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California wildfire prompts highway closure, evacuations

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California wildfire prompts highway closure, evacuations
The Alisal Fire has grown to about 2,000 acres, authorities said. Photo courtesy Los Padres National Forest/Twitter

Oct. 12 (UPI) -- A rapidly growing wildfire that exploded north of Santa Barbara, Calif., on Monday has prompted officials to close a major highway and issue evacuation orders.

Officials said the Alisal Fire started around 2:30 p.m. Monday. Strong 35 mph winds with gusts up to 70 mph have pushed the flames toward the Tajiguas Landfill and across Highway 101.

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By Monday night, the fire had grown to about 2,000 acres with zero containment.

Residents in the area and visitors to El Capitan State Park were ordered to evacuate and evacuation warnings are in place for the area north of El Capitan Campground and east to Dos Pueblos Canyon.

Much of Santa Barbara County is under a high wind warning that will be in place until at least early Tuesday, officials said.

Pacific Gas & Electric has preemptively shut off service to about 25,000 customers in 20 counties.

Los Padres National Forest said earlier that it had initiated a "full response," including air support.

Spokesman Andrew Madsen told the Los Angeles Times that "a couple hundred" firefighters were called to the area. The last time the area burned, he said, was during the 1955 Refugio Fire.

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According to Cal Fire, more than 7,800 fires have burned nearly 2.5 million acres this fire season, resulting in three deaths and damage to more than 3,600 structures.

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