000 firefighters are battling forest fires in California

Evacuations were ordered shortly after the fire was reported Saturday afternoon.

Based on evacuation orders and warnings, a number of people stayed Saturday night at the shelters established by the American Red Cross for both the Alamo fire and Whittier fire, according to county officials.

Fire officials told the Santa Maria Times the focus Saturday would be on structure defense, with five helicopters and four fixed-wing air tankers making air drops. It has burned about 300 acres.

Firefighters saved at least 60 campers who were attending the Circle V Ranch, a popular summer camp, authorities said.

The so-called Alamo Fire, feeding on bone-dry vegetation, almost tripled in size on Saturday to about 19,000 acres (7,700 hectares) on the border between San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara counties. There are still 5,400 structures threatened by the flames.

[4:00 p.m. PDT] - Earlier in the afternoon, the Alamo Fire jumped a retardant line and began burning out of control in Santa Barbara County, according to Santa Barbara Fire Captain Dave Zaniboni.

Courtesy of Cal Fire |The Wall Fire evacuation area as of 3:30 p.m. Monday
Courtesy of Cal Fire |The Wall Fire evacuation area as of 3:30 p.m. Monday

The Oroville fire has blackened 9 square miles (23 square kilometers) of grass.

"When it's hot like this, things seem to start up", said Lynnette Round, spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

Near Santa Barbara, the Whittier Fire has devoured almost 8,000 acres and burned a school to the ground. 1,664 fire personnel are fighting the blaze, which ignited Thursday. It's 35 percent contained. Early reports that the blaze was started by a auto fire are unconfirmed and the cause is under investigation, according to officials.

Since then, 19,000 acres were reportedly destroyed near California Highway 166, with only 10 percent contained so far.

There were 40 uncontained large US wildfires on Saturday, the National Weather Service said. About a dozen of the fires are considered major, he said.

The fires come just under a year after Californians faced terrifying "firenadoes" - some of which, officials suspected, were caused by arsonists.

  • Eleanor Harrison