US officials have declared a state of emergency in Santa Barbara County, Southern California after a raging wildfire has more than tripled in size in the past week.
Threatening hundreds of homes and prompting mandatory evacuations, the so-called Sherpa Fire is raging across approxiamtely 4,000 acres with only 5 percent of the blaze contained, officials in Santa Barbara County said.
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An air-quality warning was issued for Los Angeles and Orange counties.
Press TV reports:
A blistering heat wave that began this weekend in the southern part of the state, along with strong winds, could further fan the wildfire.
The blaze forced authorities to close a major highway and widen their evacuation orders to move people out of danger.
Officials said they have also placed at least 270 homes and businesses under evacuation orders and cleared out camp-grounds and state beaches.
“We’re here at the beginning of June and we’re seeing very active fires, very similar to behavior that we would typically see in the fall,” said Daniel Berlant, a spokesman for the Cal-Fire firefighting agency.
The so-called Sherpa Fire feeding on chaparral and grass about 20 miles (32 km) northwest of Santa Barbara tripled in size from 1,200 acres (486 hectares) on Thursday night to more than 4,000 acres (1,619 hectares) early on Friday, fire officials said.
The Sherpa Fire has generated “fire tornadoes” of swirling flames and threatened at least 270 structures, leading hundreds of people to evacuate ranches and houses in the area.
It also forced authorities to declare an emergency for Santa Barbara County and periodically close a stretch of the 101 Freeway.
According to tracking website InciWeb.gov, over 1,200 firefighters were battling the fire which was only 5 percent contained.
Investigators are seeking to determine what sparked the blaze on Wednesday in Los Padres National Forest, located in southern and central California.