A fire near Santa Barbara has charred more than 4,300 acres and is 10% contained

A wildfire raced across the dry hills above the California city of Santa Barbara on Tuesday, forcing thousands of evacuation orders and drawing hundreds of f...

Posted: Nov 26, 2019 10:41 AM
Updated: Nov 26, 2019 11:00 PM

A wildfire raced across the dry hills above the California city of Santa Barbara on Tuesday, forcing thousands of evacuation orders and drawing hundreds of firefighters tried to stop the flames from reaching homes.

The Cave Fire started in the Santa Ynez Mountains a few miles northwest of Santa Barbara late Monday afternoon and had scorched more than 4,300 acres by Tuesday night, fire officials said.

The wind-stoked fire has threatened structures including multimillion-dollar homes and ranchettes. But so far, no homes have been burned, and only one nonresidential building has been destroyed, Santa Barbara fire Capt. Daniel Bertucelli said.

The fire was 10% contained late Tuesday, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason.

'We're slowly making progress on it,' county fire Battalion Chief Anthony Stornetta said earlier in the day.

More than 5,400 people were under evacuation orders in areas north of Santa Barbara on either side of State Route 154. Those orders were lifted by noon on Tuesday.

The fire jumped over portions of 154, and the flames and smoke made for terrifying moments for motorists trying to escape the area on the fire's first night.

One Twitter user posted frightening footage of a drive through the inferno, with flames coming right to the edge of the road.

'Please stay safe for anyone living close to the 154 and to the firefighters up there right now,' the user said. 'Just made it down safely and my eyes still can't believe what's happening.'

The fire's cause wasn't immediately known.

Fire threatening power transmission lines

Santa Barbara County declared an emergency late Monday, saying in a news release that the fire was beyond the capabilities of the county's firefighters to control alone.

Help has arrived from outside the county. A Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter, for instance, dropped water onto areas near homes, 'stopping those flames as they advanced on those homes,' Eliason told CNN affiliate KSBY.

Fixed-wing aircraft have been dropping retardant onto the area during daylight Tuesday.

Dry vegetation, low humidity and wind gusts of up to 45 mph helped the fire spread Monday night into Tuesday, Los Padres National Forest Fire Chief Jimmy Harris said. Winds were more calm Tuesday -- gusts were expected to reach up to around 15 mph, the National Weather Service said.

Rain is expected, raising concerns about runoff

Rain is likely in the Santa Barbara area from late Tuesday into Thursday, the weather service says.

While that could help extinguish some hotspots, it also could lead to dangerous runoff -- debris and mud flowing across freshly burned areas onto roads, Eliason told KSBY.

Because runoff could flow onto the 154 highway, Eliason suggested that commuters consider approaching Santa Barbara via US 101 instead.

'It doesn't take a lot to impact 154 on a normal rainy day, but with all this (potential) runoff, it's going to create a big problem for drivers,' he told KSBY.

The fire also was threatening Southern California Edison's main transmission lines that provide electricity to the southern portion of Santa Barbara County, officials said.

Some lesser lines have been intentionally powered down because of the fire, Eliason told KSBY. About 1,500 customers were without electricity service Tuesday morning, according to the outage-tracking website poweroutage.us.

While California utilities in recent months have proactively cut power to lessen the chances of wildfires during harsh weather conditions, Santa Barbara's outages were not planned before the fire happened, county officials said.

Santa Barbara City College canceled classes Tuesday and Wednesday because of the fire, as a precaution. Primary and secondary schools in the area already were closed this week for Thanksgiving break.

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 526685

Reported Deaths: 9684
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles1958054760
Riverside38487738
Orange38066653
San Bernardino34017477
San Diego30516568
Kern21228151
Fresno15759138
San Joaquin11958180
Alameda11909192
Santa Clara11030192
Sacramento10174148
Tulare9990193
Imperial9513232
Stanislaus9308135
Contra Costa8176131
Ventura787777
San Francisco698961
Santa Barbara652663
San Mateo5744120
Marin518076
Monterey496634
Merced458351
Kings445356
Solano380638
Sonoma311339
Madera211432
Placer195318
San Luis Obispo192616
Yolo161442
Santa Cruz11964
Butte10128
Napa9809
Sutter8406
San Benito6894
El Dorado6681
Lassen6320
Yuba5334
Shasta3979
Colusa3574
Mendocino3419
Glenn3321
Nevada3161
Tehama2461
Humboldt2454
Lake2111
Mono1451
Tuolumne1442
Amador1370
Calaveras1361
Del Norte900
Siskiyou880
Inyo641
Mariposa592
Plumas330
Trinity50
Modoc40
Sierra30
Alpine20
Unassigned00
Chico
Scattered Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 84°
Oroville
Clear
86° wxIcon
Hi: 89° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 86°
Paradise
Scattered Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 82° Lo: 59°
Feels Like: 84°
Chester
Clear
84° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 84°
Red Bluff
Clear
90° wxIcon
Hi: 92° Lo: 63°
Feels Like: 90°
Willows
Scattered Clouds
84° wxIcon
Hi: 93° Lo: 58°
Feels Like: 84°
Much cooler temperatures and the potential for mountain thunderstorms are ahead in your Wednesday forecast. Thunderstorms will result in increased concerns for fire danger. Much hotter temperatures are ahead for your weekend.
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