Soberanes Wildfire in California's Central Coast Region

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A watershed-related issue examined by the ENVS 560/L Watershed Systems class at CSUMB.

Soberanes burn severity2016.png


The Soberanes wildfire started on July 22, 2016 and was not contained until October 12, 2016.[1] The cause was determined to be an illegal campfire. The fire burned a total of 132,127 acres, mostly in Los Padres National Forest (94,933 acres).[2]

Although previous fires, like the Marble Cone Fire and Basin Complex-Indians Fire, burned a greater acreage, the proximity to populated areas and duration of the Soberanes Fire made it a greater threat human life and homes,[3] and it is considered to be the most expensive fire fought on U.S. soil as of 2016.[4]


The Soberanes Fire began in Garrapata State Park along the central coast, about 12 miles south of Monterey, California. The fire spread across the Ventana Wilderness of Los Padres National Forest in the the northern part of the Santa Lucia Mountains, and south into Big Sur [5].

Resources at Stake

Fifty seven homes and 11 outbuildings were lost during the fire. Most of the structural damage occurred in Palo Colorado Canyon between Carmel and Big Sur. One bulldozer operator died on assignment and four injuries were reported.[6]

Watersheds affected by the fire include: The Carmel River Watershed, The Big Sur River Watershed, and various lesser coastal watersheds between Carmel and Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.[7]
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