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White Fire: 1,984 acres and holding, "person of interest" - Image Gallery

By Sara Bush
C.J. Ward, KEYT NewsChannel 3 Anchor,
Beth Farnsworth, KEYT NewsChannel 3 Anchor,
Published On: May 27 2013 10:10:47 PM CDT
Updated On: May 29 2013 09:42:23 PM CDT

UPDATE: The White fire has burned 1,984 acres as of 7:30p.m. Wednesday night. It is also 90-percent contained. The cost to fight the fire just hit $1.5 million.

Fire officials do not expect the wildfire to grow in size and they say the weather conditions are calming down in the fire zone.

The latest information from the Santa Barbara Office of Emergency Management:

By Tuesday afternoon, forest officials were working to reopen Paradise Rd. to residents.

Andrew Madsen with Los Padres National Forest confirmed to NewsChannel 3 that  investigators have secured the point of origin within the White Rock day use site.

Madsen said the fire is burning into the Upper Oso area, and along Buckhorn Rd.

The big challenge is to keep the flames north of Buckhorn Rd. and away from Camino Cielo.

Light winds are giving air tankers and water-dropping helicopters the upper hand in the aerial attack.

Roughly 125 homes in the area, mostly along Paradise, remain evacuated, however officials are slowly allowing some residents to go back to their homes.

The latest information from the Santa Barbara Office of Emergency Management:

Officials say about 50 structures were threatened, but they are no longer in danger. Most of those structures are housing for U.S. Forest Service personnel.  One structure belonging to the U.S. Forest Service and two cars have burned.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department said an estimated 4,000 to 6,000 people were evacuated from the Paradise Canyon area. Many of them were campers, hikers, and guests enjoying a barbecue or picnic. Search and Rescue teams went door to door in the area making sure residents evacuated safely. There are no reports of any injuries.

Sage Hill campground was engulfed in flames at one point. NewsChannel 3 reporter Victoria Sanchez described what she saw at the Fremont, Sage Hill, Red Rock and White Rock campgrounds. She said campers evacuated so fast they left cut up watermelons on the tables with all of their food sitting there as if they were just ready to sit down and eat when they escaped the fire. In one case, hotdogs were still cooking on a grill.

Several evacuation orders are in effect in areas including White Rock and Rancho Oso Campgrounds.

Highway 154 is open, however the CHP is strongly advising motorists to avoid the San Marcos Pass.

Fire officials have not released a possible cause, however NewsChannel 3 talked with one person who said she saw a man dump hot coals from a barbecue into grass where the fire started. She said the man left in a large pickup truck. The woman and others who allegedly saw the same thing said they have been interviewed by fire investigators.

Madsen says that man is considered a "person of interest."

KEYT NewsChannel 3 showed live video of firefighting helicopters siphoning water from the Santa Ynez River and using that water to dump on the flames. Winds in the area are expected to be in the 30 - 40 mph range and continue pushing the flames east along the Santa Ynez river into remote parts of the Los Padres National Forest. Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Dave Sadecki told NewsChannel 3 at 11 p.m. that more fire resources are on the way for Tuesday. He said firefighters have managed to keep the flames on the north side of the Santa Ynez River. Sadecki said that's critical to stopping the fire from making a run up-slope to the ridge and possibly threatening populated areas on the south side of the mountain if the winds shifted.

A shelter for evacuees is open at the Wake Center on 300 North Turnpike Road.

People needing help with their animals can call County Animal Services at 681-5285.

A high wind warning is in effect until 3 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The last time this area burned was in 2007, during the Rancho Fire.

KEYT NewsChannel 3 will have the latest information as it becomes available.

Map of the White Fire Burn Area


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