[Updated]: 11/26/19 12:35 p.m.
[Updated]: 11/26/19 10:38 a.m.
The Cave Fire that broke out in the Santa Barbara hills on Monday afternoon swelled to 4,200 acres by 11:00 a.m. this morning, according to U.S. Forest Service Chief Jim Harris, who said the fire was at 0% containment but that it had not destroyed any structures or caused injuries.
The evacuation orders and warnings issued on Monday did not change overnight; as of 2:00 a.m. Tuesday, over 6,000 residents had been evacuated in the area between Goleta and Santa Barbara. Evacuated residents were directed to the Goleta Valley Community Center at 5679 Hollister Ave.
Classes for the remainder of the week were cancelled at 10:44 a.m. on Tuesday in an email sent by Chancellor Yang, but the fire “poses no threat to our campus,” with no evacuations planned.
On Tuesday at 11:00 a.m., local officials held a press conference at Earl Warren Showgrounds to provide an update on the status of the Cave Fire. According to Harris, the Cave Fire is burning “under some of the toughest firefighting conditions anywhere in the world,” a product of an intense dry season and low humidity index.
Santa Barbara County Fire Unit Chief Scotty Jalpert noted that the firefighting resources used to combat the Cave Fire have come “from Monterrey to San Bernardino.” Despite the prediction of rain in the coming days, “it’s not over yet,” he said.
According to Santa Barbara County Battalion Chief Anthony Stornetta, operations to “box in” the fire began this morning, when multiple fixed wing aircraft were deployed to suppress the fire and form a perimeter.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown noted that over 5,400 people have been evacuated as a result of the Cave Fire and will likely remain evacuated through today. According to a tweet sent out by the Santa Barbara Sheriff’s Office at 11:44 a.m. on Tuesday, evacuation orders “for the areas West of Patterson to Fairview and North of Cathedral Oaks” have been lifted but all others remain in place.
Caltrans announced at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday that Highway 154 remains closed, and that drivers should expect increased traffic on Highway 101, particularly due to the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday.
Students still on campus and in Isla Vista reported seeing ash on the ground and the air smelling smoky, recalling memories of the 2017 Thomas Fire, when air quality was deemed “unhealthy” during dead week in December.
While the air quality is considered “good” in Santa Barbara and “moderate” in Goleta, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department and the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District issued an air quality warning for the county on Tuesday at 9:00 a.m., writing that smoke and ash from the fire were affecting the local air quality and that “conditions may continue over the next several days.”
The warning cautioned residents — particularly people with heart or lung disease, older adults, pregnant women and children — from spending time outdoors, and recommended wearing N95 masks.
Direct Relief, a global humanitarian organization based in Santa Barbara, said it would have N95 masks available to the public at its headquarters at 6100 Wallace Becknell Road between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday. The organization also said it would be announcing additional distribution locations by noon.
UCSB’s Student Health also confirmed it would have N95 masks available for students at its office until 4:30 p.m. Masks are also available at the A.S. Ticket office. In Isla Vista, masks are also available at the Isla Vista neighborhood clinic at 970 Embarcadero Del Mar and the A.S. Pardall Center.
Santa Barbara County spokesperson Gina DePinto announced early Tuesday morning that the county had declared a local emergency earlier in the night in response to the Cave Fire.
The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors ratified the proclamation at an emergency meeting Tuesday morning.
Declaring an emergency will allow the county to “utilize all the resources necessary to respond to the damage caused by the local emergency” as well as “receive any needed funding through the California Disaster Assistance Act,” the local emergency declaration, signed by the director of emergency services, states.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) granted California access to federal funds early Tuesday morning in order to aid firefighting efforts after the state submitted a request for a Fire Management Assistance Grant, the agency said in a press release.
“At the time of the request, the fire threatened 15,000 homes in the unincorporated areas of Santa Barbara County, with a population of 85,000,” the press release said.
“The fire also threatened 10 businesses, a county fire communication center, power transmission lines, and Chumash Painted Cave State Historic Park.”
The FEMA Region IX regional administrator decided that the fire “threatened such destruction as would constitute a major disaster,” according to the release.
The grant provides federal funding for up to 75% of “eligible” firefighting costs, which includes “expenses for field camps, equipment use, materials, supplies and mobilization, and demobilization activities attributed to fighting the fire,” the release said.
Santa Barbara’s local emergency declaration also asks that California Governor Gavin Newson declare a “state of emergency” because of the Cave Fire.
“The Cave Fire is causing conditions of extreme peril to the safety of persons and property within Santa Barbara County,” DePinto said in a press release, adding that the fire is “advancing toward majority population areas in the cities of Santa Barbara and Goleta, and unincorporated areas of the county.”
“These conditions are beyond the control of the services, personnel, equipment and facilities of the combined forces of the county’s Operational Area to combat. Additional resources have been ordered from out of the area, which have been arriving all evening.”
She added that the fire is “threatening” Southern California Edison’s main transmission lines, which south Santa Barbara County depends on to receive power, and that some in the county have already been experiencing “periodic” power outages.
Isla Vista and the UCSB campus were not affected by power outages, although several students reported seeing lights flickering both in Isla Vista and on campus.
At 6:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Santa Barbara City College announced it was canceling all classes for Tuesday and Wednesday and closed all of its campuses “out of an abundance of caution” because of the Cave Fire.
This article will be updated.