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California wildfire triggers evacuations, closes highway

Sunday, January 23rd 2022, 11:07 am - A 20-mile stretch of State Highway 1, a scenic north-south route on the Pacific Coast, was closed from near the beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea to Andrew Molera State Park.

(Reuters) - A 1,500-acre fire near the coastal community of Big Sur, California triggered evacuations and closed part of a major highway, state and local officials said on Saturday.

The Colorado Fire, which has been active since Friday, was 5% contained, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) said.

A 20-mile stretch of State Highway 1, a scenic north-south route on the Pacific Coast, was closed from near the beach town of Carmel-by-the-Sea to Andrew Molera State Park.

About 400 people in Monterey County were evacuated from 1,100 structures, a spokeswoman for the American Red Cross said, citing county reports.

California wildlfire/REUTERS Wildfire burns in Rocky Point, Monterey County, California, U.S., in this handout photo taken over the night of January 21st or 22nd, 2022. DEBI LORENC/Handout via REUTERS

Four people and a pet stayed overnight at a shelter in a local school, the Red Cross said.

California has long had an active wildfire season, but in recent years, fueled at least in part by climate change, it has grown longer and more punishing.

Last year, the wildfire season started unusually early amid an ongoing drought and low reservoir levels, Cal Fire said. In January 2021 alone, the state battled 297 fires on 1,171 acres, the office said.

The Colorado Fire is the only fire listed on Cal Fire's incident list so far in 2022.

This year, California is also grappling with the Santa Ana winds. A high wind warning was in effect for the area, with possible gusts of up to 70 miles per hour (112.65 kph), according to the National Weather Service.

But winds had improved and were forecast to remain light throughout the weekend, the Red Cross said.

(Reporting by Makini Brice in Washington; editing by Diane Craft and Cynthia Osterman)

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