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Santa Barbara County firefighters fight first big fire of the year

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Posted at 5:42 PM, May 07, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-07 22:27:01-04

Santa Barbara County firefighters are battling their first larger vegetation fire of the year.

The fire started around 2:15 Thursday morning inside Gaviota State Park and next to housing community, Hollister Ranch.

Fire officials say 3,800 gallons of water was used to douse the flames of the so-called, Hollister Fire.

"Since our rain season, this is our first fire of the season," said Captain Daniel Bertucelli of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The fire went from 20 acres to more than 150 in just a few hours.

"I think this fire grew because of the wind," Captain Bertucelli said. "It was blowing 25 miles an hour, probably gusting higher than that and that's what carried this fire."

When the sun came up, aircraft from Santa Barbara, Paso Robles, and Ventura attacked the flames from above.

"You're always going to be concerned when you have a heat wave like we're having right now," Captain Bertucelli said. "When it gets hot like this, the sun does what we call preheats the fuels and it makes it more receptive for burning."

The State Parks land was charred forcing a soft closure from COVID-19 to turn into a full closure.

In the days to come, environmental scientists will be doing resource damage assessment.

"We want to know how the fire affected vegetation," said Greg Martin, California State Parks District Superintendent. "If it reached any of our trails here at Gaviota State Park."

At one point, a couple of Hollister Ranch homes were threatened but the Hollister Ranch Owners Association tells KSBY it was unharmed other than a power outage.

Meantime, hand crew firefighters rescued a fawn during the blaze. It's since been transferred for further care.

Airtankers have been sent back to Paso Robles and a helicopter back to Ventura but Santa Barbara County's helicopter remains on standby.

"This area is prone to wind and with the hot weather and the low relative humidities as well as the anticipated winds, we'll have people here for a while to ensure that no hot spots jump the line and start a new fire," Captain Bertucelli said.

Firefighters are expected to be here until at least Saturday.

The last big fire for Santa Barbara County firefighters was the Cave Fire along Highway 154 that burned more than 3,000 acres last November.

The cause of Thursday's fire is under investigation.