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

Climate
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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