July 5, 2008

Wildfire Focus Shifts to Santa Barbara

The California wildfire focus shifted to Santa Barbara County Saturday, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger was expected to visit with embattled firefighters.

Called the Gap fire, a blaze near Goleta, Calif., has forced residents of 1,800 homes to flee and those in 1,400 more were ordered to pack in case they, too, had to leave their homes, The Los Angeles Times reported. The Santa Barbara fire was being fanned by winds called sundowners, stiff breezes that come down off the nearby mountains between 9 p.m. and 2 a.m.

The Gap fire, even though it was smaller than another fire raging further north around Big Sur, has been designated the state's top priority because of its proximity to populated areas. They are among some 335 wildfires burning across California Saturday, the Times reported.

Meanwhile, the Basin Complex fire near Big Sur had burned an additional 4,407 acres by Friday evening, reaching a total of more than 68,700 acres since the fire was started by lightning on June 21, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Scenic State Highway 1 was closed as crews used it as a fire line and waited for the flames to burn toward the road, hopefully exhausting its fuel.