Southern California fire closes freeway, forces evacuations

SOLVANG, Calif .– Evacuation orders were extended on Tuesday for a growing wildfire caused by intense winds that shut down a key southern California highway for more than a day.

At least 200 firefighters battled the Alisal blaze, which had burned 21 square miles (54 square kilometers) along coastal Santa Barbara County and was only 5% contained, fire officials said. county.

The fire erupted on a ridge on Monday and blew out toward the ocean, forcing the closure of US 101, the only major highway on this section of the coast. Evacuation orders and warnings were in place for several areas of the sparsely populated region.

“The fire is burning in a dense chaparral and is driven by strong winds and is growing at a rapid rate,” a blaze update said on Tuesday. The gusts reached 70 mph (113 km / h) in some areas, officials said.

In northern California, fire crews have tightened containment for a blaze that destroyed 25 mobile homes, 16 RVs and a park at Rancho Marina RV Park in Sacramento County. At least 20 structures were still under threat, according to the River Delta Fire District.

A Cal fire truck is parked at the bottom of a canyon as firefighters monitor the progress of the Alisal fire in the canyons near Goleta, east of Santa Barbara, Calif., October 13, 2021.

No injuries were reported, and the cause remains under investigation.

In southern San Joaquin County, a man was burned and about five mobile homes were damaged by the flames that swept through Islander Mobile Home Park, Lathrop-Manteca Fire Chief Josh Capper told Fox40-TV. .

The injured man suffered severe third-degree burns over most of his body, Capper said.

Powerful gusts that swept through the state on Monday also knocked over trees and raised blinding dust clouds. Red flag warnings for a critical danger of fire and wind expired Tuesday for much of the northern California interior, but a lesser wind advisory continued Tuesday night in Santa Barbara County .

In anticipation of the wind event, the Pacific Gas & Electric utility cut power Monday to about 24,000 customers in targeted areas in 23 counties to prevent fires from starting if gusts damaged electrical equipment.

Virtually all customers had their power restored on Tuesday. But PG&E said it may have to cut power to about 29,000 customers in 19 counties on Thursday due to a potential wildfire threat.

In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, the Alisal Fire continues to burn dry vegetation in Refugio Canyon on Tuesday morning, October 12, 2021.
In this photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, the Alisal Fire continues to burn dry vegetation in Refugio Canyon on Tuesday morning, October 12, 2021.

PG&E equipment was blamed for a fire in 2018 that wiped out much of the town of Paradise in Butte County. The company filed for bankruptcy and pleaded guilty to 84 counts of manslaughter. PG&E also faces criminal charges for fires caused by its unraveling equipment, including manslaughter in connection with a fire near the town of Redding last year that left four people dead.

Windy weather is a nightmare for firefighters in a state where heat waves and historic drought linked to climate change have dried up forests and brush. The fires that started in late summer are still burning after destroying hundreds of homes.

In the Sierra Nevada, the KNP complex fire that may have burned hundreds of giant sequoias was only 40% contained.

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