Tuesday, June 22, 2021 - 08:45

California’s weather moderated after a long siege of extreme heat but firefighters still faced the difficult task of trying to contain a large forest fire in rugged coastal mountains south of Big Sur.

The Willow Fire covered 4.4 square miles of Los Padres National Forest, the U.S. Forest Service said. More than 500 firefighters were on the lines, aided by planes and helicopters.

The fire broke out Thursday evening in the Ventana Wilderness and burned near the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a Buddhist monastery located in a remote valley.

Crews were preparing for structure defense at the center and at a campground, the fire command said.

The Monterey County Sheriff’s Office issued evacuation orders for the area.

The fire was feeding on dry chaparral 6 feet high as well as grasses and other brush. It was expected to continue burning at low to moderate intensity, fire officials said.

It’s the largest of several wildfires that erupted during days of dangerously high heat up and down the state.

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