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Wednesday Cave Fire Update: 4,330 Acres Burned, 20 Percent Contained

Steep, Rocky Terrain Making It Slower to Contain Fire

Media stationed along East Camino Cielo during the Cave Fire. (November 26, 2019) | Credit: Paul Wellman

[Update 2:15 p.m.]: The total number acres burned has been updated to 4,330. The original story follows.

[Original story]: With all Cave Fire evacuees headed home today, here’s what you need to know about the blaze now:

The Cave Fire grew to 4,330 acres overnight and is at 20 percent containment as of 11 a.m., which sounds scarier than it actually is.

“The public usually confuses the correlation between fire activity and fire containment,” said Daniel Bertucelli, public information officer for the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. “Just because containment is low, doesn’t mean it’s out of control.”

Containment refers to the perimeter that firefighters create around the fire to keep it from spreading, not what percentage of the fire is put out. Bertucelli said the Cave Fire terrain is extremely steep and rocky, making it slower to contain the fire.

“It’s really hard to get bulldozers up around that terrain, so we are mostly securing the perimeter by hand,” he said. “This isn’t going to be one of those fires where containment is 10 percent the first day and 90 percent the next; it will be a slow creep.”

So despite the 20 percent figure, fire fears are looking up. Bertucelli said there are 886 firefighters deployed, but many who traveled long-distance to fight the fire are going home today, along with all the evacuated residents. The rain helped stamp out the blaze too, but not too much that any debris flows were triggered.

“The rain helped us last night and will continue to help us over the next few days,” he said.

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