SANTA BARBARA (CBSLA) – Firefighters Wednesday were continuing to battle a growing brush fire which sparked west of Santa Barbara, threatened homes and shut down a portion of Highway 101.
The Alisal Fire broke out before 2:30 p.m. Monday amid powerful winds near Alisal Lake in the Santa Ynez Mountains. It was burning in dense chaparral, brush and grass, with thick smoke visible throughout the county. There was no word of a cause.
At last report Wednesday morning, the fire had burned 14,500 acres with 5% containment. It is burning in an area that has not seen a wildfire since 1955.
"Couple that with 40 to 50 mile per hour winds, extensive drought and steep topography," a Santa Barbara County Fire Department official told CBSLA Tuesday. "It's just the perfect storm of a fire that is going to be very challenging to contain and to control."
Smoke from the fire is expected to drift into coastal areas of Ventura and Los Angeles counties, the National Weather Service reported Wednesday.
Highway 101 is closed from Highway 1 at Las Cruces, to Winchester Canyon Road in Goleta. Amtrak and Pacific Railroad lines are closed between Gaviota and Goleta.
Early Tuesday morning, the fire jumped from the east side to the west side of Highway 101, and flames burned along the Gaviota Coast, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Department (SBCFD) spokesperson Mike Eliason.
A stunning image posted Tuesday by Eliason showed firefighters battling flames off Calle Real and Refugio Road, just north of Refugio State Beach.
More than 1,400 personnel with the U.S. Forest Service, SBCFD and other agencies are battling the blaze on the ground and in the air. Crews were finally able to resume air attacks on the blaze Tuesday afternoon. Aircraft were grounded all day Monday and Tuesday morning due to the dangerous winds.
Evacuation orders are in place for Arroyo Hondo Canyon, Refugio Canyon, and the area between El Capitan Beach State Park and West Camino Cielo. Between 100 and 120 structures were threatened, including ranch homes.
A temporary evacuation center was set up at the parking lot of Dos Pueblos High School, located at 7266 Alameda Avenue in Goleta.
Santa Barbara County Animal Services was assisting with animal evacuations. Livestock could be taken to the Earl Warren Showgrounds and animal owners could call 805-681-4332 if assistance is needed to evacuate animals.
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