Wildfire near Lake Cachuma spreads to more than 17,000 acres

LAKE CACHUMA, Calif. (KABC) -- A fast-moving brush fire in northern Santa Barbara County near Lake Cachuma continued to grow in size overnight, reducing the percentage of containment from firefighters on Saturday.

The blaze, dubbed the Whittier Fire, started July 8 along Highway 154 and burned about 330 acres near Camp Whittier. The fire spread quickly and prompted evacuations at campsites in the area and homes along the corridor.

As of Friday night, the blaze had charred more than 13,000 acres. By 6:45 a.m. Saturday, Forest Service officials said the blaze burned 17,364 acres.

More than 1,600 firefighters, including teams from Los Angeles and Orange County, were working to stop the spread of the blaze, which went from 52 percent containment down to 35 percent. The drop in containment percentage is due to the growth in the fire, officials said. Additional fire crews have been called to help in the firefight.

Approximately 2,700 residents near the burn area were evacuated. Nathan Corman was one of those people.

"We're always concerned when there's a fire in our backyard," he said. "We're glad that there's no wind, that the wind is basically dead calm. If they stay that way, we should make it through the night OK."

Mandatory evacuation orders remained in place for the following areas:

  • Highway 154 from Armour Ranch Road on the west to Paradise Road on the east
  • Paradise Road from the highway east to the first river crossing
  • West Camino Cielo from the Winchester Gun Club east of Highway 154
  • Kinevan Road, including the Rosario Park
  • All of Stagecoach Road
  • All of Winchester Canyon Road, except for the community of Wagon Wheel and Langlo Ranch Road, west of El Capitan Ranch Road
  • Calle Real north of West Camino Cielo from Winchester Canyon Road on the east to El Capitan Ranch Road on the west

Fire crews were concerned about a forecasted Sundowner Wind event producing wind gusts of 25 to 30 mph through passes and gaps in the upper areas of the fire.

The cause of the blaze remains unknown.
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