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Santa Barbara County wildfire closes Highway 101

A brush fire has burned from the Santa Ynez Mountains down to the Pacific Ocean, closing Highway 101 between Goleta and Buellton
Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo by Mike Eliason

Motorists need to use Highway 154 to travel between southern and northern Santa Barbara County

A brush fire in the Santa Ynez Mountains swept down from the mountains and burned all the way down to the ocean on the Gaviota coastline, closing Highway 101.

The fire started just after 2 p.m. near Refugio Peak. Gusty wind hitting 70 miles an hour quickly expanded the fire, and made it too dangerous to use helicopters and air tankers on the blaze. By 5:30, it had moved all the way down the mountainside to the beach in the Tajiguas area.

Andrew Madsen, with the U.S. Forest Service, says even veteran firefighters were stunned at how quickly the wind helped push the fire down from the mountains to the beach, with embers jumping hundreds of feet at a time.

Madsen says the good news is that the fire appears to be moving towards the area burned by the 2016 Sherpa Fire, so there won't be as much fuel for the blaze. The wind is also expected to ease Tuesday.

Highway 101 has been closed between Goleta and Buellton by the blaze. Traffic is being routed around the closure on Highway 154.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department issued an Evacuation Order for the area of Arroyo Hondo Canyon and Refugio Canyon. Refugio State Beach was also closed.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral.