Sherpa Wildfire Prompts Evacuations in Santa Barbara

June 17, 2016 4:02 pm Last Updated: June 17, 2016 5:23 pm

The fire that forced evacuations from homes in Santa Barbara County, California, is about 5 percent contained and has spread to 4,000 acres overnight as of Friday, June 17.

About 270 structures, including houses, are currently threatened, according to CAL Fire public information officer Daniel Berlant. One structure has been destroyed in the fire.

The cause of the Sherpa Fire, as it has been named, is under investigation, fire officials said. Officials said that the fire closed Highway 101 on Thursday night to Friday morning.

“Firefighters will continue work on building and reinforcing containment lines along” the northern and eastern sides of the fire and along Highway 101, a critical artery in Southern California. About 1,230 firefighters are assigned to the fire.

In this image made from video, a wildfire burns in a remote coastal area west of Santa Barbara, Calif., on Thursday, June 16, 2016. ](KABC-7 via AP)
In this image made from video, a wildfire burns in a remote coastal area west of Santa Barbara, Calif., on Thursday, June 16, 2016. ](KABC-7 via AP)

As of 7:39 a.m., Highway 101 was reopened in both directions and train service was approved to run in the “area near the Sherpa Fire,” the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.

Homeowners were forced to flee the fire, although no homes were in immediate danger. “We do not want residents that are living in or adjacent to this area to be complacent,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown told NBC News.

Homes in El Capitan, Refugio, Venadito, and Las Flores canyons were evacuated, the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office stated.

Photos posted to social media show the smoke and haze caused by the fire throughout Southern California and Los Angeles.

On Thursday, authorities announced the fire had burned through 1,700 acres, forcing the California Highway Patrol to close the freeway between Winchester Canyon Road in Goleta and Highway 246 in Buellton, the Los Angeles Times reported. The road opened at 5 a.m.

On Friday, the fire spread to 4,000 acres, according to Inciweb, which said fire started at around 3:15 p.m. on Refugio Road in Santa Barbara County.

The fire is being fueled by vegetation that hasn’t been burned since the 1950s and winds reaching 40 mph. Weather forecasts show that temperatures will exceed 80 degrees Fahrenheit in Santa Barbara.

Wildfires have also broken out in Arizona and New Mexico this week. In New Mexico’s Bernalillo and Torrance counties, fires have burned 16,000 acres and destroyed dozens of structures, officials said.