A large homeless encampment caught fire just after midnight in Santa Barbara, closing down a lane on Highway 101, according to the Santa Barbara City Fire Department.
Three engine crews and a battalion chief responded to the fire just south of the Los Patos Way exit in the southbound direction of Highway 101.
“It was a pretty elaborate camp, one of the more elaborate ones I have seen,” said fire investigator Ryan DiGuilio. “It was pretty big.”
The cause of the blaze was under investigation, but DiGuilio said it likely started as a warming or cooking fire.
The people who lived at the encampment fled before investigators arrived.
On Highway 101, the right-hand lane was closed for less than an hour. The Amtrak trains during that period were not disrupted.
Fire crews sprayed the spot with foam before departing to make sure there was no chance for re-ignition.
DiGuilio said encampment fires are commonplace in Santa Barbara these days.
“We see quite a few of these,” DiGuilio said. “They tend to increase in these colder months, with these warming fires or cooking.”