A vegetation fire that raged out of control in Miguelito Canyon south of Lompoc, threatening hundreds of homes and other structures, and prompting large-scale evacuations, had calmed considerably late Tuesday night.
The blaze, which was being fueled by heavy brush and fanned by hot, dry winds, had charred an estimated 600 acres, a figure that was revised downward overnight, according Capt. David Sadecki of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
The blaze was 50 percent contained Wednesday morning, Sadecki said, adding that the gusty conditions that had stoked the flames during the day had subsided.
"Winds have diminished significantly, causing the fire lay down for now," Sadecki said.
Some 550 personnel remain assigned to the fire, Sadecki said, and officials are most concerned about structures to the north of the blaze, including in the city of Lompoc.
He added that hot, dry conditions were expected again, with winds gusting to 15 mph Wednesday afternoon.
No injuries have been reported. The cause of the fire remained under investigation.
The fire was reported shortly before 1:30 p.m. Tuesday on the 2500 block of San Miguelito Road, Sadecki said.
Hundreds of structures in the area were being threatened by flames, and evacuations were ordered throughout Miguelito Canyon, using a reverse 911 system.
Evacuations also were ordered in the city of Lompoc — south of Olive Avenue between 7th Street and Bailey Avenue.
Sadecki estimated that some 1,200 residences and commercial properties were affected by the evacuation, including the Superior Court building in Lompoc.
Evacuees were being directed Trinity Nazarene Church at E Street and North Avenue. The Santa Maria Fairpark on West Stowell Road was serving as a secondary evacuation site, and was set up to handle large animals.
At 8:30 p.m., fire officials announced that all those evacuated were free to return to their homes.
Temperatures in the area during the day were in the low 90s, Sadecki said, with very low humidity.
Power lines were reported down in the area, hampering initial firefighting efforts, Sadecki said.
Officials closed down Highway 1 east of the fire as flames were moving that way, Sadecki said, but the road was reopened shortly before 8 p.m..
Four firefighting helicopters were brought in to help battle the blaze, Sadecki said, and several air tankers also were deployed.
Incident commanders requested additional firefighting resources from other agencies in the region, Sadecki said, including 10 strike teams of five engines each for structure protection, as well as hand crews.
As evening fell, bulldozers were working to carve out containment lines, assisted by crews building lines by hand.
Winds were expected to remain relatively calm overnight, at 6-10 mph, with gusts to 15 mph, Sadecki said.
All aircraft had stopped flying after darkness fell, but some were expected to return to the fight at daybreak.