Southern California wildfire forces thousands to evacuate

  16 July 2017    Read: 897
Southern California wildfire forces thousands to evacuate

Nearly 3,000 people have been evacuated in Southern California as a week-long fire there continues to burn.

More mandatory evacuation orders were issued Friday near the Whittier Fire in Santa Barbara County, bringing the evacuee total up to 2,700 people.

Officials said eight homes and 12 outbuildings had burned. The fire also caused a highway to close.

The fire, which started July 8, is in the Santa Ynez Mountains on both sides of Highway 154. The fire is burning an area that has not burned since 1955, Cal Fire said. That area was one of the more intense fronts of the blaze on Friday, according to the agency.

As of 8 p.m. Friday, the fire near Cachuma Lake covered a little more than 13,000 acres and was 52% contained, according to Cal Fire. The agency said 1,612 personnel were on scene as well as 103 fire engines, 22 water tenders, six airplanes, 14 helicopters and 18 bulldozers. Also on the scene were three masticators — machines that crush and grind vegetation left dead and flammable after a years-long drought.

Los Padres National Forest in the area of the fire was closed to the public effective Saturday. The order will expire when the fire is fully contained and controlled.

On Friday, crews continued to increase containment by building direct lines and reinforcing bulldozer lines on the east and west edges of the fire, authorities said.

Drier and warmer weather Saturday may not help firefighters, and winds predicted for the evening may push the fire toward populated areas, officials said.

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