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Santa Barbara County Fire Burns 4,300 Acres, Threatens Thousands Of Homes

Photo caption:

Photo by Noah Berger AP

A helicopter drops water on the Cave Fire burning in the Los Padres National Forest above Santa Barbara, Calif., on Tuesday.

Updated 10:25 p.m. ET

Firefighters in Santa Barbara County, Calif., are battling a stubborn, wind-driven blaze that started Monday afternoon and has burned more than 4,300 acres, threatening several thousand residents by Tuesday morning.

The good news is that meteorologists forecast that rain from a cold front could arrive on Tuesday and help firefighters corral the Cave Fire. The blaze currently 10% contained. About 4,000 evacuees were allowed to begin returning home Tuesday afternoon as the storm approached the region.

No injuries or destroyed homes have been reported. About 600 firefighters are on the scene.

The fire matches conditions similar to so many other recent California wildfires. It combines bone-dry brush situated in steep, hard-to-access terrain with erratic winds gusting up to 50 mph. The area last burned more than two dozen years ago.

"The Cave fire is burning under some of the toughest firefighting conditions anywhere in the world," Jim Harris, fire chief at the Los Padres National Forest, told the Los Angeles Times. "We've experienced several offshore wind events at this point, and that has just dried the fuel bed out to the point where we're seeing the fire behavior we saw last night."

At least a half-inch of rain is forecast to hit Santa Barbara with showers lasting through Thanksgiving and into early next week.

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