Tuesday, September 27 , 2016, 1:45 am | Fair 71º

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Local News

Crews Halt Cold Springs Canyon Blaze at 3 Acres

Evacuations lifted for areas near the fire zone; suspect possibly detained in blaze, according to CHP

Click here for a gallery of photos from the fire.

Firefighters appear to have corraled a vegetation fire that broke out Tuesday in dense brush and rugged terrain near the Cold Springs Trail above Montecito,

However, engine and hand crews were expected to work through the night dousing hot spots and watching for flare-ups.

A U.S. Forest Service hand crew heads toward the fire lines Tuesday during the Cold Fire above Montecito. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
A U.S. Forest Service hand crew heads toward the fire lines Tuesday during the Cold Fire above Montecito. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Crews were bringing hose lines to the fire, and U.S. Forest Service hand crews planned to stay on scene until they can cut a containment line around the fire with chainsaws and hand tools, said Santa Barbara County Fire Department Capt. David Sadecki.

“We suspended all the aircraft, so the fire’s actually looking really good,” Sadecki said. “The retardant lines are holding it, plus there’s no wind.”

The fire, which broke out shortly before noon, charred about three acres, Sadecki said.

According to CHP online dispatch, a suspect was detained who witnesses identified as possibly starting the fire, but that could not be confirmed.

Sadecki said the cause of the fire remained under investigation.

The blaze began as a “slope-driven fire,” Sadecki said, noting that it was burning mostly uphill in an area of heavy vegetation and steep slopes that hasn’t burned in many years.

The biggest concern, Sadecki said, was if the winds increased in the afternoon and begin pushing the flames downhill toward populated areas. However, that did not occur.

Officials say the blaze, dubbed the Cold Fire, was burning in the vicinity of Southern California Edison power lines.

The Montecito Fire Protection District announced mandatory evacuations above Mountain Drive east of Cold Springs and west of Park Lane West. An evacuation advisory was issued east of Park Lane West and west of Buena Vista Road.

Those orders and advisories were rescinded at 2:41 p.m.

A tanker drops a load of fire retardant Tuesday on the Cold Fire above Montecito. (Gary Lambert photo)
A tanker drops a load of fire retardant Tuesday on the Cold Fire above Montecito. (Gary Lambert photo)

A plume of smoke and flames were visible from throughout Santa Barbara as the fire burned through the chaparral.

Three hikers on the Cold Springs Trail were in the vicinity of the fire, but were able to hike to safety on their own, Sadecki said.

A total of 50 personnel were assigned to the blaze, along with 16 engines, two water tenders, and three bulldozers, Sadecki said. From the air, firefighters were using five helicopters, two air tankers, and one air-attack plane.

Fire managers began releasing crews and aircraft at mid-afternoon as the blaze was contained.

Smoke rises from the Cold Fire above Montecito Tuesday, as viewed from downtown Santa Barbara. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)
Smoke rises from the Cold Fire above Montecito Tuesday, as viewed from downtown Santa Barbara. (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Crews from the Montecito, Santa Barbara County, the City of Santa Barbara and Carpinteria-Summerland fire departments and the U.S. Forest Service were responding.

Temperatures were in the mid- to upper-80s in the fire area, and the humidity is low, but winds have remained fairly calm. The forecast for the afternoon is for light winds.

The fire was burning less than a mile north of where the devastating Tea Fire ignited nearly four years ago.

Temperatures had climbed into the 90s on the afternoon of Nov. 13, 2008, when gale-force sundowner winds sent the Tea Fire racing through the Montecito foothills and up to Santa Barbara’s Riviera.

A helicopter makes a water drop on the Cold Fire Tuesday above Montecito. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)
A helicopter makes a water drop on the Cold Fire Tuesday above Montecito. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

More than 200 houses were destroyed in the wildfire, including more than a dozen faculty homes at Westmont College, which also lost eight campus buildings. The fire also left the renowned Mount Calvary Monastery & Retreat House in ruins.

Two people were seriously injured in the blaze, which scorched 2,000 acres in Montecito, upper Sycamore Canyon and Rattlesnake Canyon.

Noozhawk staff writers Giana Magnoli and Lara Cooper reported from the scene.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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