Updated Oct 13, 2021 - Energy & Environment

California wildfire jumps major highway as blaze swells to 13,400 acres

Firefighters monitor the Alisal Fire as it moved through Tuesday afternoon as the Alisal Fire is over 7,000 acres on Tuesday  as the fire moves into Refugio Canyon. on Tuesday, Oct. 12,

Firefighters from Los Padres National Forest monitor the Alisal Fire as it moves into Refugio Canyon, California, on Tuesday. Photo: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

About 100 Central California properties and a shuttered oil refinery were under threat overnight from a rapidly growing wildfire that forced the closure of a major highway near Santa Barbara, per the Los Angeles Times.

The big picture: The Alisal Fire that ignited near the Alisal Reservoir on Monday has grown to 13,400 acres with 5% containment, officials said. Nearly 800 firefighters are now battling the wind-driven blaze that caused thousands of people to evacuate.

  • Highway 101 near Santa Barbara has been closed since Monday. Flames have "jumped the freeway in several areas," the LA Times reports.

Threat level: Firefighters were keeping an eye on the blaze's proximity to the ExxonMobil facility in Las Flores Canyon, which has not been operating since 2015 following an oil spill, per the LA Times, which notes the "remaining oil stored in the unit" has since been taken elsewhere.

  • "Fire behavior is extreme with wind driven runs, uphill runs and backing," according to Inciweb, an inter-agency incident information site.
  •  "Significant fire activity continues with critically low fuel moisture and wind driven fire runs. Sundowner winds remain gusty from the northwest to north over the fire area."

Driving the news: Studies show that the U.S. West is seeing more frequent and larger wildfires as climate change alters precipitation patterns, temperatures and the timing of the wet and dry seasons, per Axios' Andrew Freedman.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with new details on the fire and further context.

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