Sherpa Fire in Santa Barbara County grows to 1,400 acres, 101 Fwy closed

ByMarc Cota-Robles, Rob Hayes, and staff via KABC logo
Friday, June 17, 2016
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A fast-moving brush fire that broke out in Santa Barbara County grew to more than 1,000 acres as it threatened homes and prompted evacuations.

GAVIOTA, Calif. (KABC) -- A fast-moving brush fire that broke out in Santa Barbara County has grown to 1,400 acres Thursday, threatening structures and prompting evacuations.

The blaze broke out around 3:30 p.m. Wednesday near the top of Refugio Road. Evacuation orders were issued for Refugio Canyon, Venadito Canyon and Las Flores Canyon and by Thursday morning, more orders were issued for El Capitan Canyon, El Capitan Ranch and El Capitan and Refugio state beaches.

An evacuation warning, meaning residents should be prepared to leave quickly, has been issued for areas east of El Capitan Canyon to Farren Road. Those areas include Canada de las Destiladera, Las Llagas Canyon, Gato Canyon, Las Varas Canyon, Dos Pueblos Canyon and Eagle Canyon.

Authorities also urged residents to avoid the area near Dos Pueblos High School, as fire officials used the site for staging crews and equipment.

Dubbed the Sherpa Fire, the blaze quickly spread with the help of strong winds in the area. About 800 firefighters, who are dealing with a steep and rugged terrain, have not contained any portion of the fire as of Thursday evening.

The conditions improved mid-morning Thursday, but the concern for firefighters is the possibility of the winds picking up again. Extra resources in the air and on the ground worked hard to protect Circle Bar B Ranch, especially since the owner refused to leave his home.

The ranch has been in the owner, Pat Brown's, family for three generations. He said more than a dozen hotel guests and 45 horses were evacuated late Wednesday night.

"We're at the mercy of the weather. This is rough country. A lot of wind last night," he said.

Brown added the canyon alongside his property hasn't burned since 1955. Firefighters are hoping the ranch will be unscathed, but the winds could shift and cause major problems.

The 101 Freeway was re-closed near Refugio Road as the California Highway Patrol reported flames spreading to the freeway. The CHP reported that the freeway was closed at Winchester Canyon Road and the Hollister Avenue on-ramp.

Crews had re-opened the 101 Freeway after it was closed earlier Thursday morning, but warned it would possibly need to be shut down again depending on wind direction.

Because of low-lying smoke, authorities said it was difficult to get an accurate acreage estimate from the air.

The American Red Cross set up shelters at two locations: one at Wake Center, 300 N. Turnpike Road, and the other at Santa Ynez Valley High School, 2975 E. Highway 246. By late Thursday morning, the Santa Ynez Valley High School location was placed on standby unless fire conditions worsened.

Owners should coordinate with the Red Cross to get shelter for small animals. For larger animals, people may call Susan Klein-Rothschild at (805) 896-1057 or take them to the Earl Warren Showgrounds.