A wildfire fed by parched land and high winds spread in southern California on Saturday, forcing hundreds of people to leave their homes as the blaze formed destructive columns of flames known as fire tornadoes.
The so-called “Sherpa Fire” in Santa Barbara County, about 145 km northwest of Los Angeles, had burned through about 3,161 hectares by Saturday evening, officials said.
Firefighters estimated the fire was 45 percent contained after early evening “sundowner winds,” that can whip through the area’s coastal canyons, did not emerge overnight on Friday.
“We had a very good night last night,” Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Eric Peterson told a news conference.
However, county officials issued a new “red flag warning” for gusty winds today and tomorrow.
More than 1,200 firefighters have been dispatched to battle the flames, fueled by dry chaparral and grass in canyons about 32km northwest of Santa Barbara.
The fire is one of a series of blazes in western and southwestern states brought about by high temperatures and a prolonged dry spell.
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