‘Out of control’ Whittier Fire prompts evacuations near Lake Cachuma


Update: 9:15 p.m.

The Whittier Fire continues to grow at a fast pace. It’s now 5,400 acres.

Update: 8:40 p.m.

The Whittier Fire has now grown to 3,200 acres. It has zero percent containment.

Shortly after 8 p.m., the flames went up the Santa Ynez Range and breached the ridge. Flames were clearly visable from western Goleta.

Update: 7:30 p.m.

The Whittier Fire burning along Highway 154 in Santa Barbara County has now grown to more than 3,000 acres.

Update: 6:30 p.m.

The fire has blackened at least 1,000 acres near Lake Cachuma, a number that undoubtedly will continue to grow as the blaze burns steadily to the east.

“We’ve got air tankers really hitting it hard at the head on the east and on the south edge, to keep it from going over the ridge (toward the South Coast), fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said.

About 80 campers at the Circle V Ranch Camp who were initially sheltering in place were brought out safely to be reunited with their families, Zaniboni said.

Updated 5:30 p.m.

A vegetation fire burning near Lake Cachuma in the Santa Ynez Valley was “completely out of control” Saturday afternoon, prompting evacuations of campers and residents in the area, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The initial size-up indicated the blaze near Lake Cachuma had blackened at least 500 acres, a number the undoubtedly has grown considerably.

The fire, which reportedly was sparked by a car fire, started at about 1:40 p.m., said fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni.

About 80 campers at the Circle V Ranch Camp were unable to be evacuated, and were sheltering in place, Zaniboni said.

U.S. Forest Service firefighters were with them, and they were safe, Zaniboni said.

Several structures in the area of the camp have been damaged or destroyed by flames, Zaniboni said.

Camp Whittier, which gave the fire its name, was evacuated, and Highway 154 was shut down at Highway 246 and Paradise Road, the CHP said.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department issued an immediate evacuation order of the Highway 154 corridor in the Lake Cachuma area, including Paradise Road and West Camino Cielo.

The Lake Cachuma campground also was being evacuated, Zaniboni said.

Flames were moving in an eastward direction, and burning on both sides of Highway 154. By 4:30 p.m., they had traveled about 2 miles from where the fire started.

An evacuation center was being set up at San Marcos High School, 4750 Hollister Ave., near Santa Barbara, and another was scheduled to open at Santa Ynez Elementary School, at 3325 Pine St., at 5 p.m. Saturday.

Small animals that owners can evacuate were being accepted at the Santa Barbara Humane Society at 5399 Overpass Road and people with questions or need of assistance evacuating large animals, including horses, can call the hotline at 805-681-4332.

Original story:

Firefighters were responding Saturday afternoon to a vegetation fire near Camp Whittier in the Santa Ynez Valley.

The blaze, which was sparked by a car fire, started about 1:40 p.m., according to the California Highway Patrol.

Camp Whittier, which is near Lake Cachuma, was evacuated, and Highway 154 was shut down at Highway 246 and Paradise Road, the CHP said.

Evacuations also were in progress at the Circle V Camp.

Additional details were not immediately available.

This story will be updated as more information becomes available.

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