Wildfire in Santa Barbara County closes highway

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The Santa Barbara County Fire Department, along with other area firefighting units, has been battling a wildfire in Santa Barbara that has closed highway 101 from Buellton to Goleta and required evacuations from camping areas and residences.

The fire is also closing in on the Exxon-Mobile facility, which itself has been evacuated.

The fire began Wednesday and with a sudden change in the wind, it quickly grew. As of now the fire has consumed 1,200 acres. No fire departments have reported having any percentage of it contained as of yet.

In its most recent incident report the U.S. Forest Service reported: “A fire started off of Refugio Road, in the vicinity of the Sherpa Ranch [Wednesday] afternoon at approximately 3:21 p.m.”

They added, “The fire is wind driven and moving towards the ocean. Currently, mandatory evacuations are underway for the areas of Refugio Canyon, Las Flores, Venadito, El Capitan Campground, El Capitan State Park, Ocean Mesa at El Capitan State Park and Refugio Campground. Highway 101 remains closed from Buellton to Goleta at Winchester. An evacuation center has been set up at the Wake Center, 300 N. Turnpike Road, Goleta, CA and for large animals, at the Earl Warren Showgrounds. A second evacuation center has been set up at Santa Ynez Union High School, located at 2976 E. Highway 246 in Santa Ynez.”

Fighting the fire, “are 8 air tankers, 3 heavy helitankers, 3 medium helicopters, air attack, a lead plane and 2 DC10s.”

Using Twitter you can follow what officials, news organizations, visitors and residents in the area are saying about the fire using the hashtag #SherpaFire

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UPDATE: Highway 101 between El Capitan State Beach and Gaviota was reopened just before 7:30 a.m.

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UPDATE, 10:30 p.m. June 16: The Sherpa Fire continues to burn with zero containment. It has forced the closure of highway 101 once again, between Winchester Canyon Rd and Refugio Rd, according the the California Highway Patrol (CHP).

There have been evacuations throughout the area all day: El Capital Canyon, El Capitan Ranch, El Capitan State Beach, Refugio State Beach, Refugio Canyon, Venadito Canyon and Los Flores Canyon.

it has already made it to El Capitan State Beach before 9 p.m. Reports are that it has burned 1,500 to 1,700 acres, with zero containment. Right now the wind is from the north at 4 mph.

For more information the Santa Barbara County Fire Department has a hotline: 805-681-5546. Or go to Twitter and use the hashtag #SherpaFire

Top photo of Sherpa Fire from U.S. Forest Service.