Willow Fire in Monterey County, California, Grows to 2,000 Acres

Firefighters battled on Saturday to protect the historic Tassajara Zen Mountain Center from the Willow Fire burning in Monterey County.

The fire was about a mile from the center in what an incident overview called “steep, rugged and brushy terrain.”

The fire ignited at 8:10 p.m. Thursday in the Ventana Wilderness northwest of the Arroyo Seco recreation area, near the Tassajara center, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

By Friday night the wildfire had grown to 2,000 acres, spurring additional evacuation orders. Early Saturday the fire was remapped and measured at about 1,600 acres with zero percent containment, according to Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen.

“The main challenge for us is accessibility because we can’t get right up to the fire,” Madsen said. “(Firefighters) may have a mile or more of a hike to get in there.”

Crews on Saturday were hoping for  helicopters that would fly them closer to the fire itself. On Friday firefighters also had to contend with hot, dry and windy conditions with temperatures hovering around the triple-digit mark and gusts reached up to 20 mph.

Temperatures cooled on Saturday and humidity in the area increased from the mid-teens to the mid-20s, Drew Peterson, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service, said. But more humidity now didn’t change the underlying challenge of containing a wildfire during a drought.

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SOURCE: Mercury News, Jason Green and Leonardo Castaneda