SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — A wildfire in the rugged hills overlooking Santa Barbara threatened about 100 homes Wednesday as it chewed through dense chaparral, authorities said.
Deputies went door to door telling people to leave the Painted Cave area, an isolated mix of cabins and homes near a rocky ridge, sheriff's Sgt. Mark Williams said.
The fire erupted about 7:45 a.m. not far from Highway 154. Within a few hours, it had spread through at least 15 acres of brush.
Television reports showed a dense plume of grayish-white smoke above the steep hills and a line of flame snaking through a canyon.
Air tankers painted the flames with orange-red fire retardant, and firefighters armed with hoses made stands near homes.
Winds were light, and the fire showed little sign of spreading. However, the National Weather Service said gusts to 20 mph could hit later in the day.
"The fire is bumping up against some rock outcroppings ... it's basically running out of some of its fuel," county fire Capt. David Sadecki told KABC-TV.
Four helicopters and two air tankers were aiding firefighters who were trying to knock down the flames before the expected arrival of afternoon winds.
The cause of the fire was unknown, but some power lines were down in the area, fire officials said.
Ganga White, founder and director of the nonprofit White Lotus Foundation yoga retreat, said he saw the fire erupt across the street, apparently from a downed power line.
The flames were 50 feet high but heading away from the retreat, he said.
Thirty-five people were attending a training session for yoga teachers at the retreat.
"They're all packed up ... and they're all by their cars," White said. "We can be out of here in five minutes."
The Painted Cave area was the scene of a fire in 1990 that killed one person and burned about 550 homes over 7 1/2 square miles.
The area is known as a fire hazard, especially when "sundowner" winds begin to blow through the canyons toward the ocean in the afternoon.
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"We've been through four fires like this so we can tell," White said. "The big danger's in the afternoon."
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