A growing bushfire near Santa Barbara is causing evacuations as gusts set flames on rugged terrain that hasn’t burned in decades.
The Alisal fire broke out on Monday afternoon, and by 6 p.m. it had reached more than 1,000 acres, according to Andrew Madsen, spokesperson for the Los Padres National Forest.
The spread of the flames, meanwhile, prompted authorities to close Highway 101 between Pacific Coast Highway and Winchester Canyon / Cathedral Oaks Road, around 5:30 p.m., according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
Madsen said the Alisal fire is caused by gusts of wind that raise embers and cause point fires, which then spread rapidly.
Early Monday evening, the gusts were measured at 40 to 50 mph, the spokesperson said. It is estimated that the gusts could reach up to 70 mph overnight.
“A few hundred” firefighters were either at the scene or en route early Monday evening, Madsen said. Resource orders are in place for another 200 firefighters, who are expected to arrive overnight.
The teams are focusing on protecting homes and other structures in the area, he said.
In addition to strong winds, the amount of fuel available concerns firefighters.
Madsen said the area is believed to last burned down during the 1955 Refugio fire, which ravaged nearly 80,000 acres.
But the crews might be lucky on their side this time around.
Alisal’s fire appears to be moving southeast. If that movement continues, it will come up against the burn scar left by the 2016 Sherpa fire, Madsen said, giving crews a chance to better control and contain the blaze.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office quickly issued evacuation orders for the Arroyo Hondo, Tajiguas, and Arroyo Quemada area. The order was later expanded to include Refugio Canyon.
Santa Barbara County Animal Services has activated its response to the fires. All residents who require assistance evacuating their animals should call (805) 681-4332.
This is news in development and will be updated as more information becomes available.