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Southern California wildfire prompts evacuation of 4,000 people

Valerie Walston / AP

Smoke rises from a wildfire burning in the mountains north of Santa Barbara, Calif.

Southern California's wildfire season has flared up again, this time chasing 4,000 residents and campers out of the mountains of Santa Barbara County.

The U.S. Forest Service said the so-called White Fire broke out near a campsite Monday afternoon in the Los Padres National Forest about 15 miles north of Santa Barbara and spread quickly, fanned by 20 mph winds.

The fire grew along the San Ynez River overnight and led to the evacuations of about 4,000 people in campgrounds and year-round and summer homes, Forest Service spokesman Andrew Madsen said.

At least 50 homes were also evacuated, Reuters reported, but Forest Service spokesman Manuel Madrigal said the orders would likely be lifted by evening.

"The winds are still not in our favor but it's going OK. I was just out on the fire lines and there wasn't any major burning activity," Madrigal told Reuters.

About 2,025 acres had burned by Tuesday night, but the fire was 65 percent contained, fire officials said.

More than 600 firefighters were battling the blaze. If winds stay the same, officials said they expect to have contained the fire fully by Wednesday morning.

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Strong winds both helped and hindered firefighters Monday, pushing the fire east through forest and away from structures but forcing the grounding of six air tankers. 

The Forest Service said as many as 100 structures could be imperiled with small wind shifts to the north and said there is "extreme" potential for the fire to grow. 

The cause of the fire was under investigation.


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