BIG SUR, Calif. (KION) Brush fires are on the top of the minds for surrounding fire departments as fire season continues on the Central Coast.
At least two small fires in the Big Sur area erupted and got put out back in June. Fire officials say they were caused by people who were not supposed to be camping in areas along Highway 1.
For that reason, the Los Padres National Forest has ordered an emergency road closure for several roads in the Big Sur area.
Central Coast/Cone Peak Road
South Coast Ridge Road
Los Burros/Willow Creek Road
Plaskett Ridge Road
There is a big effort right now to prevent these small fires from happening too often. While there has not been a major fire in the area right now, like the Soberanes Fire a few years ago, firefighters say they are worried about not having enough resources to fight small fires should a major blaze strike once again.
Highway 1 south of Carmel was packed once again with out of town visitors. While residents cringe at the garbage left behind, the views are just too good to keep tourists away, especially for those suffering with shelter-in-place blues.
"For us, it's been trying to get away from the city especially during this has been nice because the city feels so claustrophobic, being stuck in your apartment or whatever it is," said Becca Weston, who was visiting from LA on Friday.
Scenic road trips along Highway 1 are nothing new. But with the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been an "overwhelming increase" in visitors, according to the Big Sur Fire Brigade.
Big Sur Fire Chief Matt Harris tells KION people have been going off on public roads off the highway into the woods and setting up campfires where they should not be.
These can lead to fires. This year, firefighters luckily have not had to respond to a major fire in Big Sur, like the Soberanes Fire, which sparked mid-summer 2016 and burned over 130,000 acres.
The US Forest Service is now closing these four major roadways to prevent people from sparking fires in the woods. The closures aim to keep some innocent fun outdoors during the pandemic from turning dangerous.
"It's kind of helpful to have a massive beach to go to or a park and places where you can be with your friends and family, but outside, not in circulated air," said Liz Holland, who also was visiting from LA on Friday.
"It was so awful when you were actually stuck inside your house unable to go anywhere, and the outdoors being open again was such a moment during this for us," said Weston.
The two women say they actually took COVID-19 tests before they wen on the road trip together, and they are aiming to be responsible visitors.
Violators of the road closures could face fines and even jail time. The closures go into effect starting Friday through Oct. 19.
PREVIOUS ARTICLE: The Los Padres National Forest has ordered an emergency road closure for four roads in the Big Sur area.
The affected roads are:
- Central Coast/Cone Peak Road
- South Coast Ridge Road
- Los Burros/Willow Creek Road
- Plaskett Ridge Road
Officers, first responders, owners or lessees of land and residents are exempt from the order. Anyone who vilates it could face a fine of at least $5,000 or $10,000 for organizations. Violators can also face up to six months in jail.
Big Sur Fire said the closures are due to an "overwhelming increase" in the number of visitors. The agency said the increase has led to extensive damage in many areas and has become a risk to public safety.
The closures go into effect Friday and last through Oct. 19.