Pfeiffer fire: Big Sur blaze burns 769 acres, 20 percent contained (updated)

A California redwood amidst ash rain in Big Sur.
A California redwood amidst ash rain in Big Sur.
Rani Sanderson/@ranissance/Instagram

Update 4:55 p.m.: Fire spreads to 769 acres

A wildfire blazing through Big Sur, California, has spread to 769 acres with 20 percent containment, reports the Los Padres National Forest. 

Tweet from Los Padres National Forest

Included in the 22 structures destroyed is the home of Big Sur Fire Chief Martha Karstens.

Previously: Evacuations ordered for at least 50 homes 

Twenty-five to 30 structures, including the home of the Big Sur fire chief, have been destroyed in a wildfire burning Monday in the area of Big Sur, California, according to Cal Fire.

Los Padres National Forest spokesman Andrew Madsen told KPCC that at least 50 homes have been evacuated and 550 acres have burned. No injuries have been reported. 

The fire is 5 percent contained and being fought by 625 firefighters and support personnel, according to Cal Fire. About 200 homes, 20 commercial properties and 20 outbuildings remain threatened.

Madsen also told KPCC that the fire destroyed the home of Big Sur Fire Chief Martha Karstens.

"She was going out to help protect other people's homes and then came back to find out that her own home had been fully engulfed and so this is obviously very emotional time for her," said Madsen. "We were surprised to see her back carrying out her duties as chief despite such a tragic loss so she's an amazing person."

Officials were hopeful that they could contain the blaze this week.       

"This is a completely wind-driven fire," Madsen told the AP. "We're cautiously optimistic that we're going to pin this thing down within the next couple of days."

The Pfeiffer Ridge area of Los Padres National Forest near Highway 1 was burned but the fire had not crossed the key coastal rode, which remained open, according to officials.

Air tankers and helicopters, according to AP, are also battling the blaze, which began at midnight Monday. 

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

The Red Cross has set up an overnight shelter for people who have been displaced by the fire, Madsen said.          

Big Sur is a popular tourist destination along the Central California coast with high-end resorts and beautiful views of the Pacific Ocean.

A wildfire so late in the year is unusual but not surprising given that California is in the midst of the driest calendar year on record.

A lightning-sparked wildfire in 2008 forced the evacuation of Big Sur and blackened 250 square miles before it was contained. That blaze burned more than a dozen homes.

With contributions by Bianca Ramirez. 

Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that 25-30 homes were destroyed. About 13 of the 25-30 structures that have been destroyed were residences.