California wildfires latest: Santa Barbara County fire grows to 26,176 acres

The largest blaze of the California wildfire season, the Lake Fire in Santa Barbara County, continued to grow overnight, fueled by gusty winds and extreme temperatures, authorities said.

The Lake Fire burning near the Los Padres National Forest has charred 26,176 acres of mostly grassland and timber, spreading an additional 5,000 acres between Wednesday afternoon and Tuesday morning, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"It's scary," Raymond Williams, a lifelong resident of the area, told ABC News as he monitored the direction of smoke and flames burning in the hills near his home. "I know a lot of people that live around the area, a lot of families live around here. I hope they can keep structures safe."

Despite the growth of the fire, which has prompted numerous evacuations, the more than 2,400 firefighters battling the blaze are making progress, increasing containment to 12% from 8%, according to Cal Fire.

The Lake Fire is one of 19 wildfires burning in California on Tuesday, Cal Fire said.

The wildland blaze about 40 miles north of the city of Santa Barbara started on Friday afternoon near Zaca Lake in the Los Padres National Forest.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Department issued evacuation orders on Saturday night as the blaze grew out of control. The evacuation orders, which remained in place Tuesday, included the 5000 block of Figueroa Mountain Road, where Michael Jackson's former ranch is located, officials said.

PHOTO: The Lake Fire burns close to what was Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., July 6, 2024.   (David Swanson/Reuters)
PHOTO: The Lake Fire burns close to what was Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., July 6, 2024. (David Swanson/Reuters)

Warnings were also issued for residents in the surrounding area to be prepared to evacuate, according to the sheriff's office.

As of Tuesday, just one structure was reported destroyed.

"The main priority is to prevent the fire from moving toward communities to the south," Cal Fire said in a statement.

The wildfire erupted during a heat wave that has enveloped the area and most of California.

"An EXCESSIVE HEAT WARNING through next week continues to affect the fire with high temperatures, drying vegetation and little relief at night. The National Weather Service has reported that a heat wave this intense, this long, has not been experienced in this region in 20 years," Cal Fire said in a statement.

MORE: Evacuation orders issued for latest California wildfire amid scorching heat wave

The fire grew rapidly over the last few days as temperatures have soared into the high 90s with a relative humidity of around 11%.

"When relative humidity decreases, fire behavior increases because fine fuels like grass and pine needles become drier quickly," according to the Western Fire Chiefs Association (WFCA).

The cause of the fire is under investigation.

PHOTO: A firefighting helicopter performs a water drop as the Lake Fire burns in Los Padres National Forest with evacuation warnings in the area on July 6, 2024 near Los Olivos, Calif. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)
PHOTO: A firefighting helicopter performs a water drop as the Lake Fire burns in Los Padres National Forest with evacuation warnings in the area on July 6, 2024 near Los Olivos, Calif. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

North Fire

The North Fire, which broke out Sunday afternoon in Northern California, west of Mt. Shasta near the Oregon border. The North Fire in Modoc County, fueled by dry rangeland grasses, has spread to 4,389 acres and was 50% contained on Tuesday, according to Cal Fire.

The Modoc County Sheriff's Office issued mandatory evacuation orders for homes and businesses in the path of the fire, including the communities of West Valley, Wormville and Mill Creek Falls.

Shelly Fire

Another Northern California wildfire burning out of control Monday was the Shelly Fire in Siskiyou County, also near the Oregon border, according to Cal Fire. The fire, which started on Wednesday in the Klamath National Forest near Lake Shelly and the Pacific Crest Trail, had burned 6,261 acres as of Tuesday and was 0% contained, according to Cal Fire.

The Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office issued mandatory evacuation orders to residents in the path of the fire and warned others to be prepared to flee.

Thompson Fire in Oroville

Fire crews had Thompson Fire, which started on July 2 in the Butte County town of Oroville and caused the evacuations of nearly 30,000 residents, almost completely out on Tuesday. The blaze burned 3,789 acres and destroyed at least 25 structures, including homes. The fire was 98% contained on Monday.

MORE: 3 firefighters injured battling Thompson wildfire in California, Cal Fire says

Firefighters battled both flames and dangerous temperatures over the weekend in the Oroville area ranging from 110 to 116 degrees, according to Cal Fire.

Most of the evacuations caused by the Thompson Fire were lifted on Saturday.

PHOTO: An Orange County crew keeps an eye as the Lake Fire burns close to what was Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., July 6, 2024.   (David Swanson/Reuters)
PHOTO: An Orange County crew keeps an eye as the Lake Fire burns close to what was Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch in Los Olivos, Calif., July 6, 2024. (David Swanson/Reuters)

Basin Fire in San Joaquin Valley

The most stubborn fire in the state, the Basin Fire burning in the foothills east of Fresno in the San Joaquin Valley, was 60% contained on Monday after burning 14,027 acres, according to Cal Fire. The blaze started on June 26 in the Sierra National Forest north of Pine Flat Lake and south of Shaver Lake and Wishon Reservoir.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Temperatures in the area of the Basin Fire are forecast to remain in triple digits throughout the week.

French Fire near Yosemite National Park

The French Fire near Yosemite National Park in Mariposa County has burned 908 acres since erupting Thursday and was 70% contained as of Tuesday, according to Cal Fire.

Three firefighters were injured battling the wildfire, which has destroyed four structures, Cal Fire said.

McCain Fire in San Diego County

Another significant Southern California fire is the McCain Fire, which started on July 1 in southeast San Diego County.

As of Tuesday, firefighters had the fire almost completely extinguished, having achieved 95% containment on the blaze that has burned 1,595 acres.

Royal Fire

Thirteen hikers stranded in a wildfire zone near the Tahoe National Forest in Northern California's Placer County were rescued on Monday, authorities said.

The Placer County Sheriff's Office launched a search for the hikers after finding their vehicles within the area where the Royal Fire ignited around 4 p.m. on Sunday.

A search-and-rescue helicopter crew located the group around 7:20 a.m. PT Monday, according to the Placer County Sheriff's Office. A rescue crew was inserted into the area and led the hikers out of harm's way, according to the sheriff's office.

The Royal Fire had burned 201 acres as of Tuesday and was 0% contained, according to Cal Fire.

California wildfires latest: Santa Barbara County fire grows to 26,176 acres originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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