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updated: 5/28/2013 10:02 AM

Winds could fan Calif. fire that threatens cabins

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Associated Press

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. -- Fire crews watched the winds Tuesday as they struggled to corral a wildfire that sent thousands of campers fleeing the mountains above Santa Barbara and threatened dozens of cabins.

The wind-driven blaze had nearly doubled in size since it erupted Monday afternoon, carving its way through 2.8 square miles of tinder-dry chaparral, oak and pine. It was only 10 percent contained early Tuesday, and the forecast later in the day was for wind gusts of up to 40 mph, Santa Barbara County fire Capt. David Sadecki said.

More than 550 firefighters were on the line, supported by a dozen aircraft.

At its peak Monday, the fire prompted the evacuation of about 50 homes, mainly cabins and vacation rentals, and forced as many as 6,000 campers to evacuate forest areas. Those evacuations remained in effect Tuesday.

The fire also burned two vehicles and a U.S. Forest Service garage and sent an enormous ashy plume over the mountains.

Tuesday morning weather was calm, and the blaze was moving sideways along the mountains north of Santa Barbara. But crews were concerned a wind change could push it down among the homes and businesses of the scenic coastal town, Sadecki said.

"It's an out-of-control wildfire so it is a threat. There's a lot of dry vegetation in its path," Sadecki said. "It's still spring -- it's not even summer -- and it's burning like it's August or September."

Forecasters expected high temperatures in the 80s, he said.

To the south, a fire in the wilderness in San Diego County scorched 900 acres of dry brush but was not a threat to homes or buildings.

The blaze southeast of Julian was sparked around midday Sunday and was 43 percent contained Monday night. Fire officials were investigating whether it was set intentionally.

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