Wildfire shuts down major California highway, leads to evictions

A major road was closed and a mandatory evacuation ordered in California’s central coast Monday as strong winds swept through the state, sparking a rapidly growing fire near Santa Barbara.

U.S. Highway 101, which runs from California through Washington state, was closed near Santa Barbara after the Allies fire broke out Monday afternoon in Los Padres National Forest, local and federal authorities said.

The fire — which set flames and embers a mile away amid winds of 35 miles per hour — had scorched 3,700 acres by Monday night as it approached the Pacific Ocean, NBC affiliate KSBY reported. Strong winds are expected in the area until Tuesday morning.

Dramatic video taken by the station It showed flames blazing towards the highway. Parks, beaches and campgrounds were evacuated as the fire spread rapidly. As many as 100 buildings, including farms and homes, are threatened, according to the Forest Service.

The fires were blazing as much of the state was placed under a red flag warning, with weather forecasters predicting favorable fire weather.

Electricity companies across the state have cut off electricity in an effort to prevent new fires from breaking out.

Nearly 2.5 million acres were burned in California in 2021, making it one of the most explosive years on record, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Experts have attributed the state’s fluctuating wildfire seasons to climate change and decades of fire suppression policies that have allowed the state’s wildlands to become dangerously overgrown.

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