A growing brush fire near Santa Barbara is prompting evacuations as gusty conditions drive flames through rough terrain that hasn’t burned in decades.
The Alisal fire broke out Monday and quickly grew to at least 50 to 100 acres, according to the Los Padres National Forest.
Shortly before 6 p.m., authorities were estimating the fire had grown to more than 1,000 acres, said Andrew Madsen, a spokesman for the National Forest.
Spreading flames, meanwhile, prompted officials to shut down the 101 Freeway between Pacific Coast Highway and Winchester Canyon/Cathedral Oaks Road, around 5:30 p.m., according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
Madsen said the Alisal fire is being driven by gusty winds that whip up embers and cause spot fires, which then spread rapidly.
As of early Monday night, gusts were measured at 40 to 50 mph, the spokesman said. It’s estimated gusts could reach as high as 70 mph overnight.
“A couple hundred” firefighters were on scene or on their way as of early Monday night, Madsen said. Resource orders are in place for another 200 firefighters, who are expected to arrive overnight.
Crews are concentrating on protection of homes and other structures in the area, he said.
In addition to strong winds, the amount of available fuel concerns firefighters.
Madsen said it’s believed the last time the area burned was during the 1955 Refugio fire, which tore through nearly 80,000 acres.
But crews could have some luck on their side.
The Alisal fire appears to be moving to the southeast. If that movement continues, it’ll run into the burn scar left by the 2016 Sherpa fire, Madsen said, giving crews a chance to better control and contain the blaze.
The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office quickly issued evacuation orders for the area of Arroyo Hondo, Tajiguas and Arroyo Quemada. The order was later expanded to include Refugio Canyon.
Santa Barbara County Animal Services activated its fire response. Any residents who need help evacuating their animals should call (805) 681-4332.
This is a developing news story and will be updated as more information becomes available.