Three people were killed and a 2-acre brush fire was sparked after three cars collided on Highway 154 near the Cold Spring Bridge, according to the California Highway Patrol.
Around 4:45 p.m., a black Chevrolet Camaro crossed the double yellow line and hit a Toyota Prius, according to Mike Eliason, a spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
An SUV then hit the wreckage, resulting in both the Prius and the SUV catching fire, setting nearby hillside vegetation ablaze.
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Eliason said three people in the Prius died in the collision, and the Camaro driver was trapped inside it on the bridge.
The driver was extricated with life-threatening injuries, then transported by AMR ambulance to a waiting CalSTAR helicopter for a flight to Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, he said.
Fire crews from Los Padres National Forest attacked the blaze, with Santa Barbara County Fire responding with a brush crew, and the highway was shut down in both directions, Eliason said.
As of 5:50 p.m., traffic remained stopped in both directions.
Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @razisyed