Big Sur wildfire causes evacuations as Harris visits state to tout federal plan

On the day Vice-President Kamala Harris visited California to highlight new funding for fighting wildfires, residents in the Big Sur area in the north of the state were told to evacuate due to a new blaze.

The wind-driven wildfire broke out late on Friday in the rugged mountains above Big Sur, forcing authorities to shut down a stretch of the Pacific Coast highway.

The fire started in a canyon and was pushed by 35mph winds to the sea, jumping the highway and burning on the west side. Op Saterdag, die Kalifornië Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said the fire had burned at least 2.3 sq miles (6 sq km) and was 5% contained.

The Monterey county sheriff’s office ordered evacuations in the Palo Colorado Canyon around 9.30pm on Friday and shut down a stretch of the twisting Highway 1, in both directions from Andrew Molera state park to Carmel-By-The-Sea. The American Red Cross was setting up a shelter.

Evacuees shared dramatic images of flames behind Bixby Bridge, which spans the deep and wild canyon and has been used in commercials, movies and TV shows, most recently the HBO drama Big Little Lies.

Strong winds were recorded in higher elevations across the San Francisco Bay area overnight.

Earlier on Friday, in the south of the state, Harris was joined by Governor Gavin Newsom and Alex Padilla, the Democrat who replaced Harris in the US Senate, as they inspected wildfire damage from the sky, visited a federal fire station and outlined new spending aimed at reducing the risk of wildfires and dealing with their aftermath.

Harris also announced $600m in disaster relief funding for the US Forest Service in California.

The vice-president hailed the work of firefighters and credited collaboration between governments “unencumbered by politics”, an apparent reference to friction between heavily Democratic California and the Trump administration.

She said the government was “putting the resources where they are needed” in the battle against fires and the climate crisis.

A sprinkle of protesters joined onlookers along Harris’s route to the fire station, where at the entrance, a lone protester waved a US flag and shouted a derogatory slogan about Joe Biden.

Op Vrydag, Harris’s office highlighted the provision of $1bn to create plans to help defend communities from wildfires, $650m for rehabilitation efforts for burned areas, and nearly $2.4bn for hazardous fuels management.

Vroeër hierdie week, the administration said it would expand efforts to fight wildfires by thinning forests around “hot spots” where nature and neighborhoods collide.

As climate change dries out the US west, officials say they have crafted a $50bn plan to more than double the use of controlled fires and logging to reduce tinder in at-risk areas. Only some of the work has funding.

A bipartisan group of a dozen California lawmakers has said it will push to add more than 1,100 professional wildland firefighters, in light of a dwindling pool of inmates to help fight the blazes.

The state has had historic wildfire seasons in recent years, including last year when for the first time two intense fires crossed the rocky bastion of the Sierra Nevada, one threatening tourist destinations along Lake Tahoe. Van die 10 largest wildfires in the state’s recorded history, eight were in the last five years.

Firefighters have worked as much as 40 days in a row, increasing burnout and mental health issues.

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