Santa Barbara County wildfire grows to 1,100 acres, forces 101 freeway closure

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- The fast-moving “Sherpa Fire” burning in the Refugio Canyon area of Santa Barbara County grew to more than 1,000 acres Thursday morning and prompted the closure of a stretch of the 101 Freeway, KTLA reported.

The wildfire started about 3:21 p.m. Wednesday off of Refugio Road and quickly burned through the steep, rugged terrain, according to the U.S. Forest Service’s Inciweb page.

Late Wednesday evening, Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Dave Zaniboni was quoted as saying the fire had “blown up.”

The fire, which had burned about 250 acres Wednesday, grew to 1,100 acres by Thursday morning, local television station KEYT reported.

The fire forced the closure of the 101 Freeway from Buellton to Goleta, according to the Inciweb fire information page.

Officials were looking to reopen the freeway Thursday morning, but it was still closed as of 5 a.m., the California Highway Patrol’s traffic incident website showed.

Mandatory evacuations were in place for areas of Refugio Canyon, Las Flores, Venadito, El Capitan Campground, El Capitan Canyon, El Capitan Ranch and Refugio Campground.

An evacuation center was set up at the Wake Center, located at 300 N. Turnpike Road in Goleta and another was being set up at Santa Ynez Union High School, according to the Inciweb page. Large animals could be taken to the Earl Warren Show Grounds.

A heavy air assault on the fire took place Wednesday with eight air tankers, three heavy helitankers, three medium helicopters, a lead plane and DC10s being used to fight the blaze.