SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — Winds spread a brush fire over more than 150 acres (61 hectares) along the south Santa Barbara County coast Thursday amid a spell of hot and dry weather.
The fire erupted on a ridge near Hollister Ranch shortly after 2 a.m. as “significant” offshore winds swept the area, said county fire Capt. Daniel Bertucelli.
A water-dropping helicopter aided about 120 firefighters battling the flames about 35 miles (56 kilometers) west of the city of Santa Barbara.
Bertucelli said the firefighters had to move in close quarters with each other, so they’re trying to remain together in pods and keep their distance from outside groups, as the state’s wildfire response adapts to the coronavirus pandemic.
Fire officials said firefighters would remain overnight to make sure embers don’t jump containment lines.
Voluntary evacuations of several houses on the ranch were requested. The cause of the fire was under investigation.
The National Weather Service said the extended period of gusty northerly winds was slowly coming to an end Thursday after gusts in the Montecito Hills just east of Santa Barbara reached up to 67 mph (108 kph).
A heat advisory for the area and other parts of Southern California was expected to remain in effect until 9 p.m. Thursday.