wildfire season in the western United States reaches its traditional peak, intensified by prolonged drought and extreme summer heat across the region.

The conflagration near Big Sur is one of 35 major wildfires that have charred half a million acres in 12 states, mostly in the West, according to the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho.

A blaze that erupted on Sunday in San Bernardino County, east of Los Angeles, had scorched some 4500 acres of dry timber and brush within 24 hours and was only about five per cent contained, officials said.