Freeway closed north of Santa Barbara as fire grows to 8,000 acres, forces evacuations

Wildfire Watch

(KTLA) — The 101 Freeway remained shut down and evacuation orders were in place as the Alisal Fire spread to more than 12 square miles by Tuesday morning after breaking out the previous afternoon along the south coast of Santa Barbara County.

The blaze remained completely uncontained Tuesday after scorching at least 8,000 acres, U.S. Forest Service officials said on InciWeb.

The fire erupted Monday afternoon on a ridge south of Solvang amid strong winds. With gusts up to 70 mph, the winds pushed the fire south over the summit, across the 101 Freeway and into the area of the Refugio and El Capitan state beaches.

The 101 Freeway was forced to close indefinitely between Pacific Coast Highway at Gaviota State Park and Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta. California Highway Patrol advised motorists to take the 5 Freeway as an alternate route, sharing pictures of cars backed up on the congested Highway 154.

The flames are threatening as many as 100 buildings, some of them ranches and homes. With aircraft grounded due to the high winds, firefighters were stationed to defend homes, officials said.

Evacuation orders remained in place Tuesday for several lightly populated areas, including Refugio Canyon, Arroyo Hondo, Tajiguas and Arroyo Quemada, as well as El Capitan State Park and the state park’s campground.

An evacuation warning was also in place for the area north of El Capitan Campground and east to Dos Pueblos Canyon. 

An evacuation center was set up at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta, at 7266 Alameda Ave. Livestock could be taken to the Earn Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara. Animal owners who need assistance can call 805-681-4332.

Visit readysbc.org for the latest evacuation information.

The flames were spreading in thick, “bone dry” chaparral and being fanned by the strong winds, allowing them to spread rapidly, firefighters said.

A wind advisory was in effect for most of Santa Barbara County until 9 p.m. Tuesday, with gusts expected to reach up to 45 mph, according to the National Weather Service. The winds were expected to make driving difficult, and motorists were urged to use caution.  

Smoke from the fire was visible across southern Santa Barbara County, including the Santa Ynez Valley and along the Gaviota coastline, officials said.

The winds arrived Monday across most of California as a low-pressure system moved southeast from Oregon. Red flag warnings for critical fire danger were also in effect Tuesday for much of the interior of Northern California.

Destructive wildfires were also burning in the Sacramento area as a result. About 30 structures were destroyed Monday afternoon when flames roared through the Rancho Marina RV Park in Sacramento County, and in San Joaquin County a man suffered burns and about five mobile homes were damaged by flames.

Pacific Gas & Electric shut off power to about 24,000 customers in targeted areas of 23 counties to help prevent fires from being started.

The winds also toppled trees, whipped up blinding dust clouds and cut power to thousands across Southern California.

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