Cave Fire: Heat Resistant Blankets Protecting Nearby Centuries-Old Chumash Painted Cave Artworks

As the wind-driven Cave Fire ripped through thousands of acres in Santa Barbara Tuesday, state park officials raced to protect the nearby centuries-old paintings tucked away in a cave at Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park.

A fire blanket covers a small sandstone cave at Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park in Santa Barbara as the Cave Fire burns nearby on Nov. 26, 2019. (Credit: California State Parks)

A fire blanket covers a small sandstone cave at Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park in Santa Barbara as the Cave Fire burns nearby on Nov. 26, 2019. (Credit: California State Parks)

Silver fire blankets were attached to the walls of the small sandstone cave holding some of the oldest paintings created by Chumash Native Americans, according to California State Parks.

The artworks are believed to be anywhere between 500 to 700 years old.

The entrance to the cave is already protected with a heavy iron grill gate to keep vandals away. Photos showed the blankets attached to the entrance, which can be reached by a steep path.

Cave paintings at Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park in Santa Barbara are seen in this undated photo.(Credit: California State Parks)

Cave paintings at Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park in Santa Barbara are seen in this undated photo.(Credit: California State Parks)

Nestled in the hills along Highway 154, the area was designated a state park in the ‘70s in order to protect the paintings.

Though historians don’t know the meaning of the images, state officials have worked to preserve and document the paintings with 3D scans.

No damage was reported at the historic cave Tuesday.

The Cave Fire scorched 4,330 acres, or more than 6.5 square miles , of the rugged Santa Ynez Mountains since igniting Monday in Los Padres National Forest. The blaze threatened thousands of nearby homes as it spread, forcing nearly 5,500 people to evacuate as firefighters battled the flames.

The fire was 10% contained by Tuesday evening.

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