Rey Fire burns 600 acres, forces evacuations in Santa Barbara County


A Santa Barbara City Fire engine is dwarfed by a large column of smoke from the Rey Fire on Friday afternoon.
A Santa Barbara City Fire engine is dwarfed by a large column of smoke from the Rey Fire on Friday afternoon. Santa Barbara County Fire Department

At least 600 acres have been charred by a wind-driven vegetation fire in Santa Barbara that broke out Thursday afternoon along Paradise Road in the Upper Santa Ynez River area.

The fire, reported shortly after 3 p.m., began in the vicinity of Rancho San Fernando Rey and the White Rock Picnic Area.

As of 9 p.m., the most recent estimate put the blaze — dubbed the Rey Fire — at about 600 acres and 20 percent contained, according to Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman.

No structures had been damaged, but dozens remained threatened to the south and west of the blaze, he said, and some 300 people were evacuated from campgrounds and residences throughout the canyon.

Winds were driving the flames to the north and west, away from the Santa Ynez River, Eliason said. He said it was burning in rugged terrain.

“The winds are favorable right now, “ Eliason said. “It’s not burning toward the front country. That’s working in everyone’s favor.”

Temperatures were in the 90s, with very low humidity.

Aircraft were working to create a line of fire retardant along the ridge.

“They’re trying to contain the fire in a box between the river and ridge,” Eliason said. ‘They’re trying to paint the ridge with retardant. They don’t really want it to get into that open land beyond.”

Highway 154 was shut down from Cathedral Oaks Road/Highway 192 to Highway 246 near Santa Ynez.

Smoke from the fire was visible from throughout the South Coast and much of the Santa Ynez Valley.

U.S. Forest Service and Santa Barbara County firefighters were battling the fire, along with mutual-aid resources from several agencies.

Numerous aircraft, including the DC-10 air tanker, were on scene or en route, Eliason said.

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District issued an air quality watch Thursday afternoon due to smoke from the fire.

“Smoke from the Rey Fire off Paradise Road may affect air quality in the Santa Ynez Valley and other parts of the county, depending on winds and weather conditions, and the containment of the fire,” the district said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Chimney Fire in San Luis Obispo County had grown to 8,300 acres and was 30 percent contained as of Thursday afternoon, according to Cal Fire.

Tom Bolton, executive editor of Noozhawk.com, a Santa Barbara-based news website. Email him at tbolton@noozhawk.com.