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PHOTOS: Wildfire in Santa Barbara foothills leads to evacuations

A Santa Barbara fire, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.
A Santa Barbara fire, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.
Bryan Mumford
A Santa Barbara fire, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.
A screenshot of the Santa Barbara fire. Santa Barbara officials say 50 acres have already been burned.
A Santa Barbara fire, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.
Screenshot from NBC LA's footage of the fire. Flames flicker through plumes of smoke rising above the Painted Cave area as workers tackle the blaze.
A Santa Barbara fire, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012.
A screen capture of the Santa Barbara fire.

UPDATE 6:50 p.m.: The number of acres burned remains at 25 acres as of the most recent update, but the Lookout Fire is now 40 percent contained. Mandatory evacuations for the Painted Cave area have been lifted, but warning evacuations remain in effect for West Camino Cielo, Hidden Valley and Trout Club. Officials say the fire has the potential to grow to 100 acres.

One injury has been reported: a leg injury from a rolling rock.

— Mike Roe

UPDATE 2:38 p.m.: Ted Adams of the San Marcos Volunteer Fire Department said hand crews are having a difficult time building a line to surround the fire because of the rugged terrain. He said there's no containment estimate at this time since the fire is burning on an almost vertical slope.

"That means that any kind of blowup could bring the fire rapidly up into the community or into the ranch next door," Adams said.

Helicopters have been dropping water from above to try and get a leg up before predicted winds begin this afternoon.

"People that are interested in evacuating evacauted this morning," Adams said. "The rest of us are pretty well prepared to stay during a fire and deal with it as it comes."

About a hundred homes that sit above the fire received automatic phone calls this morning to evacuate their homes, but Adams said he’s not sure how many people heard those calls because phone lines have been out.  

UPDATE 11:57 a.m.: Firefighters now report that about 20 to 25 acres have burned, a downgrade from an initial estimate of 50 acres. The flames are now headed up a steep, rocky slope, which has slowed the spread of the fire. Because the fire is burning on almost vertical terrain, firefighters have been unable to get hand crews in to build a line to surround the fire. They are dropping water from above and don't have an estimate on how much of the fire is contained.

About 100 homeowners received reverse 9-1-1 calls encouraging them to leave. Deputies also went door to door telling some people to leave the Painted Cave area (see map below), an isolated mix of cabins and homes near a rocky ridge, said Santa Barbara County sheriff's Sgt. Mark Williams.

Four helicopters and two air tankers are aiding firefighters, who are trying to knock down the flames before the expected arrival of stronger winds later today.

UPDATE 9:57 a.m.: Andrew Madsen is the spokesman for Los Padres National Forest. He says the fire has burned about 50 acres as of 9:30 a.m.

The cause is unknown.

“Initial reports were a downed power line fell into some heavy, dead, and decadent brush and took off on a big run,” Madsen said. “There’s a lot of dead brush up in this area. This is also very close to the Painted Cave Fire in 1990 which ran all the way down the hill here to the 101 freeway.”

 That deadly fire started in the afternoon in high winds and burned into the city. This time around, Madsen said that firefighters are more prepared.

 “We have ordered eight airships. We had one on scene to relay down what the fire’s doing to guys on the ground,” he said. “We have a lot of helicopters here dropping water and hand crews and engines in route from other forests.”

Officials plan to use as many resources at their disposal to extinguish the flames before they reach the more populated areas.

“As additional resources become available, folks in the area are going to be seeing a lot of air activity, a lot of retardant on this, because we want to beat this thing down before the winds pick up,” Madsen said.


Sheriff's deputies are going door to door telling people to leave the Painted Cave area, a mix of cabins and homes near a rocky ridge. 


PREVIOUSLY: Evacuations have been ordered as a wildfire burns above homes in Santa Barbara Wednesday morning.

Fire officials say the 10-acre blaze is growing rapidly and burning close to homes. It's unclear how many structures are threatened and the cause is unknown.

Six air tankers have been called in. The National Weather Service says winds are light but they could gust to 20 mph later in the day. Fire danger is elevated due to unusually dry weather. The warning has been issued from California's Central Coast south to Los Angeles County.

The Painted Cave area was the scene of another fire in 1990 that killed one person and burned about 550 homes over 7 1/2 square miles.

The fire was reported about 8 a.m. near the prosperous, scenic coastal city sandwiched between picturesque beaches and towering, heavily wooded mountains. 

Live stream of the fire here.

View Santa Barbara Wildfire in a larger map