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Cave Fire Jumps Highway 154 And Explodes To 4,200-Acres; Nears Santa Barbara City Limits


SANTA BARBARA (CBSLA) — Firefighters faced major challenges Tuesday as they battled a wind-whipped wildfire which erupted in Santa Barbara County Monday evening and forced mandatory evacuations for thousands of residents. As of 11 a.m. Tuesday, the Cave Fire had burned 4,262 acres and had no containment.

Cave Fire pic
The Cave Fire burns in Santa Barbara County on Nov. 26, 2019. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

"The Cave Fire is burning under some of the toughest firefighting conditions of anywhere in the world," Los Padres National Forest Fire Chief Jim Harris said at a Tuesday morning news conference. "We're at the end of the dry season so the fuels are some of the driest that we have."

No homes have been destroyed and there are no injuries. There is still no word on a cause.

Cave Fire pic
The Cave Fire burns in Santa Barbara County on Nov. 26, 2019. (Mike Eliason/Santa Barbara County Fire Department)

The blaze broke out Monday at about 5 p.m. in the Santa Ynez Mountains area of Los Padres National Forest towards the top of San Marcos Pass, near Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park. It then jumped Highway 154, near the city limits of Santa Barbara.

"It did cross over 154 in a couple places," Harris said. "But they've (the firefighters) been fairly successful at holding that line and then curtailing and getting what did slop over back into where we want to keep it."

Strong winds pushed the Cave Fire toward homes in the foothills, where thousands were ordered to get out. Mandatory evacuations were issued for the area bordered by Camino Cielo Road to the north, Ontare Road to the east, Cathedral Oaks Road to the south and Fairview Avenue to the west.

At least 2,400 homes were threatened and about 6,000 people had been evacuated. Highway 154 was shut down.

Cave Fire evac map
The latest evacuation map for the Cave Fire which is burning in Santa Barbara County on Nov. 26, 2019. (Santa Barbara County)

Overnight Monday, the winds were pushing the fire downhill. When the winds let up, the fire would reverse course and move back uphill.

"They (the winds) pushed the fire downhill last night," Harris said. "The firefighters were trying to get an anchor point up top while trying to protect structures down at the bottom while dealing with spot fires downhill. And then when the wind would let up there would be a slop reversal and the fire would burn back uphill where the guys were trying to anchor up top."

A storm front set to move into the Southland Tuesday night and last through Thanksgiving could bring much need relief for fire crews. The area could see up to two inches of rain.

"The weather will the rain cycle starting later tonight or tomorrow morning," Harris said.

In total, about 600 firefighters from multiple agencies were battling the fire from the ground and in the air using water-dropping choppers and tankers. Fire agencies from Los Angeles County wasted no time in sending resources, including the L.A. County Fire Department and and L.A., Culver City, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica fire departments. The Orange County Fire Authority also sent a strike team of five engines.

An evacuation center was opened at the Goleta Valley Community Center, located at 5679 Hollister Ave.


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