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Crews use ocean water to help fight Colorado Fire along the Big Sur coast

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION) It's now into day four of the Colorado Fire — and fire crews are using Big Sur's natural resources to help in the firefight.

The iconic Big Sur coastline is now charred by fire, and flames were still seen peeking through the hillsides Monday afternoon. The wind-whipped fire and rugged terrain have been posing a challenge for crews on the ground.

So, in comes help from above.

"We're actually just pulling water from the ocean right here," says Cal Fire Captain Mike Young. Young and his crew from Cal Fire Alma Helitack in Los Gatos help to watch the fight from above — dropping water and keeping an eye out for crews on the ground.

"It's comforting to be able to watch over those guys to make sure that they're safe, and to see things in front of them that they may not be able to see. Let them know how far they have to go, what could be a danger ahead of them," said Young.

He says, unlike other assignments he's been on, the Big Sur coast provides an advantage for their air operations.

"Areas like those south of Hollister, in the drought conditions that we've had, sometimes you have to go a ways to find deep enough water. But I mean, it can make the difference, obviously, the quick turnaround based on where your water source is," said Young.

However, not all Cal Fire helicopters can take in saltwater to drop on a fire.

"It's hard on the machine, the saltwater. If the new Cal Fire Hawk shows up, they're not dipping out of the ocean. They're flying further south to a creek or a river to get water," said Young.

Young says these winter wildfires starting in California are becoming more common than people think.

"It's California, we're basically a year-round department. But I've been to a wintertime fire every year the last couple of years. It was surprising today when we flew in to see the scale of this fire. But it's become commonplace," said Young.

According to Cal Fire, 500 people were given orders to evacuate, although some did stay behind. But Cal Fire is emphasizing the need for Californians to be ready to evacuate — even during the winter.

"These fires of late have been so big, so powerful. They've had so much energy that the first day, our firefighters are evacuating people instead of firefighting," said Cecile Juliette, Public Information Officer for Cal Fire CZU. "People need to know how to evacuate safely, they need to know their evacuation routes, and they need to always be prepared no matter what month it is, and have everything ready to go."

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Lisa Principi

Lisa Principi is a reporter at KION News Channel 5/46.

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