Cave Fire In Santa Barbara: 4,330 Acres Burned; Containment At 10%

A Santa Barbara city firefighter battles flames from the Cave Fire near a home off Cieneguitas Road in Santa Barbara on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. (Courtesy Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department )

NOTE: This story is no longer being updated.

A fast-moving wildfire is burning in the foothills north of Santa Barbara, threatening homes in the city and nearby communities.

By late Monday, Santa Barbara County officials had declared a local emergency, asking for outside assistance and noting that "these conditions are beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of the combined forces of the county's Operational Area to combat."

The Cave Fire started just days ahead of forecasts of heavy rains in much of Southern California. As of 9 p.m. Monday, it had swelled to 3,000 acres, Santa Barbara County officials said in their local emergency declaration.

By shortly after 4 p.m. Tuesday, the fire had burned through about 4,330 acres and was 10% contained.

Earlier in the day, fire officials said the flames were spreading north into the Los Padres National Forest.

"The Cave Fire is burning under some of the toughest firefighting conditions anywhere in the world," said Jimmy Harris, a fire chief for the U.S. Forest Service at Los Padres National Forest, at a Tuesday press conference. Offshore winds pushed the fire in different directions overnight, complicating firefighters' containment efforts.

The fire is burning in one of the last slots of old vegetation, which makes it "something of a nightmare spot," Harris said, adding that last time the area burned was during the Painted Cave Fire in 1990.

Rain forecast to fall early Wednesday in Santa Barbara County will allow firefighters to get a handle on the blaze, officials said. Officials' main concern with regard to the rain is the potential for rock slides along Highway 154 rather than mudslides.

The fire was also threatening Southern California Edison's main transmission lines, county officials said. Power outages have been reported in unincorporated areas between the cities of Goleta and Santa Barbara, along Highway 154 through Mission Canyon, and in parts of nearby Summerland and Carpinteria.

THE BASICS

  • Acres burned: 4,330 (as of 4 p.m. Tuesday)
  • Containment: 10%
  • Structures destroyed: Reports of 1 outbuilding destroyed
  • Injuries: None yet reported
  • Structures threatened: N/A
  • Resources deployed: 600 firefighters on scene
Santa Barbara County firefighters battle flames off Highway154 north of Santa Barbara on Monday, Nov. 25, 2019. (Courtesy Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department )

EVACUATIONS

Evacuation orders have been changing quickly with this fire. See real-time evacuation maps here >>

Our friends at the Los Angeles Times also have an updating map of the Cave Fire >>

Just before noon, the evacuation order for the areas west of Patterson to Fairview and North of Cathedral Oaks was lifted, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office said. Other areas remain under an evacuation order

As of 8 a.m. Tuesday, evacuation warnings have been issued for the following areas:

  • North of Foothill Road from Ontare Road to Gibraltar Road
  • West of Highway 154 to El Sueno, below Cathedral Oaks to Calle Real

Authorities advise residents in those areas to stay alert and "be prepared to evacuate if conditions change."

EVACUATION CENTERS

For people:

  • Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Rd.

For animals:

  • Hotline: 805-681-4332
  • Small Animals: Goleta Animal Shelter, 5473 Overpass Rd.
  • Large Animals: Earl Warren Showgrounds, 3400 Calle Real, Santa Barbara

WEATHER CONDITIONS AND AIR QUALITY

Smoke from the Cave Fire blots out the sun as flames burn north into the Los Padres National Forest near Santa Barbara on Tuesday, Nov. 26, 2019. (Courtesy Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

Strong wind conditions in the region's mountains made for a volatile night of firefighting. According to National Weather Service officials, wind gusts near the fire hit 27 mph.

As of Tuesday morning, the strong winds have mostly subsided, forecasters said, though in some isolated mountain areas, gusts reached up to 80 mph.

Santa Barbara County's Air Pollution Control District and Public Health Department jointly issued an air quality warning Tuesday due to heavy smoke from the fire.

ROAD CLOSURES

Highway 154 has been closed indefinitely between state routes 246 and 192, according to Caltrans officials. The 101 Freeway is being used as an alternative route, so expect even heavier holiday traffic through the region.

SCHOOL CLOSURES

Santa Barbara City College closed its three campuses and canceled classes for Nov. 26 and 27.

THE BACKGROUND

The Cave Fire broke out in the late afternoon Monday in the hills north of Foothill Road in Santa Barbara and quickly spread. It was first reported shortly after 4 p.m. as a vegetation fire on East Camino Cielo near Painted Cave. The first evacuation orders were issued when the fire was still small — about 15 acres — when authorities at the scene reported it as a wind-driven fire making its way "down canyon."

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

For the latest information straight from local emergency officials, check the following websites and social media accounts:

SCENES ON THE GROUND

Flames from the Cave Fire burn toward Highway 154 early Tuesday morning east of Painted Cave Road in Santa Barbara County. (Santa Barbara County Fire)
An L.A. County Firehawk helicopter makes a water drop on flames off CA Highway 154 north of Foothill Rd. (Courtesy of Santa Barbara County Fire)

HOW WE REPORTED ON THIS

Reporter Jacob Margolis (follow Jacob on Twitter) was at the scene of the fire starting at 6:30 a.m. LAist's Ryan Fonseca and Brian Frank kept this post updated. In addition, KPCC producers Pablo Cabrera and Brianna Flores reported from the station.

NOTE: This story was initially published at 8 a.m.

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