Evacuation Orders Lifted for Most in Wildfire on California Coast

(CN) – A late November wildfire fanned by gusty winds spread through Los Padres National Forest north of the coastal city of Santa Barbara, California and grew to 4,330 acres by Tuesday evening – but help came in the form of a rainstorm overnight.

Flames from the Cave Fire flare above a fire truck in Los Padres National Forest, Calif., near Santa Barbara, California, on Tuesday. (AP Photo/Noah Berger)

The Cave Fire was first reported around 4 p.m. Monday and quickly spread due to 40 mph winds Monday night into Tuesday morning. The winds carried the blaze about four miles toward the San Marcos Foothills Preserve, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

About 4,500 people were ordered to flee their homes, according to fire officials. So far no homes have been destroyed and most residents were allowed to return home Wednesday morning.

Containment grew to 20% Wednesday morning. The cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Aline Sinai from San Francisco had just arrived at her motel in Santa Barbara on Monday evening when she received an evacuation alert.

Sinai is visiting her friend, Santa Barbara resident Wanda Romero, who estimates she’s about a mile from the fire.

“It’s close to the house,” Romero said at the Red Cross evacuation shelter in the neighboring city of Goleta. Romero had not been ordered to leave her home yet, but she and Sinai were at the shelter picking up particulate masks to protect from the poor air quality. As they left, more ash fell on the ground.

Some residents ordered to leave their homes had so much on their mind, like what they did and did not grab before they left. Joe and Clarice Treiber left their home in the Painted Cave community around 7 p.m. Monday and drove to a Target parking lot, but security woke them up around 1 a.m.

“The problem is we didn’t know where to go,” said Clarice Treiber as she waited for an evening update Tuesday at the Red Cross shelter.

“First, well, I didn’t think it was a big deal,” she said. “Then some time passes and there were flames out our windows.”

Joe Treiber said the southerly winds picked up at sunset and sent the blaze racing downhill toward the community.

The couple moved into their home in 1990 after most of the canyon had been blackened by the Painted Cave Fire that burned through the area that summer. Their home was one of the few on their street that survived.

Now Clarice Treiber is worried about all the meat in her refrigerator at home, including a turkey she set to thaw before she left.

“Hopefully the power didn’t go out and we can still have Thanksgiving,” she said.

The burning hillsides smolder as Chyanne Garcia picked up a set of face masks. She held on to the hands of her two children and said she’s getting ready in case her family is ordered to flee.

“We just want to make sure we have all the necessities,” said Garcia, who was also getting masks for her husband and mother who have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “I have to make sure they’re not outside. We just moved, so we’re repacking again in the event something happens.”

Firefighters continue to battle the fire along Highway 154 north of the cities Goleta and Santa Barbara. They’re about to get help from Mother Nature, however, with a strong storm baring down on the Golden State expected to arrive in the area by Tuesday night.

But rain across the burn scar could also cause debris and mud to slide onto the highway, emergency officials warned.

The Painted Cave community in the unincorporated part of Santa Barbara County near a state historic park with the same name has been given evacuation orders, according to fire officials. The order affects over 2,000 structures.

The Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park is reported to be unharmed at this time. a California State Parks ranger said.

Parts of southern Santa Barbara County have lost power due to the fire, which coincided with a planned power shutoff by the utility company.

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