101 Fwy closed north of Santa Barbara as Alisal Fire grows to 13,400 acres, forces evacuations

California

The 101 Freeway remained shut down and evacuation orders were in place as the Alisal Fire spread to more than 12 square miles by Tuesday afternoon after breaking out the previous day along the south coast of Santa Barbara County.

The blaze was 5% contained on Tuesday evening after scorching at least 13,400 acres, according to Daniel Bertucelli, a public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

“Crews will be working overnight to provide structure defense, strengthen existing control lines and implement new ones,” he said in a tweet.

The fire erupted Monday afternoon on a ridge south of Solvang amid strong winds. With gusts up to 70 mph, the winds pushed the fire south over the summit, across the 101 Freeway and into the area of the Refugio and El Capitan state beaches.

The 101 Freeway was forced to close indefinitely between Pacific Coast Highway at Gaviota State Park and Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta. California Highway Patrol advised motorists to take the 5 Freeway as an alternate route, sharing pictures of cars backed up on the congested Highway 154.

The flames are threatening as many as 100 buildings, some of them ranches and homes.

With aircraft grounded due to the high winds Monday, firefighters were stationed to defend homes. Helicopters launched to battle the blaze Tuesday morning, but fixed-wing aircraft remained grounded, officials said.

Evacuation orders were in place Tuesday for several lightly populated areas, including Refugio Canyon, Arroyo Hondo Canyon, and the area between El Capitan Beach State Park and West Camino Cielo.

Evacuation warnings were also in place on either size of the mandatory evacuation zone. To the west a warning covered the area east of El Capitan Beach State Park, west of Dos Pueblos Canyon Road, and south of West Camino Cielo; the eastern warning zone was east of Calle Mariposa Reina, west of Arroyo Hondo, and south of West Camino Cielo.

An evacuation center was set up at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, at 7266 Alameda Ave. Livestock could be taken to the Earn Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. Animal owners who need assistance can call 805-681-4332.

Click here for an evacuation map, and visit readysbc.org for the latest evacuation information.

The flames were spreading in thick, “bone dry” chaparral and being fanned by the strong winds, allowing them to spread rapidly, firefighters said.

A wind advisory was in effect for most of Santa Barbara County until 9 p.m. Tuesday, with gusts expected to reach up to 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

During the afternoon, gusts of up to between 25 and 35 mph were recorded through the area.

The winds were expected to make driving difficult, and motorists were urged to use caution.  

Smoke from the fire was visible across southern Santa Barbara County, including the Santa Ynez Valley and along the Gaviota coastline, officials said.

The winds arrived Monday across most of California as a low-pressure system moved southeast from Oregon. Red flag warnings for critical fire danger were also in effect Tuesday for much of the interior of Northern California.

Destructive wildfires were also burning in the Sacramento area as a result. About 30 structures were destroyed Monday afternoon when flames roared through the Rancho Marina RV Park in Sacramento County, and in San Joaquin County a man suffered burns and about five mobile homes were damaged by flames.

Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to about 24,000 customers in targeted areas of 23 counties to help prevent fires from being started.

The winds also toppled trees, whipped up blinding dust clouds and cut power to thousands across Southern California.

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