SALINAS VALLEY — Smoke from the Dolan Fire has made its way to Salinas Valley, as the wildfire continues to spread east from the Pacific coastline along Highway 1, about 10 miles south of Big Sur.
As of Tuesday morning, the fire has burned 73,089 acres of Los Padres National Forest’s Ventana Wilderness, including portions of Fort Hunter Liggett territory, and is 40% contained. More than 800 personnel have been assigned to the fire, according to the U.S. Forest Service.
“Very hot weather over the Labor Day weekend has meant increased fire activity, with uphill runs and trees torching,” the U.S. Forest Service said in its incident overview Tuesday. “The fire continues to be active at night and previously quiet areas have seen renewed activity because of the absence of the any marine layer inversion.”
Officials said a fire camp is being established at Fort Hunter Liggett near Jolon to move resources closer to the active fire edge and reduce travel times.
An evacuation warning was issued Monday for a modified Zone 24, west of Greenfield and King City, due to the Dolan Fire’s increased activity. This zone includes areas west of Reliz Canyon Road to the intersection of Arroyo Seco Road; south of Arroyo Seco Road to the intersection of Santa Lucia Trail; east of Santa Lucia Trail to the intersection of Bear Mountain Trail; and north of Bear Mountain Trail to the intersection of Reliz Canyon Road.
An evacuation warning means those in the specific area should be prepared to evacuate at any time, if a mandatory evacuation order is called.
“In Zone 24, the fire still has been pushing its way in that direction but hasn’t hit our trigger point yet to turn that into a mandatory evacuation,” said Rob Allen, incident commander, at a press briefing Tuesday.
Monterey County has opened an evacuation center at the King City Library, 404 Broadway St., for residents who are being impacted by the Dolan Fire. The center is open daily from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. to provide information and support, snacks, water and device charging for evacuees.
Allen also confirmed a shelter deployment involving 15 firefighters, who were battling the Dolan Fire, occurred at about 8:31 a.m. Tuesday in the vicinity of Nacimiento Station, off Nacimiento-Fergusson Road. Three of the firefighters were injured, one critically, and the fire station was destroyed.
“We’re working with the sheriff’s department on re-evaluating where our closure zones are right now, what/where our evacuation zones are, and what areas will be in warnings next as the fire continues to move in different directions,” Allen said.
Cal Fire’s San Benito-Monterey Unit also issued a smoke advisory Monday for the River and Carmel fire areas west of the Salinas Valley due to the excessive heat.
“As the temperature increases and relative humidity decreases, we are reminded of the dangers associated with the River and Carmel fires,” Cal Fire said in a news release. “While this heat wave occurs, we remain vigilant and continue to patrol the reinforced fire containment lines as well as the pockets of unburned vegetation from within the fire perimeter.”
The smoldering vegetation from within each fire’s perimeter has been burning and will continue to burn, causing smoke to rise and be seen, officials said.
“While this occurs, we would like to advise the public that our fire resources are aware of this and will continue to patrol the areas involved,” Cal Fire said. “We ask that you contact 911 only if fire is observed outside of the River or Carmel fire perimeters.”
The River and Carmel fires reached 100% containment on Sept. 4. Final numbers show the River Fire burned a total of 48,088 acres, destroyed 30 structures and damaged 13 others, while the Carmel Fire scorched 6,905 acres, destroyed 73 buildings and damaged seven others.
County extends assistance center
While the River and Carmel fires are now fully contained, Monterey County has extended its Local Assistance Center until Saturday to give more time to wildfire survivors who need disaster support.
“Monterey County is extending its Local Assistance Center to give those impacted by wildfires more time to get disaster assistance,” said Maia Carroll, communications coordinator for Monterey County. “The center will remain open through Sept. 12.”
Set up at the Monterey Conference Center, 1 Portola Plaza in Monterey, the Local Assistance Center provides resources for residents affected by the wildfires, including those whose business or home was either destroyed or damaged and those who incurred expenses due to evacuation orders.
The center, which was originally set to close Sept. 5, will now be open through Saturday, Sept. 12, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day.
Representatives from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) are on site to assist with disaster applications. New this week, the Employment Development Department is also available to help those whose jobs have been affected.
Other agencies on site include the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and State Vital Statistics to help replace DMV-related documents and other identification forms that might have been lost; Monterey County Resource Management Agency to assist with rebuilding permits; Department of Social Services; and the County Assessor’s Office.
Covid-19 safety protocols are in place at the Monterey Conference Center (MCC), which had adapted its conference space in April to host socially distant meetings.
“MCC has been sitting empty since Monterey County’s shelter-in-place restrictions in mid-March,” said Doug Philips, general manager at MCC, in a news release from the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Seeing the community in distress, we wanted to help however we could. We have the space and we have the ability to operate safely.”
Federal help for debris removal
Six counties in California, including Monterey County, have been designated to receive federal assistance for wildfire debris removal under FEMA’s Public Assistance Program.
A Major Disaster Declaration for the State of California was granted Aug. 22, triggering the release of federal funds to help communities recovering from recent wildfires. The declaration was amended Sept. 5 to add support for debris removal in Lake, Monterey, Napa, Santa Cruz, Solano and Sonoma counties.
These six counties, plus San Mateo and Yolo counties, were previously designated for FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program and for Public Assistance with emergency protective measures.
Monterey County residents can stop by the Local Assistance Center in Monterey to apply for FEMA financial assistance, or call the FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 between 7 a.m. and 10:30 p.m., or visit disasterassistance.gov.