This story was last updated at 11:12 a.m. Tuesday.
An estimated 200 acres were charred by a vegetation fire that broke out northeast of Buellton Monday, prompting authorities to order evacuations and close a stretch of northbound Highway 101 for several hours.
The fire was reported at about 3:15 p.m. near Highway 101 north of Buellton, and originally was reported as a string of separate blazes.
By 8 p.m., the forward progress of the flames had been stopped, and the blaze was 20-percent contained, according to Capt. Daniel Bertucelli of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
Evacuation orders for ranch lands northeast of Buellton were canceled at 8 p.m., Bertucelli said, as crews made good progress on the fire and air tankers were released from the incident.
“Favorable overnight weather and hard work increased the containment percentage to 30 percent with the acreage holding at 200,” fire spokesman Mike Eliason said.
Helicopters would continue making water drops Tuesday and 200 firefighters were assigned to the blaze, with high winds and warm temperatures expected again Tuesday afternoon and evening.
At the peak Monday afternoon, some 600 firefighters were assigned to the fire, along with five air tankers, three helicopters, bulldozers and numerous hand crews.
The California Highway Patrol's dispatch log indicated a malfunctioning vehicle traveling on the highway might have sparked the fire, which remained under investigation.
At the outset, at least four fires were burning in what has been dubbed the McMurray incident, and mandatory evacuations were ordered for ranch areas northeast of Buellton shortly before 5 p.m. They were reduced to warnings and lifted by 8 p.m.
Several structures were threatened by the flames, which were moving east toward Ballard Canyon.
Northbound Highway 101 lanes were closed to all traffic between Highway 246 and Highway 154 for several hours, causing a massive traffic backup.
The left-hand lane was reopened at about 6:30 p.m., and the right lane remained closed, with an estimated reopening of 6 p.m. Tuesday.
The northbound on-ramp to Highway 101 from Highway 246 remained closed.
The California Highway Patrol advised motorists to use Highway 246 through Lompoc as a northbound detour during the closure.
County fire crews were assisted on the blaze by personnel from San Luis Obispo County Cal-Fire, the Santa Barbara City Fire Department and Los Padres National Forest.
Early on, fire officials estimated the fire had the potential to burn 700 acres.
At about 5:30 p.m. Monday, a separate vegetation fire was reported on Highway 1, about a half mile west of Highway 101, but crews were able to quickly contain the blaze.
One lane of northbound Highway 1 was closed at Highway 101 Monday evening while fire responders worked on the scene, according to the CHP.
Widespread power outages were reported in Buellton and the Santa Ynez Valley Monday, affecting as many as 13,000 customers at one point, according to PG&E.
Air quality was registered as unhealthy for sensitive groups in Santa Maria Monday afternoon, probably due to winds, according to the Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District.
Hourly updates on air quality can be viewed on the agency’s website here.
The APCD also recommends people in the area of the fire stay indoors and use a HEPA air purifier if they have one. “If you’re driving nearby, turn on your car’s recirc button to prevent smoke from coming in,” the agency said in a statement Monday.
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