Wildfire above Santa Barbara Valley threatens vineyards, Neverland Ranch – Evacuations Expand, Crews Rush In!

Santa Barbara County, California – A wildfire in the mountains above Santa Barbara County’s Santa Ynez Valley has grown to over 16,000 acres, leading to evacuations near vineyards and the former Neverland Ranch, once owned by pop star Michael Jackson.

The Lake fire was first reported near Zaca Lake on a Friday afternoon, spreading rapidly through dry grass, brush, and timber. As of Sunday, the fire remained uncontained. Evacuation areas near Neverland Ranch were expanded by the county Sheriff’s Department, with additional ground crews dispatched to the region.

Officials expressed the primary goal of protecting structures from the blaze, which was burning in the mountains above Foxen Canyon Road, home to more than a dozen vineyards. While some wineries north of Los Olivos were forced to close due to restricted access caused by the fire, there was no immediate need for evacuation, according to Ashley Parker, co-owner of Fess Parker Winery.

Despite witnessing the glowing flames north of the winery at night, Parker noted that the wind seemed to be pushing the fire in a northward direction, away from populated areas. The children on the ranch found entertainment in watching fire helicopters extracting water from the vineyard reservoir during operations.

The Lake fire, fueled by low humidity and high temperatures, coincided with a red flag warning due to strong winds when it ignited. The mitigated wind speed allowed for aircraft to be utilized in applying fire-retardant, but challenging conditions persisted for firefighters due to the high temperatures.

Moving beyond Santa Barbara County, crews faced multiple wildfires across California amidst scorching temperatures. The Basin fire in Fresno County and the French fire outside Mariposa threatened areas but have since been partially contained. In the San Bernardino National Forest, the Vista fire erupted, resulting in evacuation orders and closure of hiking trails as firefighters worked on containment efforts.

Along with battling fires, inland areas of California were grappling with excessive heat warnings as temperatures soared to record-breaking levels. The challenging conditions prompted operational adjustments for businesses like wineries in Los Olivos, with hopes for a swift containment of the Lake fire. As residents remained vigilant, concerns over air quality due to smoke persisted, marking a challenging period for affected communities.