A fast-moving wildfire fanned by strong winds scattered ash across the South Coast Monday afternoon, prompted the evacuation of between 4,000 and 6,000 people, and burned at least one structure in the area of Paradise Road in the mountains above Santa Barbara, according to officials.

Dubbed the White Fire, the blaze had grown to 1,000 acres as of 8 p.m. and was 5 percent contained after an aggressive attack by firefighting agencies from throughout the county.

Campgrounds in the area of Paradise Road and residents of Paradise Canyon were evacuated after the fire started around 2:40 p.m. Monday and the road is closed as firefighters fight the blaze that started in the White Rock Camp area in Red Rock Canyon in Los Padres National Forest.

The cause of the fire is under investigation, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Capt. David Sadecki.

Residents using social media sites reported falling ash in many areas of the South Coast, and one who said his cabin was threatened described 50-foot flames and a scene that looked like a “war zone.”

The Upper Oso Campground and other nearby campgrounds were also evacuated, according to the county Office of Emergency Services.

The fire burned a U.S. Forest Service Building off of Paradise Road, and destroyed two vehicles, one owned by the U.S. Forest Service and one privately owned, according to Sadecki.

No injuries have been reported.

A shelter for evacuees has been set up by the American Red Cross at the Wake Center,

300 N. Turnpike Rd., in Santa Barbara.

 

Firefighters responded to the fire at 2:40 p.m. and used air craft as well as ground resources to fight the blaze. The six air tankers that were fighting the fire were grounded as of 5 p.m. Monday due to high winds.

Numerous resources from the forest service, county, Santa Barbara City, Montecito, Chumash, Painted  Cave Volunteer Fire, San Marcos Pass Volunteer Fire, Carpinteria/Summerland Fire, Lompoc, Santa Maria, the county Sheriff’s Department, Sheriff Search and Rescue and California Highway Patrol responded to the fire, and equipment included 15 engines, 4 dozers, and 4 helicopters.

The last fire in the area was the 2007 Rancho Fire, according to Sadecki.

Afternoon temperatures Monday were in the 80s, with wind gusts of 20 mph, and a high wind warning has been issued for the mountains and southern coastal areas of the county through early Wednesday morning.

Temperatures today are expected to be in the upper 70s, with gusty winds, according to the National Weather Service.

As a result of the smoke from the fire and high winds, the county Air Pollution Control District has issued a countywide air quality warning to be in effect as long as conditions warrant. Depending on wind patterns areas of southern Santa Barbara County and the Santa Ynez Valley could be affected by smoke.

People who smell smoke in the air should be cautious and use common sense to protect their health. Everyone, especially people with heart or lung disease (including asthma), older adults, and children, should limit time spent outdoors, and avoid outdoor exercise when smoke is in the air, according to the district.

Those with symptoms of lung or heart disease that may be related to exposure to smoke or particles, including repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, should contact their health care provider, according to district officials.

Levels of smoke and particles will depend on changes in winds, and the containment of the fire.

For more information on air quality see www.OurAir.org, and for recorded advisory updates, call 961-8802. 

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