Hundreds evacuated as fire burns near California’s Big Sur

Hundreds of residents remained evacuated Sunday as crews battled a wildfire in rugged mountains along the California coast that forced the closure of the main roadway near Big Sur.

One structure, a yurt, was destroyed by the blaze that broke out Friday in a steep canyon and quickly spread toward the sea, fanned by gusts up to 50 mph. 

The flames made a big run after winds whipped up again late Saturday, but since then conditions have calmed and crews made some progress against the blaze, said Cecile Juliette, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. 

"The winds today have been favorable, so that’s some good news," Juliette said Sunday.

The blaze dubbed the Colorado Fire was 40% contained after burning at least 700 acres of brush and redwood trees, Cal Fire officials said. 

Evacuation orders were in place for about 500 residents of a sparsely populated area between Carmel and Big Sur.

Authorities closed a stretch of Highway 1 with no estimated time for reopening. The two-lane highway along Big Sur is prone to closures due to fire and mudslides from heavy rain that made portions of the roadway collapse last year and in 2017.

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Evacuees shared on social media dramatic images of flames burning behind iconic Bixby Bridge. The tall concrete span has been the backdrop of many car commercials, movies and TV shows, most recently the HBO drama "Big Little Lies."

Strong winds were recorded across the San Francisco Bay Area early Saturday, knocking down trees and power lines and causing a small number of electricity outages. There were no immediate reports of injuries.

In Sonoma County, firefighters extinguished a small blaze on Geyser Peak, where gusts above 90 mph (145 kph) were recorded. In the Sierra Nevada, the winds topped 141 mph  near the summit of Kirkwood Mountain Resort, shutting several ski lifts.

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In Southern California, a peak gust of 90 mph (145 kph) was recorded in the mountains east of Santa Clarita. Strong winds developed across the region, toppling trees and power lines before starting to die down on Sunday. Many wind advisories expired around midday.

Dry conditions returned to Northern California after a series of December storms that dumped heavy snow in the mountains and partially refilled parched reservoirs.

However, Juliette said the winds quickly dried up vegetation weakened by a prolonged drought.

"It’s unusual to have fire this size here on the coast at the end of January," she said. "The fact that we had a fire this size is of great concern."

The cause of the Colorado Fire is under investigation.