Santa Barbara Cave Fire

Yulisa Ramirez-Lopez, Assistant Business Manager

A Santa Barbara California cave fire spread around forests and bushes causing a massive outbreak Nov. 25 at 4 p.m. The state of California ordered people to evacuate their homes to prevent the fire from harming anyone. The fire burned across 4,200 acres of land, threatening homes.

The cave fire was caused by a drought in an area of the southern California mountains. The fire grew dramatically and started heading downhill towards communities in Santa Barbara creating danger to homes and people. Over 5,000 residents were evacuated. Winds of 60 to 70 mph blowing, causing the fire to spread and contaminate the environment.

“The cave fire is creating some of the toughest firefighting conditions anywhere in the world,” said Jim Harris, Los Padres National Forest Fire Chief.

 The land is not only dry because it is the end of the dry season, but also because several offshore wind events have dried the area even more. L.A. Fire Department helicopters dropped water near homes. Fixed-wing aircraft have been dropping retardant, a phosphate fertilizer that helps slow and cool down the fire onto the area during daylight.

 “Stopping those flames as they advanced on those homes,” said Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman. 

Many firefighters were sent to different nearby homes to prevent the fire from getting anywhere near them, and no homes were harmed. Mutual aid started to arrive from neighboring countries to help the local and national forest firefighters. The Ventura County Fire Department sent two strike teams and about 10 fire engines Nov. 24  monday evening. Los Angeles County Fire Department sent a firehawk helicopter, which is capable of performing nighttime water drops. Bulldozers and hand crews were at work throughout the night digging into the dirt to create contaminated lines around the perimeter of the blaze. 

“What’s working in our favor is were getting rain tonight, It’s definitely going to affect our fire behavior …It’s going to diminish the fire,” said Daniel Bertucelli, Santa Barbara County Fire Captain. 

Later that Monday rain hit and helped the fire die down. An inch of rain was expected to hit the fire areas, forming possible debris flows. Fire Officials informed crews about when the rain started in order to have a plan incase roadways were washed out, but were more concerned about small rock slides onto Highway 154. The potential runoff can also create a problem for drivers. Highway 154 was closed due to the danger of driving on that road.

Residents near the cave fire were able to head back home but would have no electricity. Around 1,500 of those residents would not have any power because of the fire. Although California utilities in recent months have proactively cut power to lessen the chances of wildfires during harsh weather conditions, Santa Barbara’s outages were not planned before the fire occurred. Santa Barbara City College canceled classes Tuesday Nov. 26 and Wednesday Nov. 27 because of the fire, as a precaution. Primary and secondary schools were already closed due to Thanksgiving break.