Firefighters were desperately battling fast-moving wildfires burning through the hills just outside Santa Barbara Tuesday morning, attempting to keep the fire outside of city limits as residents evacuated along highways surrounded by flames.
The Cave Fire, a blaze at least 3,100 acres large and 0% contained, is burning dangerously close to homes in Santa Barbara, prompting mandatory evacuations of 2,400 homes and cutting power to residents in the southern part of Santa Barbara County. The fire sparked at around 4 p.m. Monday in the Santa Ynez Mountains in an area that hasn’t burned since 1990.
Capt. Daniel Bertucelli, a Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesperson, told the Los Angeles Times that he could see the fire growing as he drove along Highway 154 on Monday night. He was driving at 55 mph, and the fire was moving at about the same speed, he said.
As of Monday night, it wasn’t clear whether the fire had damaged any homes. But the county declared a local state of emergency, and neighboring counties sent what help they could.
Thankfully, a winter storm was expected to bring rain to the area on Tuesday, which, if it shows up, will help tame the blaze.
“Hopefully Mother Nature will help us out tomorrow,” Bertucelli said.
Already, firefighting forces were at the scene in numbers. A helicopter dropped water on the flames from above, aided by a “Firehawk” firefighting plane, according to the local ABC affiliate. Multiple fire crews battled the fire from the ground.
The fire was raging through dense brush that hasn’t burned since the Painted Cave fire in 1990, propelled by a dry breeze.
Sitting at a restaurant outside in Southern California, with fires in the hills in sight, feels to some like it’s an increasingly frequent occurrence.
That’s because fires in California are happening more often. Human-caused climate change makes fires in the western U.S. bigger, more intense, and more frequent. Between 1972 to 2018, annual area burned in California’s summertime forest fires increased eight times, according to research published in July.
Cover: Wind blows embers as the Cave Fire burns a hillside in Santa Barbara, California, on Nov. 26, 2019. (Photo by KYLE GRILLOT/AFP via Getty Images)