Fire near Santa Barbara scorches 500 acres

SANTA BARBARA, Calif., Aug. 19 (UPI) — A new wildfire has ignited near Santa Barbara scorching more than 500 acres and causing evacuations in just a few hours, authorities said Thursday.

The so-called Rey fire began about 3:30 p.m. in dry, 90-degree temperatures and strong winds in a campground north of the city, Santa Barbara County Fire Department said. Homes and mountain cabins near the campground were quickly evacuated.

Caltrans has closed a stretch of Highway 154 near the blaze and is instructing motorists to use U.S. 101 as a detour.

Because the fire is burning in a rugged wilderness area, firefighters have had to rely heavily on aircraft dropping water and retardant early on, said Mike Eliason, spokesman for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

“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.”

The Chimney Fire in neighboring San Luis Obispo County has burned 8,300 acres and was 30 percent contained as of late Thursday, Cal Fire said.

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