More than 100 buildings are threatened and more than 1,200 acres have burned in a Santa Barbara County wildfire that could be pushed deeper into the brush Tuesday by dangerously strong winds.
The so-called White fire appears to have started near a campsite in the Los Padres National Forest at about 2:30 p.m. Monday.
The blaze was only 10% contained Tuesday morning and the U.S. Forest Service predicted firefighters wouldn’t gain full control over it until next week. About 1,000 campers and 4,000 mountain residents were evacuated Monday.
More than 275 firefighters -- from the county, nearby cities and the U.S. Forest Service -- are battling the flames with the help of about a dozen aircraft. Highway 154, Paradise Road and other trails in the forest have been closed.
The U.S. Forest Service said there is “extreme” potential for the fire to grow, with the rough terrain plus fuel – chaparral, grass, brush and trees – making the blaze unpredictable.
Witnesses reported seeing a giant plume of smoke rising over the mountains and blanketing Santa Barbara, where health officials were urging residents to stay inside because of the poor air quality.
"The sky was completely red, and you could just see red sunlight coming through,” resident Michael Devlin, 43, said. “It’s pretty scary.
“I’ve got my little dog, and he’s ready if I need to pack him to leave,” Devlin added.
Firefighters had to ground their air attack Monday afternoon because of the high winds and were expected to restart their drops Tuesday morning. The National Weather Service forecast winds in the area up to 40 mph with wind gusts up to 50 mph. Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-70s but will climb through the rest of the week.
Smaller fires could ignite up to a half mile away from the central fire, officials said.
The fire also swept through a Forest Service outpost, damaging a building and partially burning a service vehicle, agency spokesman Andrew Madsen said. No firefighters were there because they were out fighting the fire.
“It ran right through our compound,” Madsen said.
The American Red Cross set up an evacuation center, and another center was set up for displaced horses which were then put up in area stables.
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