Evacuation order lifted as Cave Fire threat diminishes

Nov 27, 2019

As of Wednesday morning, despite over an inch of rain overnight, firefighters continue to battle a wildfire in the mountains above Santa Barbara. A portion of Highway 154 remains closed, but all evacuation orders have been lifted after the Cave Fire broke out in the Los Padres National Forest, near the top of San Marco Pass Road in Santa Barbara County, on Monday afternoon. 

UPDATE 11/27/19 10:30 A.M. All evacuation orders were lifted just after 10:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office says "residents are advised to stay alert to their surroundings and changing conditions. Hwy 154 from Cathedral Oaks Road/Hwy 192 to Painted Cave Road will remain closed other than to residents of Hwy 154. East Camino Cielo Road from Painted Cave Road to Gibraltar Road is closed due to continued fire rehabilitation work in the area."

UPDATE 11/27/19 9 A.M. The fire is now 20 percent contained as of 9 a.m, having burned 4, 367 acres. According to Daniel Bertucelli, fire officials "anticipate the demobilization of resources to begin soon," but that local crews will remain on the job until the fire is fully contained. Over an inch of rain fell on the Santa Barbara area Tuesday overnight; no debris flows or mudslides reported. Highway 154 remains closed. 

UPDATE 11/26/19 10:30 P.M. Santa Barbara County officials issued a debris flow warning for areas below, or downslope, of the Cave Fire burn scar. According to the county, "the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office has issued a Debris Flow Evacuation Warning due to a strong storm arriving tonight, Tuesday, November 26, for the area between Patterson Avenue/Anderson Lane and Ontare Road, between the 3500 and 3300 block of State Street and down through Las Positas Road, and south of East Camino Cielo to the ocean." 

UPDATE 11/26/19 6 P.M. Containment has inched foward from zero percent Tuesday morning to ten percent late in the afternoon. No injuries have been reported, nor have any homes burned. Fire officials say the active fire line is confined "well above the city's foothills." Some evacuated areas remain under mandatory orders, and the county sheriff's office assures residents deputies are closely patrolling the vacated neighborhoods. Check ReadySBC.org for updates throughout the evening Tuesday.

UPDATE 11/26/19 12 P.M. At an 11 a.m press conference, Santa Barbara County fire officials said the acreage of the Cave Fire is holding at just under 4,300 acres, but containment remains at 0%. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said starting at noon Tuesday, evacuated residents will be free to return home from Fairview Avenue to Patterson Avenue, an area encompassing the largest concentration of evacuated homes. But in terms of total numbers, the bulk of evacuated residents will be asked to remain out of their homes until the mandatory orders are lifted, unlikely to happen today, Brown said. Giving some statistics on the firefighting efforts so far, Brown said deputies contacted 2,284 homes, and roughly 5,400 people were told to evacuate. And that when the Cave Fire broke out Monday afternoon just after 4 p.m., the local 9-1-1 dispatch center received 268 calls about it within the hour; 21 calls within the first minute.

UPDATE 11/26/19 10:50 A.M. Poor air quality due to wildfire smoke over the Santa Barbara area is prompting many to pick up free N-95 masks being handed out at Direct Relief headquarters, located at 6100 Wallace Becknell Road in Santa Barbara, just north of the Santa Barbara Airport. Working in coordination with the Santa Barbara Public Health Department, Direct Relief says they have over 100,000 masks available until 5 p.m. Tuesday. More information at www.directrelief.org.

UPDATE 11/26/19 10 A.M FEMA, the nation's emergency management agency, has promised federal funding to help pay for the current firefighting efforts. Right now, the Cave Fire is the only wildfire burning out of control in the state. According to a FEMA spokesperson, "the FEMA Region IX regional administrator determined that the Cave Fire threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. The state’s request was approved on Nov. 26, 2019 at 12:38 a.m. PST." Santa Barbara County officials also declared a local emergency, paving the way to receive state funds.

UPDATE 11/26/19 8 A.M. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the Cave Fire has burned 4,100 acres and is zero percent contained. 600 firefighters are working the blaze, with many coming in from agencies across California. More resources are being ordered, and officials say structure protection is of the highest priority. No homes have been lost. Firefighters say they are looking forward to coming rain, which should help extinguished the fire, but it's not expected to come until midnight.

UPDATE 11/26/19 7 A.M. The fire burned power transmission lines, causing power outages around the county. Overnight the fire continued to burn downhill, threatening many homes. At a morning press conference, officials said 180 days without rain contributed to fire-prone conditions that fanned the flames actively overnight, combined with strong winds. Rain is expected Tuesday night, which may present another danger in term of mudslides or debris flows. Ten airtankers and nine helicopters are dropping water and flame retardant on the flames as ground crews continue their work around the perimeter.  A press conference is planned for 11 a.m. to provide updated numbers. 

ORIGINAL STORY PUBLISHED 5:30 P.M. 11/25/19

The fire started in the Painted Cave area, and exploded from 15 acres around 5 p.m. to an approximate 3,000 acres five hours later. As of 10:30 p.m., the fire remains zero percent contained, according to Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Daniel Bertucelli. 

Santa Barbara County Fire and other agencies are providing updated information on the fire’s progress on Twitter under the hashtag #CaveFire.

The fire was reported just after 4:10 p.m. Around 5 p.m., evacuations were ordered between East Camino Cielo and Foothill Road and from Ontare Road to Patterson Avenue.

The night’s forecast calls for strong winds, so officials are urging nearby residents to stay aware of the fire’s progress.

An evacuation shelter is opening at the Goleta Valley Community Center at 5679 Hollister Avenue.

We will continually update this post as more information becomes available.