10/28/10 An aerial tanker flies past a tracking station neat Vandenberg Air Force's Solvang Gate while battling the Bear Creek Fire.

A brushfire that broke out at Vandenberg Air Force Base early this afternoon has grown to 150 acres, according to information released by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. Spreading at a moderate to rapid pace, the wind-driven fire is burning near Bear Creek and Ocean Roads and is in the area of the base’s South Gate and Space Launch Complex-3.

The fire, which broke out shortly after 1 p.m. today, is burning in a medium to high fuel area, said Vandenberg officials. As of 3:50, the fire was heading toward a more vegetated area that could slow down its spread.

Although the land falls under Vandenberg’s jurisdiction and control, County Fire Department forces are responding with assistance; as of 3:30, a bevy of responders were on the scene including two crews, three helicopters, and three air tanks, according to Vandenberg’s website. Officials said a containment field of 400 acres has been established around the blaze.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and the blaze is raging in unforgiving conditions; temperatures are nearing 80 degrees with southeast winds 18 to 30 miles per hour in Lompoc, according to The Weather Channel. Conditions seemed to be improving after 3:30, however, as the fire slowed its pace.

Shrubbery burns on the southern part of base here Thursday, October 28, 2010.

Calls are in for 10 more engines, several more aerial tankers, and support from Lompoc and Ventura fire departments, Los Padres National Forest, and the California Highway Patrol.

Two strike teams are protecting the base’s many at-risk structures. Officials say they are concerned for the many potentially dangerous unexploded ordnance.

Nearby Surf Beach has been closed to prevent onlookers from impeding the flow of emergency vehicles.

There is a planned Delta II rocket launch this Sunday from the base.

[UPDATE, 5:16 p.m.]: Base emergency officials report that the fire has increased to 250 acres and that six buildings are currently threatened. The winds are dying down in the area, however, and an on-scene commander said the fire could be under control by as early as tomorrow morning or afternoon.

Currently fighting the fire are: three hand crews, seven bulldozers, 28 engines, three helicopters, and two fixed-wing tankers.


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