A wildfire, named the River Fire, spreads along a mountainside south of Salinas. The fire has burned more than 15,000 acres and destroyed several buildings in the area as of Wednesday. (Photo by Tony Nuñez)

SALINAS VALLEY — Cal Fire has ordered thousands of Monterey County residents to evacuate over the past 72 hours as a large fire has scorched at least 15,050 acres just south of Salinas as of Wednesday night.

The River Fire, which started early Sunday morning after a lightning storm passed through the Central Coast and greater Bay Area, has ripped through the Pine Canyon Road and River Road area, more than tripling in size since Tuesday.

The fire is currently 7% contained and threatening roughly 2,750 structures in the area. At least six buildings have been destroyed.

The same incident management team handling that fire is also coordinating the efforts in the Carmel Fire, which has burned 2,150 acres in the Carmel Valley Road and Cachagua Road area since it was first reported Tuesday afternoon. That fire is 0% contained as of Wednesday, and Cal Fire has not yet determined its cause.

The two fires are about 1.8 miles apart.

Cal Fire officials said they do not anticipate the fires to merge overnight but emphasized that all residents in the area should be ready to evacuate if conditions change.

At least 125 fire engines and 85 crews from neighboring western states will soon join the more than 6,900 California fire personnel battling various fires across the state, Cal Fire said. Another 240 National Guard troops will also begin fire training Thursday and be deployed sometime next week.

Cal Fire said one civilian suffered minor heat-related injuries in the Carmel Fire.

The County of Monterey has opened a new evacuation center at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Highway 68 for residents evacuating from the River Fire. It is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and offers water, snacks and a rest stop for evacuees to make further plans or find out about assistance provided by the American Red Cross. 

The center is located at the Pavilion, to the left and up the hill after entering the area.

Residents evacuating the Carmel Fire should head to Carmel Middle School, 4380 Carmel Valley Road. That site is open 24 hours, has capacity to provide meals and sleeping accommodations for up to 20 people and can be expanded as needed.

Monterey County residents can sign up to receive daily updates on the fires by texting MCFIRES2020 to 888777.

The Monterey County fires are two of more than 360 that are burning across the state, according to Gov. Gavin Newsom, who on Tuesday declared a statewide emergency.

Newsom’s office on Monday announced it secured a Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to help provide resources to suppress the River Fire.

The FMAG, which is provided through the President’s Disaster Relief Fund, will assist local, state and tribal agencies responding to the fire.

FEMA also authorized the use of federal funds to battle the Carmel Fire.

River Fire Evacuations: 

  • Pine Canyon Road
  • Parker Road
  • Laurel Lane
  • Trimble Hill Lane
  • West of River Road to Parker Road
  • South of Limekiln Road to include Limekiln Road
  • Limekiln Road south to Gonzalez River Road

River Fire Evacuation Warnings:

  • South of River Road from Tara Drive to Pine Canyon Road, to include all roads off of: Las Palmas Parkway, Ranchito Drive, Indian Springs Road, Berry Drive, Enos Drive, Redding Drive and Belmont Circle
  • Indian Canyon
  • Mt. Toro Access Road
  • San Benancio Road from Troy Lane to Corral de Tierra, including Corral del Cielo Road, Lucie Lane and Covie Lane
  • Southwest of Parker Road
  • Northwest of Corral del Cielo Road 
  • Rana Creek, southeast of the intersection of Chualar River Road and River road
  • Northwest of Limekiln Road/Creek
  • Harper Canyon Area
  • All Areas north of San Benancio Road
  • West of Troy Lane
  • Southeast of Harper Canyon Road, to include Harper Canyon Road, Weather Rock Way and Rimrock Canyon Road

Carmel Fire Evacuations:

  • East of Cachagua Road between Sky Ranch and Via Cielo, including Sky Ranch, Tributaries and Via Cielo
  • Residents east of Cachagua Road between Summerhill Road and Asoleado Drive, including Summerhill, Nason, Asoleado Drive and Tributaries

Carmel Fire Evacuation Warnings:

  • Residents east of Cachagua Road between Asoleado Drive and Tassajara Road, including Trampas Canyon Road, Comstat Road and Tributaries
  • Tassajara Road, including the community of Jamesburg, Parrot Ranch Road and Laurel Spring Road, Kincannon Road, San Mountain Road, Lambert Poppy Tree, Tributaries
  • Tassajara Road from Cachagua Road to East Carmel Valley Road
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Tony Nuñez is a longtime member of the Watsonville community who served as Sports Editor of The Pajaronian for five years and three years as Managing Editor. He is a Watsonville High, Cabrillo College and San Jose State University alumnus.


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