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Santa Barbara County Not Unscathed as 15,500 Lightning Strikes Hammer California

3 backcountry brush fires still burning as firefighters contain lightning-sparked Santa Ynez Valley blazes

Lightning strikes kept firefighters busy with brush fires in the Santa Barbara County backcountry over the weekend. The lightning was part of an explosion of more than 15,500 downstrikes that were recorded throughout California.

There were no injuries reported in the Santa Barbara County blazes and authorities said no homes were threatened. All but three of the fires had been contained by Sunday.

Two fires were reported in the northern Santa Ynez Valley just before 6:30 a.m. Saturday. The bigger blaze, a 35-acre fire in the 9000 block of Figueroa Mountain Road about 10 miles northeast of Los Olivos, was fanned by wind gusts of up to 30 mph. Crews from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and Los Padres National Forest, assisted by a water-dropping helicopter, fought to get the fire contained.

A second fire was reported in the 7600 block of Figueroa Mountain Road but firefighters corralled that blaze at two acres, authorities said.

Both fires are under investigation, but officials said lightning was reported in the area early Saturday.

Ken Williams, who lives in the 5100 block of Figueroa Mountain Road, told Noozhawk that thunder and lightning flashes from the overnight storms woke him up Saturday. The Santa Barbara social worker and frequent Noozhawk columnist said early Saturday afternoon that weather conditions continued to be “muggy and warm” but that the wind had died down.

At least four more fires were reported Saturday, including the 125-acre Hurricane Fire burning in a remote area of the San Rafael Wilderness. Two CAL FIRE air tankers from Paso Robles flew dozens of retardant drops on the fire Saturday and Sunday, said Los Padres National Forest spokesman Joe Pasinato.

The 50-acre Buckhorn Fire near Sheep Canyon and the seven-acre Quarry Fire near Colson Canyon continued to burn at a slow to moderate rate of speed Sunday.

In all, 15,536 lightning strikes were recorded in California during a 24-hour period that ended at 6 a.m. Sunday, according to YubaNet.com in Nevada City.

In the 24-hour period ending at 6 a.m. Saturday, 10,123 lightning strikes were recorded, YubaNet.com said. Between 5 and 6 a.m. Saturday, 1,286 downstrikes were logged.

The majority of strikes was recorded in Southern California, in a band stretching from the coast to the Arizona border, YubaNet said.

The National Weather Service said there is a chance of afternoon and evening thunderstorms Monday and Tuesday in the backcountry. Intermittent thunder was heard along the South Coast through much of Saturday afternoon.

Monday’s South Coast forecast calls for morning fog, followed by mostly sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s. Tuesday should see more of the same, the weather service said.

» Click here for the complete National Weather Service forecast.

» Click here for the Santa Barbara County Office of Emergency Services. Click here to sign up for the OES’ messaging service. Connect with the OES on Facebook.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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