Wildfires Burn 11,000 Acres In California, Arizona

Strong winds fanned a wildfire that burned 7,440 acres in Santa Barbara County, causing the evacuation of about half a dozen homes and closure of a section of Highway 101, authorities said Wednesday.


GAVIOTA, Calif. (AP) -- Strong winds fanned a wildfire that burned 7,440 acres in Santa Barbara County, causing the evacuation of about half a dozen homes and closure of a section of Highway 101, authorities said Wednesday.

Winds up to 40 mph on Tuesday pushed the fire near homes in Arroyo Hondo Canyon, about four miles east of El Capitan State Beach, county fire department spokesman Charlie Johnson said. Residents were allowed to return Wednesday.

The highway was shut down for several hours Tuesday night but open on Wednesday. Officials warned motorists that wind-blown flare-ups could force periodic closures of Highway 101.

``We have to get the weather to cooperate with us,'' department spokeswoman Jan Purkett said. ``The winds are kicking our butts. This is billy goat territory. It's very steep, rugged terrain.''

Authorities said the blaze was 40 percent contained Wednesday as about 1,400 firefighters were on the lines, aided by 15 helicopters. One-quarter of the blaze was in the Los Padres National Forest.

Residents in scattered canyon homes on Refugio Road, about 2 1/2 miles east of the flames, were notified that the fire was nearby, said U.S. Forest Service spokesman Joe Pasinato. They were not yet asked to leave.

One home in an isolated area has been destroyed and three outbuildings were damaged by the blaze. Workers were repairing damaged train trestles south of Gaviota, Pasinato said.

No major injuries were reported. Pasinato said 11 firefighters suffered minor injuries, including eight who got poison oak.

The fire broke out before noon Saturday in a section of the Gaviota Pass, about 27 miles north of Santa Barbara, and burned across narrow canyons and steep hillsides covered with chaparral. The cause is under investigation.

Elsewhere, a wildfire ballooned to 3,500 acres Wednesday in eastern Arizona's Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, said Dorman McGann, a spokesman for the crew fighting the fire.

Winds blowing 30 to 40 mph were expected with gusts up to 60 mph.

``We're hoping that does not happen,'' McGann said.

The 51,685-acre Peppin fire in south-central New Mexico was 80 percent contained, and crews were securing the western flank and patroling for hot spots. About 125 people battled the blaze Wednesday. The fire in the Lincoln National Forest has burned 12 cabins since it began May 15.