Firefighters battling a massive blaze in Santa Barbara are facing persistent difficulties as temperatures are expected to remain at the low 80s for the first part of the week. The fire has grown to more than 50,000 acres as dry Santa Ana winds continue to trigger evacuation orders in Santa Barbara County. A wildfire is raging through the foothills of Southern California, forcing thousands to evacuate, drawing hundreds of firefighters in and trying to prevent the flames from spreading to homes.
The fire, which spans Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, was 10 percent contained by Sunday night, authorities said. By Tuesday evening, it had burned more than 50,000 acres, or about 50 percent of the original size of the fire, and was 10 percent contained, according to the California Fire Department.
The steep, rocky terrain in the area has posed challenges to crews, and firefighters face increasing difficulties as winds pick up speed throughout the day, Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Bill Brown told the Los Angeles Times. The fire at the cave was caused by "a combination of strong winds, dry vegetation and low humidity," authorities wrote in a statement released early Tuesday morning. By Friday night, the fire was 65 percent contained, but authorities warned residents to be cautious. That warning has since been lifted, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection said.
The Santa Barbara County Fire Department said that containment of the blaze had increased to 60 percent Monday morning. The fire was 10% contained late Tuesday and will be fully contained by Wednesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Although residents were not injured, Santa Maria Fire Chief Bill Brown and Santa Ana Fire Department officials tweeted that no buildings were destroyed and no one was hurt.
Firefighters have brought several other wildfires in the area under control, including the Gap Fire in Goleta and the Santa Ana Fan Fire near Santa Barbara. While the fire is burning in Monterey County, fire officials say it has burned nearly 10,000 acres near Goletsa and broke out about two weeks ago.
Once again, this part of Santa Barbara County, with its history, was well served as a buffer between wildfires and the city. The locally documented history of the fires began with the 1955 Refugio fire, which burned 79,428 hectares, including more than 1,500 hectares in the San Luis Obispo district. Later that year, the Rey fire burned 32,600 hectares, destroyed five buildings, caused significant damage and started in a remote area of the Santa Ynez Valley, north of Goleta. In July and August 2007, the Zaca fire scorched nearly 2,000 acres near the town of Carpinteria, about 30 miles south of San Diego.
The Thomas fire has also contributed to the loss of more than 2,000 homes in Santa Barbara County, according to county authorities. The fire also threatened the power grid that supplies the southern part of Santa Maria and parts of Carpinteria as well as the county's water supply, authorities said. While California utilities typically cut off power to reduce the risk of wildfires in harsh weather, the Santa Barbara blackout was not planned because the fire broke out in the middle of the day, not at the end of a day or even at the beginning of a day. District officials say it was planned as a precaution to reduce the likelihood of wildfires in the harsher weather conditions.
The fire had spread from Santa Barbara north to Los Angeles in December 2017 and had moved to the south side of the Santa Maria Valley north of Carpinteria against the advice of residents.
According to the department, also known as Cal Fire, the most recent fire for which reliable records are kept is the Cedar Fire, which burned in 2003. Santa Barbara was threatened by the rapidly growing Thomas Fire in December 2017, when thousands of firefighters battled several wildfires in the Santa Maria Valley north of Carpinteria and south of Los Angeles. The so-called Thomas Fire had burned more than 1,000 acres of land in Southern California since it broke out on December 4, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CalFire). The massive Thomas Fire, one of several infernos burning in Southern California, eventually burned nearly 282,000 acres before it could be contained and was the second-largest fire in California history after the Cedar Fire, which burned from 2003 to 2006.
On Sunday, authorities said the fire damaged 135 buildings and destroyed 524 in the city of Ventura, Calif., and surrounding counties. The Thomas Fire, which has been raging in Santa Barbara County since December 4, has destroyed 1,073 reported buildings and damaged about 280 others, according to CalFire.
So far, no homes have burned and only one apartment building has been destroyed, according to CalFire. As a result of working with homeowners during the fire, SERVPRO Santa Barbara has gained a better understanding of the right way to restore homes due to fire damage. Customers can now rely on 911 in Santa Maria to assist them throughout the fire recovery phase.