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Willow Fire fully contained after nearly a month

MONTEREY COUNTY, Calif. (KION)

UPDATE 7/12/2021 11:45 a.m. Officials with the Los Padres National Forest announced Monday that the Willow Fire burning in the Arroyo Seco area is now 100% contained.

Since it started on June 17, the fire has burned 2,877 acres. Area, road and trail closures are still in effect through July 22.

UPDATE 6/28/2021 6:00 p.m. The fire is 87% contained, but its size remains 2,877 acres.

UPDATE 6/28/2021 11:00 a.m. All evacuation orders will be lifted as of today at 6 p.m. Containment is expected to increase as firefighters continue to patrol the area, despite the moderate wind and hot and dry weather.

UPDATE 6/27/2021 7:00 p.m. The U.S Forest Service reports that containment has increased to 73%, the acreage remains the same at 2,877 acres. Fire officials are sticking to their goal to have the fire fully extinguished by July 11th.

UPDATE 6/26/2021 6:30 p.m. The U.S. Forest Service reports that containment has increased to 56%. The acreage remains the same at 2,877.

281 fire personnel are on scene.

UPDATE 6/26/2021 5:05 p.m. The U.S. Forest Service reports that containment of the Willow Fire remains at 32% while the acreage remains at 2,877 acres.

The Forest Service also says that they hope to have the fire fully contained by Sunday, July 11th.

UPDATE 6/25/2021 6:27 p.m. The U.S. Forest Service reports that containment of the Willow Fire has grown from 26% to 32%, but the acreage remains at 2,877.

UPDATE 6/25/2021 4:50 p.m. A spokesperson for Monterey County says all road closures related to the Willow Fire have been removed.

The closures include:

  • Arroyo Seco and Carmel Valley Road
  • Carmel Valley Road at Tassajara
  • Tassajara at Cachagua Road

At last update, the U.S. Forest service said the fire was still 2,877 acres and 26% contained.

UPDATE 6/24/2021 6:55 p.m. Officials with the Los Padres National Forest say containment of the Willow Fire has grown to 26%, and there has been no new growth, so the acreage is still 2,877.

UPDATE 6/24/21 5:03 p.m. Some evacuation orders have been downgraded to warnings while some warning zones have been deemed safe as crews are gaining ground on the Willow Fire.

Evacuation orders at zones WF-3a and WF-1 have been downgraded to warnings, according to Monterey County.

This includes:

  • WF-1: Tassajara Rd northwest to China Camp Campground in the Los Padres National Forest, includes tributary Forest Routes and the Tassajara Zen Center.
  • WF-3a: All areas of Arroyo Secco Rd west of Woodtick Canyon, to include the Arroyo Seco Campground, Rocky Creek Rd, Camp Cawatre.

Meanwhile evacuation warnings have been lifted entirely at the following zones:

  • WF-2: Tassajara Rd from China Camp Campground in the Los Padres National Forest northwest to Kincannon Canyon. The Warning stops at the Los Padres National Forest boundary. This does not include Kincannon Rd or tributaries of Jamesburg or Cachagua Rd.
  • WF-3b: Areas east of Woodtick Canyon on Arroyo Seco Rd to Millers Ranch at the Carmel Valley Rd.
  • WF-4: Areas north of Arroyo Secco Campground to Anastasia Canyon; west of Carmel Valley Rd, and East of Tassajara Rd. This does not include Lambert Flatts, Cachagua Rd or areas east of Carmel Valley Rd.

The only evacuation order that remains is at area WF-6 which is described as areas West of Santa Lucia Creek, east of Black Cone Peak, north of the Dolan Fire scar, and south of the Tassajara Hot Springs.

UPDATE 6/24/21 2:52 p.m. Numbers have not changed in the fight against the Willow Fire as acreage burned remains at 2,877. Containment is also the same at 19%.

Concerns over weather conditions persist as the forest service believes if warmer winds accelerate fire activity, the fire could become more active and could reposition on the steep slopes and begin to burn aggressively. 

100 homes remained threatened by this fire.

UPDATE 6/23/2021 7:30 p.m. The US Forest Service reports that the Willow Fire is still 2,877 acres, the same acreage that was reported Wednesday morning, but containment has grown to 19%.

UPDATED 6/23/2021 9:50 a.m. Fire crews are finally beginning to contain some of the fire lines at the Willow Fire as they report the fire as 13% contained. The fire stalled at around 2,877 acres overnight as well.

There's some concern over weather conditions in the coming days, however, as the forest service says winds transition to warmer/drier conditions.

The forest service says this could increase fire activity as areas where the fire is growing remain inaccessible.

Crews say there are also few roads and heavy fuels, leading to the inability of fire resources to implement a safe plan to work.

UPDATED 6/22/2021 3:30 p.m. Cooler temperatures and humidity are expected to be a positive factor for today's fire fight.

The relative humidity overnight was between 88% and 100% which allowed the fire to "lay down." The humidity allowed the crews to get closer and directly attack the fire to strengthen their contingency lines around the fire perimeter.

UPDATE 6/21/2021 4:33 p.m. As of this afternoon, the fire has grown to 2,848 acres and is still zero percent contained. The same evacuation orders are in place.

The fire crew releases today's plan to contain the Willow Fire in this morning's briefing. According to Public information officer, Thanh Nguyen, the fire is heading eastward towards the Arroyo Seco campground. Firefighters have already been working near the area removing vegetation in the line of fire. Steep terrain and smoke are two of the biggest challenges firefighters are currently facing. You can read more about today's briefing here.

UPDATE 6/20/2021 8:25 p.m. The National Forest Service says that the fire has grown to 2,392 acres and is still zero percent contained. They also say this afternoon, there was a little growth due to heat temperatures and winds.

It is still difficult for firefighters to get to the fire because of the steep terrain. As for later tonight, there will not be any firefighters on location monitoring the fire into the night

UPDATE 6/20/2021 12:37 p.m. The National Forest Service says that the fire has grown to 2,080 acres and remains 0% contained.

Incident Management Team 11 (CIIMT-11) took over management of the Willow Fire Sunday.

Steep terrain is making it difficult for firefighters to access the fire.

Los Padres National Forest Resource Advisors will be working with Chumash Tribal members, biologists and botanists to identify sensitive areas in the region.

UPDATE 6/19/2021 8 p.m. The National Forest Service says at this hour the fire "has not budged" and sits at 2,006 acres. Despite the good day on the fire line, the fire remains at 0% containment as Saturday comes to a close.

According to the forest service, 351 firefighters are currently trying to put out the fire, with more resources on the way.

When asked if inmate crews have been called in, the forest service says they're not able to bring inmates in due to their own staff having issues reaching the fire line.

The forest service says attack on the Willow Fire is "almost entirely an airshow" with crews depending on an aerial attack from a base CalFire is using out of Hollister.

UPDATE 6/19/2021 8 a.m. Cal Fire tells KION that the Willow Fire burning in southern Monterey County has grown to 2,066 acres with no containment.

Officials said the fire is expected to be active today and has shown extreme fire behavior as it burns through chaparral and tall grass. It is moving toward the Tassajara area, including the area around the Tassajara Zen Center.

Evacuation orders are still in place.

The cause of the fire is still under investigation.

The San Francisco Zen Center issued a statement about conditions around the Tassajara Zen Center:

The Willow Fire started in the Los Padres National Forest last night about 3 miles from Tassajara (see map) and is currently heading in the direction of Tassajara.

Monterey County Sheriff's Office has issued an Evacuation Order for Tassajara Road northwest to China Camp Campground in the Los Padres National Forest, including tributary Forest Routes and the Tassajara Zen Center.

At 10:30 today most of the Tassajara residents were evacuated.

The ZMC Fire Crew will remain in order to run “Dharma Rain” (Tassajara’s sprinkler system) and to prepare the monastery in case the fire reaches the valley. Tassajara has been working on special fire prep projects during the pandemic shutdown and the fire crew has been in place and training for several months. Our water supplies are good and we are well prepared for this situation. Right now there are four engines at Tassajara (two from CalFire and two from the Forest Service). They are helping our Fire Team to prep.

SFZC President Sozan Miglioli

The Monterey County Free Library's Carmel Valley Branch has also opened up as an evacuation point for Willow Fire evacuees.

UPDATE 6/19/2021 7:37 a.m. The National Weather Service said in a social media post Saturday that smoke from the Willow Fire is expected to move north during the day.

This model shows the total smoke in the atmosphere:

And this one is a loop of the near surface smoke:

UPDATE 6/19/2021 6:45 a.m. The Monterey County Sheriff's Office issued more evacuation orders for the Willow Fire in southern Monterey County Friday evening.

The following areas are under evacuation orders:

  • WF-1: Tassajara Rd northwest to China Camp Campground in the Los Padres National Forest, includes tributary Forest Routes and the Tassajara Zen Center.
  • WF-3a: All areas of Arroyo Secco Rd west of Woodtick Canyon, to include the Arroyo Seco Campground, Rocky Creek Rd, Camp Cawatre.
  • WF-6: No description given.

The following areas are under evacuation warnings:

  • WF-2: Tassajara Rd from China Camp Campground in the Los Padres National Forest northwest to Kincannon Canyon. The Warning stops at the Los Padres National Forest boundary. This does not include Kincannon Rd or tributaries of Jamesburg or Cachagua Rd.
  • WF-3b: Areas east of Woodtick Canyon on Arroyo Seco Rd to Millers Ranch at the Carmel Valley Rd.
  • WF-4: Areas north of Arroyo Secco Campground to Anastasia Canyon; west of Carmel Valley Rd, and East of Tassajara Rd. This does not include Lambert Flatts, Cachagua Rd or areas east of Carmel Valley Rd.

Fire officials are expected to hold an internal briefing Saturday morning, and updated information about acreage and containment may be released at that time.

UPDATE 6/18/2021 5:30 p.m. The Willow Fire in southern Monterey County has grown to 1,500-2,000 acres, according to officials with the US Forest Service. As of Friday night, there is no containment.

About 500 firefighters have responded to fight it.

The U.S. Forest Service is the lead agency on this fire and Cal Fire is assisting.

Andrew Madsen, with the Los Padres National Forest unit, says firefighters are having to trek two miles before reaching the fire lines. Thursday night there was no lighting and there is fear this fire could have been sparked by an illegal campfire.

UPDATE 6/18/2021 4:14 p.m. A new evacuation warning has been issued for the Willow Fire burning in southern Monterey County.

These are the evacuation warnings:

  • WF-4: Areas north of Arroyo Seco Campground to Anastasia Canyon, west of Carmel Valley Road and east of Tassajara Road. It does not include Lambert Flatts, Cachagua Road or areas east of Carmel Valley Road
  • WF-3: Arroyo Seco Road from Millers Ranch at the Carmel Valley Road junction west to the Arroyo Seco Campground.
  • WF-2: Tassajara Road from China Camp Campground northwest to Kincannon Canyon. The warning stops at the Los Padres National Forest Boundary. It does not include Kincannon Road or tributaries of Jamesberg or Cachagua Road.

An evacuation order is in place for the following:

  • WF-1: Tassajara Road northwest to China Camp Campground in the Los Padres National Forest, including tributary forest routes and the Tassajara Zen Center.

At last check, the fire had grown to 750-1,000 acres.

A timelapse showing how the Willow Fire has grown over the course of three hours.

UPDATE 6/18/2021 3:28 p.m. The Willow Fire has grown to nearly 1,000 acres, according to the Monterey County Sheriff's Office.

About 200 people are under evacuation orders.

UPDATE 6/18/2021 3 p.m. Monterey County reports that Tassajara Road is closed at Carmel Valley Road and Arroyo Seco Road is closed at Carmel Valley Road.

The US Forest Service still says the fire is still about 200 acres.

UPDATE 6/18/2021 11:45 a.m. The Monterey County Sheriff's Office has issued new evacuation warnings for the Willow Fire burning west of Arroyo Seco Road.

The areas under an evacuation warning include:

  • WF-3: Arroyo Seco Road from Millers Ranch at the Carmel Valley Road junction west to the Arroyo Seco Campground.
  • Tassajara Road from China Camp Campground northwest to Kincannon Canyon. The warning stops at the Los Padres National Forest Boundary. It does not include Kincannon Road or tributaries of Jamesberg or Cachagua Road.

Evacuation orders are in place for Tassajara Road, northwest, to China Camp Campground in the Los Padres National Forest.

Monterey County Office of Emergency Services says this includes tributary Forest Routes and the Tassajara Zen Center.

Officials report that the fire has grown to about 200 acres. About 300 firefighters are working to fight the fire from the ground and in the air.

PREVIOUS STORY: The Monterey County Sheriff's Office has issued an evacuation order due to the growing Willow Fire burning west of Arroyo Seco Road.

The orders are in place for Tassajara Road, northwest, to China Camp Campground in the Los Padres National Forest.

Monterey County Office of Emergency Services says this includes tributary Forest Routes and the Tassajara Zen Center.

This evacuation order means those who are a part of these impacted zones must leave immediately.

The fire is currently 180 acres.

https://kion546.com/photo-galleries/2021/06/18/gallery-the-willow-fire-in-pictures-and-video/
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Victor Guzman

Victor Guzman is the managing editor at KION News Channel 5/46.

Avery Johnson

Avery Johnson is the Digital Content Director at KION News Channel 5/46.

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