Forest fire moving closer to Big Sur |

Forest fire moving closer to Big Sur

The Associated Press

BERKELEY, Calif. ” Hundreds of firefighters worked Thursday to protect the scenic community of Big Sur from a lightning-sparked wildfire that inched closer to historic structures after burning 16 homes and threatening another 500 houses.

The blaze in the Los Padres National Forest was only 3 percent contained and had burned nearly 37 square miles near the coast about a mile south of Big Sur, officials said.

A popular tourist spot along the towering cliffs of the central California coast, Big Sur is also a storied destination for generations of American writers.

A library named after “Tropic of Cancer” author Henry Miller, who spent the last years of his life at Big Sur, was directly threatened by the fire, but so far firefighters had beaten back the flames, fire spokesman Curtis Vincent said.

Meanwhile, the National Weather Service predicted more dry lightning toward the end of the week, although forecasters did not expect as severe an electrical storm as last weekend, when nearly 8,000 lightning strikes sparked about 800 fires across Northern California.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger visited Monterey County to assess the damage and said he has called in the National Guard to help fight the fires.

“The fact is that when you have that many fires ” and there are still 700 fires left all over the state of California ” you get stretched thin with the resources,” Schwarzenegger said.

The state’s largest fire, located about 20 miles east of the Big Sur fire in a more remote area of the Los Padres forest, also continued to vex firefighters, having scorched more than 92 square miles and destroyed two homes. The blaze, sparked by an escaped campfire on June 8, was about 71 percent contained.

Monterey sheriff’s officials said mandatory evacuation orders were in place for both fires, but could not specify how many people were forced from their homes.