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Santa Barbara Wildfire Burns 3,000 Acres in Five Hours, Forces 6,300 to Flee

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Santa Barbara Wildfire Burns 3,000 Acres in Five Hours, Forces 6,300 to Flee
The Cave Fire ignited shortly after 4 p.m. near Highway 154 and grew to at least 3,122 acres by 9 p.m. Santa Barbara County Fire Info

The county of Santa Barbara, California proclaimed a local emergency after a wildfire spread more than 3,000 acres in five hours Monday night.


The so-called Cave Fire ignited shortly after 4 p.m. near Highway 154 and grew to at least 3,122 acres by 9 p.m., the Los Angeles Times reported. It is zero percent contained, threatens 2,400 structures and has forced 6,300 people to evacuate, according to the KEYT News Team.

"The Cave Fire is causing conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within the County of Santa Barbara," the emergency proclamation said.

The evacuation order covered a five-mile-wide stretch of land, according to the Los Angeles Times. The fire became more dangerous as it moved downhill, driven by canyon winds of 15 miles per hour and 30 mile-per-hour gusts.

"As this fire gets pushed down canyon, it's going to start getting closer to homes," Santa Barbara County Fire (SBCF) Department public information officer Mike Eliason told the Los Angeles Times.

Santa Barbara also requested that California Gov. Gavin Newsom declare a State of Emergency. The county received fire-fighting support from nearby Ventura County, which said it was sending two strike teams of engines, and from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, which battled the flames from a Firehawk water-dropping helicopter, NBC 7 San Diego reported. As of 9:25 p.m., more than 500 firefighters were combating the blaze, according to KSBY News.

SBCF Capt. Daniel Bertucelli told the Los Angeles Times that he did not yet know if any homes had been destroyed.

"We're going to fight fire throughout the night, and tomorrow when the sun comes up, we'll get a better understanding of what sort of damage we have," he said.

It is possible that one structure on Old San Marcos Road caught fire, according to KEYT.

The fire comes almost 30 years after the destructive Painted Cave Fire burned 5,000 acres in the same mountains, NBC 7 San Diego reported, taking one life and damaging 427 homes. The old brush in the area had not burned since then, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Wildfire risk in California has increased because of the climate crisis: 15 of the state's 20 largest fires post-1930 have occurred since 2000, as temperatures rise and snow melts earlier in the Western U.S., leading to dryer conditions.

"What we're seeing in California right now is more destructive, larger fires burning at rates that we have historically never seen," Assistant Chief with San Mateo County Fire Department Jonathan Cox said, according to a climate change fact sheet prepared by the Event Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

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An aerial view taken on August 8, 2020 shows a large patch of leaked oil from the MV Wakashio off the coast of Mauritius. STRINGER / AFP / Getty Images

The tiny island nation of Mauritius, known for its turquoise waters, vibrant corals and diverse ecosystem, is in the midst of an environmental catastrophe after a Japanese cargo ship struck a reef off the country's coast two weeks ago. That ship, which is still intact, has since leaked more than 1,000 metric tons of oil into the Indian Ocean. Now, a greater threat looms, as a growing crack in the ship's hull might cause the ship to split in two and release the rest of the ship's oil into the water, NPR reported.

On Friday, Prime Minister Pravind Jugnauth declared a state of environmental emergency.

France has sent a military aircraft carrying pollution control equipment from the nearby island of Reunion to help mitigate the disaster. Additionally, Japan has sent a six-member team to assist as well, the BBC reported.

The teams are working to pump out the remaining oil from the ship, which was believed to be carrying 4,000 metric tons of fuel.

"We are expecting the worst," Mauritian Wildlife Foundation manager Jean Hugues Gardenne said on Monday, The Weather Channel reported. "The ship is showing really big, big cracks. We believe it will break into two at any time, at the maximum within two days. So much oil remains in the ship, so the disaster could become much worse. It's important to remove as much oil as possible. Helicopters are taking out the fuel little by little, ton by ton."

Sunil Dowarkasing, a former strategist for Greenpeace International and former member of parliament in Mauritius, told CNN that the ship contains three oil tanks. The one that ruptured has stopped leaking oil, giving disaster crews time to use a tanker and salvage teams to remove oil from the other two tanks before the ship splits.

By the end of Tuesday, the crew had removed over 1,000 metric tons of oil from the ship, NPR reported, leaving about 1,800 metric tons of oil and diesel, according to the company that owns the ship. So far the frantic efforts are paying off. Earlier today, a local police chief told BBC that there were still 700 metric tons aboard the ship.

The oil spill has already killed marine animals and turned the turquoise water black. It's also threatening the long-term viability of the country's coral reefs, lagoons and shoreline, NBC News reported.

"We are starting to see dead fish. We are starting to see animals like crabs covered in oil, we are starting to see seabirds covered in oil, including some which could not be rescued," said Vikash Tatayah, conservation director at Mauritius Wildlife Foundation, according to The Weather Channel.

While the Mauritian authorities have asked residents to leave the clean-up to officials, locals have organized to help.

"People have realized that they need to take things into their hands. We are here to protect our fauna and flora," environmental activist Ashok Subron said in an AFP story.

Reuters reported that sugar cane leaves, plastic bottles and human hair donated by locals are being sewn into makeshift booms.

Human hair absorbs oil, but not water, so scientists have long suggested it as a material to contain oil spills, Gizmodo reported. Mauritians are currently collecting as much human hair as possible to contribute to the booms, which consist of tubes and nets that float on the water to trap the oil.

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