BIG SUR (CBS SF / AP / BCN) — Wildfires continued to burn up areas of dry vegetation Tuesday 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 4.5 square miles south of Big Sur in Los Padres National Forest.

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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.

Since the fire started Thursday night in the midst of a heat wave, temperatures have cooled, which makes it easier for firefighters to respond.

Firefighters on steep terrain battling the Willow Fire in Monterey County on June 21, 2021. (U.S. Forest Service)

Firefighters on steep terrain battling the Willow Fire in Monterey County on June 21, 2021. (U.S. Forest Service)

“Firefighters are going to take advantage of the resulting cooler temperatures and an increase in relative humidity,” forest service officials said in a statement. “Contingency lines will continue to be improved in front of the eastern edge of the fire to protect the Arroyo Seco area.”

Fire officials said the cooling trend is expected through Wednesday and could slow the rate of spread since ground fuels will not be as hot or dry.

However, winds from the south and southwest will continue to flame the fire’s spread to the east and northwest toward Arroyo Seco.

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So far, there have not been any structure damages or deaths in the Willow Fire. However, there are evacuation warnings and orders in place.

An evacuation map can be viewed at

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 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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