Sherpa fire in Santa Barbara County started by hot embers from burning log

A firefighter ducks as the wind changes direction and blows ember toward crews fighting the Sherpa fire in Goleta.
(Marcus Yam / Los Angeles Times)

A blaze that consumed more than 7,000 acres in Santa Barbara County started last June when a man tried to put out a burning log on a windy day and hot embers dropped onto the brush, fire officials said Wednesday.

The Rancho La Scherpa resident was burning the log in his fireplace when the winds picked up and sent smoke into his home, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. When the man carried the burning log to an outdoor water faucet, embers fell onto the ground and sparked the blaze.

The department said the Sherpa fire was accidental.

The blaze quickly spread from Rancho La Scherpa, a retreat in the Los Padres National Forest, to nearby canyons and triggered evacuations of neighboring communities.


Named after the ranch, the Sherpa fire raced through a combustive mix of chaparral, tall grass and brush in a wilderness area that had not experienced a major fire since 1955.

The 7,474-acre fire burned in Santa Barbara County and Los Padres National Forest for nearly a month.

In January, heavy rains overwhelmed the burn area, triggering mudslides and flooding at a campground along El Capitan State Beach.

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