Fast-spreading California blaze, one of dozens, prompts evacuations

July 7 (Reuters) - Santa Barbara County officials declared a local emergency early on Saturday as a fast-moving wildfire driven by strong winds and high temperatures tore through homes and forced 3,200 residents to evacuate.

The Holiday Fire, one of more than three dozen in western U.S. states, broke out near the beach community of Goleta, California, on Friday night before charring dried vegetation in the foothills south of the Los Padres National Forest.

Some 350 firefighters were taking advantage of a period of light winds early on Saturday to contain as much as possible of the blaze, which has burned through 50 to 80 acres (20 to 32 hectares) and damaged or destroyed 20 buildings, fire officials said.

16 PHOTOS
Fires in Yolo County, California
See Gallery
Fires in Yolo County, California
Firefighters work to control a fire as flames from the County Fire jump across Highway 20 near Clearlake Oaks, California, on July 1, 2018. - Californian authorities have issued red flag weather warnings and mandatory evacuation orders after a series of wildfires fanned by high winds and hot temperatures ripped through thousands of acres. The latest blaze, the County Fire sparked in Yolo County on June 30, had by July 1 afternoon spread across 22,000 acres (9,000 hectares) with zero percent containment, according to Cal Fire. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Inmate firefighters work as flames from the County Fire climb a hillside in Guinda, California, on July 1, 2018. - Californian authorities have issued red flag weather warnings and mandatory evacuation orders after a series of wildfires fanned by high winds and hot temperatures ripped through thousands of acres. The latest blaze, the County Fire sparked in Yolo County on June 30, had by July 1 afternoon spread across 22,000 acres (9,000 hectares) with zero percent containment, according to Cal Fire. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Fire consumes a hillside as the County fire burns along Highway 129 near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County, Calif., on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/TN)
ESPARTO, CA - JULY 02: A firefighting air tanker drops Foscheck fire retardant on a hillside ahead of the County Fire on July 2, 2018 in Esparto, California. The fast moving County Fire, which started on Saturday afternoon, has scorched nearly 45,000 acres as it continues to burn through dry grass and brush. The fire is currently 3 percent contained and has not burned any homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Cows trot in a burning pasture in Guinda, California on July 01, 2018. - Californian authorities have issued red flag weather warnings and mandatory evacuation orders after a series of wildfires fanned by high winds and hot temperatures ripped through thousands of acres. The latest blaze, the County Fire sparked in Yolo County on June 30, had by July 1 afternoon spread across 22,000 acres (9,000 hectares) with zero percent containment, according to Cal Fire. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
Hot Shot crews from Truckee, Calif., use incendiary devices to start backfires to help contain the County fire along Highway 129, near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County, Calif., on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/TN)
Hot Shot crews from Mendocino, Calif., use backfires to help contain the County fire along Highway 129 near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County, Calif., on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/TN)
ESPARTO, CA - JULY 02: A firefighting air tanker drops Foscheck fire retardant near a structure ahead of the County Fire on July 2, 2018 in Esparto, California. The fast moving County Fire, that started on Saturday afternoon, has scorched nearly 45,000 acres as it continues to burn through dry grass and brush. The fire is currently 3 percent contained and has not burned any homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hot Shot crews from Mendocino, Calif., use backfires to help contain the County fire along Highway 129 near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County, Calif., on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/TN)
GUINDA, CA - JULY 02: Smoke rises from the County Fire as it burns through dry brush on July 2, 2018 in Guinda, California. The fast moving County Fire, that started on Saturday afternoon, has scorched nearly 45,000 acres as it continues to burn through dry grass and brush. The fire is currently 3 percent contained and has not burned any homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Hot Shot crews from Mendocino, Calif., use backfires to help contain the County fire along Highway 129 near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County, Calif., on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/TN)
ESPARTO, CA - JULY 02: A firefighting air tanker drops Foscheck fire retardant on a hillside ahead of the County Fire on July 2, 2018 in Esparto, California. The fast moving County Fire, which started on Saturday afternoon, has scorched nearly 45,000 acres as it continues to burn through dry grass and brush. The fire is currently 3 percent contained and has not burned any homes. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)
Fire consumes a hillside as the County fire burns along Highway 129 near Lake Berryessa in Yolo County, Calif., on Tuesday, July 3, 2018. (Randall Benton/Sacramento Bee/TN)
TOPSHOT - Firefighters watch as flames from the County Fire climb a hillside in Guinda, California, on July 1, 2018. - Californian authorities have issued red flag weather warnings and mandatory evacuation orders after a series of wildfires fanned by high winds and hot temperatures ripped through thousands of acres. The latest blaze, the County Fire sparked in Yolo County on June 30, had by July 1 afternoon spread across 22,000 acres (9,000 hectares) with zero percent containment, according to Cal Fire. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
A horse looks on in his pasture near where the County Fire burns in Yolo County on Saturday, June, 30, 2018. (Daniel Kim/Sacramento Bee/TNS via Getty Images)
Flames from the County Fire move through a property in Guinda, California, on July 1, 2018. - Californian authorities have issued red flag weather warnings and mandatory evacuation orders after a series of wildfires fanned by high winds and hot temperatures ripped through thousands of acres. The latest blaze, the County Fire sparked in Yolo County on June 30, had by July 1 afternoon spread across 22,000 acres (9,000 hectares) with zero percent containment, according to Cal Fire. (Photo by JOSH EDELSON / AFP) (Photo credit should read JOSH EDELSON/AFP/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

"It was a small fire but it had a powerful punch to it," Santa County Fire spokesman Mike Eliason said by telephone. "We're going to hit it hard today."

Winds are likely to pick up again as temperatures rise in the afternoon, Eliason said. So far, firefighters have set up containment lines around just 5 percent of the blaze, he said.

Besides the evacuations, officials said the fire left 2,000 people without power, adding that the emergency declaration will help the county get additional firefighting resources.

Dozens of fires have broken out across the western United States, fanned by scorching heat, winds and low humidity.

The first death attributed to them was announced on Friday, when the remains of an unidentified person were found in a home burned to the ground by the Klamathon fire, which broke out on Thursday near California's border with Oregon.

This year's fires had burned more than 2.9 million acres through Friday, compared with an annual average of about 2.4 million over the last 10 years, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Among the biggest is the County Fire that has charred 88,375 acres (35,764 hectares) in sparsely populated wooded areas of California's Napa and Yolo Counties and is 48 percent contained, the California Fire authority said on Saturday.

Some 3,660 firefighters faced with inaccessible terrain, high temperatures and low humidity, were battling the fire, which has destroyed 10 structures, damaged two and threatened 110, it said.

In Colorado, a fire crew of 1,444, aided by local rains and higher humidity on Friday, continued to battle the Spring Creek fire north of the Arizona border, which has consumed 105,704 acres and is 35 percent contained, local officials said.

(Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee and Peter Szekely in New York; Editing by John Stonestreet and Franklin Paul)

Read Full Story