A major thoroughfare was closed and mandatory evacuations were ordered on California’s Central Coast on Monday as powerful winds swept across the state, fueling a rapidly growing fire near Santa Barbara.
U.S. Highway 101, which stretches from California through Washington State, was closed near Santa Barbara after the Alisal Fire erupted Monday afternoon in the Los Padres National Forest, local and federal authorities said.
The fire — which hurled flames and embers a mile ahead amid 35 mph wind gusts — had burned 3,700 acres by Monday night as it approached the Pacific Ocean, NBC affiliate KSBY reported. High winds are expected in the area through Tuesday morning.
Dramatic video captured by the station showed towering flames burning toward the highway. Parks, beaches and campgrounds were evacuated as the fire quickly spread. As many as 100 structures, including ranches and homes, are under threat, according to the Forest Service.
The fire ignited as a large swath of the state was placed under a red flag warning, with fire-friendly weather predicted by forecasters.
Power companies across the state shut off electricity in an effort to prevent new blazes from starting.
Nearly 2.5 million acres have burned in California in 2021, making it one of the most explosive years on record, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.
Experts have attributed the state’s increasingly volatile wildfire seasons to climate change and decades of fire suppression policies that allowed the state’s wildlands to become dangerously overgrown.