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A wind-driven brush fire that started late Monday afternoon near Highway 154 in Santa Barbara County moved quickly downhill, prompting mandatory evacuations and threatening homes.

The Cave fire started just after 4 p.m. near East Camino Cielo and Painted Cave Road in Los Padres National Forest and by 9 p.m. had grown to at least 3,122 acres, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

Within three hours of starting, the fire had burned down to the top of Cieneguitas Road near the San Marcos Foothills Preserve, according to Santa Barbara city’s Office of Emergency Services.

It initially moved into a few canyons and rapidly expanded as it was pushed south by 15-mph down-canyon winds with 30-mph gusts. By 7:30 p.m., the fire was spotting in front of itself and had started at least one spot fire near Highway 154 and Cathedral Oaks Road, said Mike Eliason, a public information officer with the department.

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