A brush fire that started near the town of Goleta north of Santa Barbara late Monday afternoon triggered evacuations, threatened homes and continued to edge toward city limits as gusty winds blew up fire activity.

The Cave Fire started around 4 p.m. Monday in Los Padres National Forest and had grown to an estimated 4.9 square miles by Monday night, according to the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The area is east of the mountain pass, also known as Highway 154, which was partially closed Monday. 

The fire was mainly burning in the forest but evacuations were ordered north of Cathedral Oaks in Goleta in the foothills. A fire last year in the coastal city destroyed 13 homes.

Santa Barbara County posted an evacuation map with live updates at its readysbc.org site.

There’s no immediate word on whether any homes have been damaged in this new blaze.

The fire is burning through dry, brushy canyons and ridges, pushed by winds gusting to 30 mph.

Weather forecasts call for winds with gusts of 60 to 70 mph at times into Tuesday morning but rain is expected later in the day. 

During the Cave Fire’s first hour, it grew to about 50 acres. Winds then kicked up, fueling the fire over the next three hours to more than 4.3 square miles, the Santa Barbara Police Department reported. Southerly winds blew during that time at about 30 to 40 mph, according to the department.

The Cave Fire caused traffic nightmares in some areas as flames marched closer to city limits Monday night. 

Residents trying to evacuate down San Marcos Road were blocked around 7 p.m. by cars clogging Cathedral Oaks as people tried to take pictures, California Highway Patrol reports showed. Because Highway 154 was closed, evacuees had to come down old San Marcos, officials said.

Gretchen Wenner covers breaking news for the Ventura County Star. Reach her at gretchen.wenner@vcstar.com or 805-437-0270.

USA Today