Cave Fire near Santa Barbara burns thousands of acres, forcing evacuations

The fire started Monday afternoon, pushed by strong winds

map Cave Fire Santa Barbara
The red dots represent heat on the Cave Fire detected by a satellite at 2:45 a.m. PST Nov. 26, 2019.

UPDATED at 1:55 p.m. PST November 26, 2019

At an 11 a.m. press conference Tuesday fire authorities said the Cave Fire at Santa Barbara, California had burned 4,262 acres. In addition to the 10 air tankers and 9 helicopters, 500 firefighters are working on the blaze.

The strong wind that drove the fire rapidly downhill toward the city Monday night slowed on Tuesday. Rain is expected to begin at about 10 p.m. Tuesday, but forecasters have backed off the two inches that was predicted through Thursday, cutting it in half, to about one inch. There is a chance of more rain this weekend.

(Click here to see all articles on the Cave Fire, including the most recent)

Updated at 8:01 a.m. PST Nov. 26, 2019

The spread of the Cave Fire northwest of Santa Barbara, California slowed after midnight Monday night but it continued to grow actively near Painted Cave Road and had burned into the San Marcos Foothills Nature Preserve just north of the city limits of Santa Barbara.

At 7:34 a.m. PST Mike Eliason of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department reported, “4,100 acres with 0% containment. 600 firefighters assigned. No structures (homes) destroyed & no injuries.”

In the map above the red dots represent heat detected by a satellite orbiting 500 miles above the earth. The locations have not been confirmed by individuals closer to the ground. We expect to obtain slightly more accurate satellite data later Tuesday morning.

map Cave Fire Santa Barbara
Posted by Joey Buttitta of Fox 11 at 7:38 a.m. Nov. 26, 2019.
aircraft cave fire over
Aircraft over the fire at 7:52 a.m. included two S-2T airtankers and an air attack ship.
Cave Fire November 25, 2019
“#CaveFire- FF’s from Santa Barbara County Fire battle flames off CA Hwy-154 north of Santa Barbara Monday night,” wrote Mike Eliason of the Santa Barbara County FD who took this photo Monday night.

Originally published at 10:40 p.m. PST November 25, 2019

Firefighters are working to protect structures threatened by the Cave Fire that spread rapidly after it started northwest of Santa Barbara, California at 4 p.m. Monday. It was pushed by winds out of the north that increased from 5 mph to 16 mph, with gusts up to 30. At sunset a nearby weather station in San Marcos Pass recorded a temperature of 61 degrees with 16 percent relative humidity.

At 9:30 p.m. a fire department spokesperson said the fire had burned about 3,100 acres. It was about 4 miles west of the western edge of the 2017 Thomas Fire. (see map above)

Mike Eliason with Santa Barbara County Fire Department posted these photos Friday night that he said were taken in two locations, on E. Camino Cielo near Painted Cave Road and San Antonio Creek Road near Highway 154. We checked and those locations are three miles apart.

map Cave Fire Santa Barbara
The map shows the approximate location of the Cave Fire at 9 p.m. PST November 26, 2019. The yellow pins mark the locations from which the photos were taken Monday night by Mike Eliason, of the Santa Barbara County FD.

Evacuations have been ordered. The most current information can be found at An evacuation center is open in the Goleta Community Center at 5679 Hollister Avenue.

Cave Fire November 25, 2019
A dozer works on the Cave Fire November 25, 2019. Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County FD.

At least two night-flying helicopters are assisting firefighters on the ground by dropping water as the fire bumps up against structures near San Antonio Creek Road.

Cave Fire November 25, 2019
A Los Angeles County FD helicopter works on the Cave Fire November 25, 2019. Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County FD.
Cave Fire November 25, 2019
Cave Fire November 25, 2019. Photo by Mike Eliason, Santa Barbara County FD.

At 9 p.m. PST most of the fire was within the Los Padres National Forest (the green line on the map above) but was approaching the boundary to the south.

The weather forecast for the fire area calls for the wind to decrease Monday night from 21 mph with gusts at 31, down to 10 mph  at 4 a.m. It should then continue to decrease through the day on Tuesday to 5 mph by sunset. Heavy rain is predicted to begin at 10 p.m. Tuesday and continue through Thursday, totaling about two inches.

Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire. Google+

8 thoughts on “Cave Fire near Santa Barbara burns thousands of acres, forcing evacuations”

  1. Why don’t we have ” ready to fly” tankers in SB during fire season. It’s got to be cheaper than what this cave fire costs! The fire was tiny for at least 30 minutes and was only accessible from the air so nothing stopped it…no air support…shame…
    Are there drones big enough to be useful?

  2. Just maybe Ronald, that should be the next fundraiser to start on. Santa Barbara County Fundraiser to purchase a Tanker Plane and Crew to be on standby. May be costly, but may save some property and lives. 4 to 5 million should be a beginning and then pass a fire tax bill to cover it from there or keep the funds coming in. That should help get a head start on the fires.

  3. For a long term solution why not implement Firewise standards for homeowners and surrounding property? That is stricter building codes with fire resistant materials, requiring clearing/thinning of brush around homes and placement of fuel beaks around communities. Having fire resources like tankers on SB is a good idea. But that does not address the problem of building homes in fire prone areas. Especially if they happen to be high density tracts.

    1. Since we can now know when a fire starts we need to stamp it out in first mjnutes… some fires start away from homes and its these I think we need to address since they are the “big” ones.
      With satelite anx drones we can have 24 hour coverage..

      1. Its all going to burn Ronald. Its just a matter of how long till it happens. Mother Nature always wins. Whether it is fire in the west or floods in the midwest or hurricanes in the gulf she like to let us know who the real boss is. The real question is how much are you willing to pay to delay the inevitable.

      2. If the building/home is built to firewise code, if the lot has been prepared to firewise standards, if a fuel break is established, then the odds are the “big” one with its ember wash will have little impact on the homes.

        Not going to say good initial attack is not needed. I am going to say it is more worth while in the long run to develop firewise communities. Air attack should always be followed up with ground resources.

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