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In Spite of Menacing Appearance of Smoke, Rey Fire Burning Away from Populated Areas

Wind-driven wildfire in Los Padres National Forest grows to more than 18,839 acres as two flanks send up massive smoke plumes

Smoke from the Rey Fire was a commanding presence in the sky above Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon, in a view from the downtown intersection of State and Ortega streets. Click to view larger
Smoke from the Rey Fire was a commanding presence in the sky above Santa Barbara on Saturday afternoon, in a view from the downtown intersection of State and Ortega streets. (Kim Clark / Noozhawk photo via Instagram)

(ENPLAN interactive map)

[Click here for an interactive fire map from ENPLAN. Zoom in and click the fire symbols for further details about the Rey Fire and its progression.]

For the last two days, southern Santa Barbara County residents have been warily following a backcountry wildfire by watching the sprawling cloud of smoke billowing above the Santa Ynez Mountains.

On Saturday, a second significant plume emerged to the east of La Cumbre Peak, setting off concerns that the smoke signaled a growing threat to the South Coast.

Authorities sought to reassure locals that the rapidly expanding Rey Fire was still burning away from populated areas and heading deeper into undeveloped Los Padres National Forest land.

The fire, which ignited Thursday afternoon on Paradise Road off Highway 154 east of Lake Cachuma, had grown to an estimated 18,839 acres by Sunday morning, with about 10 percent of it contained, officials said.

Officials were expecting more hot and dry conditions Sunday, but not as much wind, according to Mike Eliason, a Santa Barbara County Fire Department spokesman.

He also said South Coast residents should expect more of the menacing columns of smoke, especially in the afternoon.

Nearly 750 fire personnel have been deployed to the blaze, with more on the way.

Air tankers continued the attack Saturday on the growing Rey Fire burning in Los Padres National Forest north of Santa Barbara. Click to view larger
Air tankers continued the attack Saturday on the growing Rey Fire burning in Los Padres National Forest north of Santa Barbara. (Zack Warburg / Noozhawk photo)

“The clouds look terrible,” Santa Barbara County communications manager Gina DePinto acknowledged Saturday afternoon, but she added that the active fire area is not as close as it appears.

The Rey Fire had two flanks burning Saturday, Eliason explained.

He said the southwest column of smoke was the result of burnouts and other firefighting efforts, but the northeast corner — which was responsible for the second plume of smoke visible farther to the east — had a lot of activity as it pushed toward the Old Man Mountain area of the national forest, just west of the Ventura County line.

“The fire is creating its own weather system with extreme, erratic winds around the fire,” Eliason said Saturday evening.

“The fire is feeding itself with the weather so it’s a dangerous spot to be for fire crews underneath those right now.”

According to the National Weather Service, the forecast is expected to remain hot and dry through the weekend with temperatures in the 80s and 90s.

Smoke from the Rey Fire creeps out of upper Toro Canyon on Saturday afternoon, in a view looking east from Camino Alto on the Santa Barbara Riviera. Click to view larger
Smoke from the Rey Fire creeps out of upper Toro Canyon on Saturday afternoon, in a view looking east from Camino Alto on the Santa Barbara Riviera. (Michael Ditmore photo)

On Saturday evening, the wind was pushing Rey Fire smoke over the ridgeline and down some South Coast canyons, including Toro Canyon west of Carpinteria. The appearance prompted numerous calls to the county Emergency Operations Center and to local fire departments.

DePinto said there are no structures in imminent danger from the wildfire, but mandatory evacuations are still in effect for residences, ranches and campgrounds along Paradise Road, as well as Los Prietos Boys Camp.

The cause of the Rey Fire has not been determined, but authorities say flames were discovered around 3 p.m. Thursday, not long after a downed power line was reported on Paradise Road near Rancho San Fernando Rey and the White Rock Picnic Area.

Late Friday, authorities estimated the fire’s size at around 3,000 acres with 20 percent containment. By Saturday morning, it had grown to 10,732 acres but the containment estimate was lowered to 10 percent.

There was significant fire behavior and growth on the north and east sides throughout Saturday, and wind-driven embers sparked new fires across Camuesa Road to the east, Eliason said. Scroll down for a map of the fire lines as of 5 p.m. Saturday.

DePinto said she and some county Office of Emergency Management staff were answering phones in the Emergency Operations Center during daytime hours, although the center has not been activated officially.

The South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team took command of the fire Saturday morning. The U.S. Forest Service initially had command and is part of unified command with CalFire and the county Fire Department.

Santa Barbara County established a website as well as a 2-1-1 phone line for fire information, including road closures and evacuations, at 1.800.400.1572.

(Noozhawk video)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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

Aug. 20 5 p.m. Rey Fire Lines Map by Giana Magnoli on Scribd

Plumes of smoke from the Rey Fire were clearly visible from the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club in Montecito on Saturday. Click to view larger
Plumes of smoke from the Rey Fire were clearly visible from the Coral Casino Beach & Cabana Club in Montecito on Saturday. (Urban Hikers / Noozhawk photo)

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