Early on Tuesday, Sept. 8, 14 firefighters working the Dolan Fire found themselves in a fight for their lives near the U.S. Forest Service’s Nacimiento Station at the top of Nacimiento-Fergusson Road in Big Sur. They were forced to deploy emergency shelters to protect themselves from the flames and smoke.
Three of those firefighters suffered serious injuries requiring them to be airlifted to a Fresno hospital; one was in critical condition as of press time.
The station was completely destroyed by the fire, according to Jacob Welsh, a U.S. Forest Service public information officer. High temperatures, low humidity and strong winds from the north created the perfect conditions for the fire to grow early in the week and within 24 hours, it doubled in size, mostly toward the south and east, to more than 73,000 acres.
“The men and women working out there are working in some really extreme conditions,” Welsh says.
The terrain makes it difficult to fight the fire, with steep rugged areas difficult or impossible to access, and canyons that funnel wind and flames.
The coastal side of the fire remained mostly contained and the marine later kept the fire away from lower elevations.
Firefighters were successful with burnouts from the edge of the New Camaldoli Hermitage down to Highway 1, creating a strong fire line to protect structures to the south. On the eastern fire, crews were building lines to protect Fort Hunter Liggett and the historic Mission San Antonio.
Fire crews from across the West, especially the Rockies, which are blanketed by unseasonally early snow, were deployed to Big Sur.