California wildfires scorch central coast mountains and Sierra wilderness

Wildfires
The Willow fire in Los Padres National Forest has grown to more than 2,800 acres, with an estimated containment date of July 11, according to the U.S. Forest Service.(Los Padres National Forest)

The Willow fire in Los Padres National Forest has grown to more than 2,800 acres, with an estimated containment date of July 11, according to the U.S. Forest Service.(Los Padres National Forest)

California wildfires burned Tuesday in tinder dry vegetation in rugged central coast mountains and near an Eastern Sierra trailhead where hikers begin treks to the summit of Mount Whitney.

More than 500 firefighters were battling the Willow Fire, which has scorched nearly 4½ square miles (11.5 square kilometers) south of Big Sur in Los Padres National Forest.

The blaze posed a threat to the Tassajara Zen Mountain Center, a Buddhist monastery located in a remote valley. Crews were setting up defenses to protect structures there and at a recreation center.

On the eastern flank of the Sierra Nevada, the Inyo Creek Fire in the Whitney Portal area near the town of Lone Pine thwarted hikers planning to climb Mount Whitney, the tallest peak in the contiguous United States.

The fire was officially estimated at 410 acres (166 hectares) Tuesday morning but an updated number was expected later in the day, said Inyo National Forest spokeswoman Kirstie Butler.

Hikers were unable to begin treks at Whitney Portal and rangers were in the wilderness to divert returning hikers to other longer egress trails. A plan to escort hikers to about 30 cars they had parked in the portal area was foiled by the fire’s movement.

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