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Wind-driven wildfire chars 70 acres of chaparral in mountains above Santa Barbara


SANTA BARBARA, California — A wind-driven wildfire burned 70 acres of chaparral in the mountains above Santa Barbara and Montecito on Thursday, although no structures were immediately threatened.

The fire was reported about 5:15 a.m. in Los Padres National Forest. By early afternoon firefighters had stopped its forward progress. But they were concerned it could resume gaining ground if 20 to 30 mph hour winds blowing from the north pick up.

"We have a contingency plan in place if that happens for structure protection and to protect the neighborhood. But right now it looks really good," Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni said.

Although no homes were immediately in danger, residents were warned they might have to evacuate if the fire resumes its push east, Zaniboni said. The local Humane Society has a shelter for animals both large and small ready if evacuations are necessary, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department said.

Six air tankers, six helicopters, more than three dozen fire engines and a crew of more than 130 firefighters were battling the blaze, Zaniboni said. Several more engine crews were ready to jump in if needed. No estimated time of containment was forecast.

Elsewhere, KABC-TV said an earlier fire burned nine acres in the Stevenson Ranch area of Los Angeles County before it was contained.

The northerly gusts are expected to shift to the northeast Thursday night, becoming the first significant Santa Ana wind event of the season.

With Southern California heading into Santa Ana wind season, fire departments throughout the region have begun making preparations to respond quickly to wildfires.

The Los Angeles Fire Department announced Thursday that it is deploying firefighters in several of the city's most wildfire-prone regions because of the weather. It's also putting 11 additional engines and other equipment into the areas that include the Hollywood Hills and several hillside-adjacent sections of the San Fernando Valley.

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