Three firefighters have been airlifted from the Dolan Fire in Big Sur after sustaining serious injuries; one is in critical condition. The three were among 14 firefighters involved in a shelter deployment near the Nacimiento Guard Station at the top of Nacimiento-Fergusson Road at 8:30am on Tuesday, Sept. 8.
A shelter deployment means the firefighters deployed emergency fire shelters that they carry with them on firelines to be used as a survival technique. According to Jacob Welsh, a public information officer with the U.S. Forest Service's Pacific Northwest Team 2 assigned to the Dolan Fire, it is an "evolving situation" but they do know that the station was destroyed by the fire.
"Hard-working men and women were burned and suffered smoke inhalation," Welsh says.
In the last 24 hours, the Dolan Fire has doubled in size, and jumped Nacimiento-Fergusson Road.
As of 2pm on Tuesday, Sept. 8, officials are reporting it has burned 73,089 acres and is 40-percent contained, with most of that containment on the coastal side of the fire. (Although Highway 1 on the coastal, western side of the fire also remains a challenge, with burning logs and rocks rolling downhill onto the road.)
Weather was consistently hot and dry over the Labor Day holiday weekend, but the most fire activity and growth occurred overnight from Monday evening to Tuesday morning as the wind direction shifted and winds began blowing from the north; the fire expanded largely to the south and east overnight.
A new evacuation order was put in place in the southern section of the fire from Nacimiento-Fergusson Road up to Plaskett, and Prewitt Ridge down to Highway 1 and around Lucia, including the Hermiatge area (which has been under evacuation order since the early days of the fire).
Evacuation warnings have been issued near the northeastern part of the fire approaching Arroyo Seco and Tassajara Road as officials prepare for the possibility of winds pushing the fire that direction overnight; they expect winds to shift tonight.
"A strong north winds came in last night and caused a lot of issues with the fire, and the fire spread," incident meteorologist Jim Dudley said in a briefing on Tuesday. "We are expecting a wind reversal. The main thing we’re looking at late today and early tomorrow morning is a wind shift up from the south and southwest."
Wind gusts on ridges could be as high as 35 mph, he said.
Officials emphasize that changes can happen quickly, as they did early Tuesday, and encourage members of the public to be ready to evacuate.
"Over the weekend they were giving me updates to expect things in a day or two, and they were actually happening within hours, so just be prepared," Monterey County Sheriff Steve Bernal says.
To see updated evacuation information, visit the Monterey County Office of Emergency Services website. You can zoom in on the map, or search by your address, to see whether you are under an evacuation order (meaning you must leave your home immediately) or an evacuation warning/advisory, meaning you should be prepared for an evacuation warning and should pack your essential belongings, and prepare pets or livestock to travel.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect new information that three firefighters, not two, were life-flighted to a hospital in Fresno for medical attention.