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Rain may douse Cave fire in Santa Barbara County

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GOLETA — Firefighters are hoping rainy weather will douse a wildfire that threatens thousands of homes in the coastal foothills north of Los Angeles.

The wind-whipped fire, dubbed the Cave fire, that erupted Monday raged through tinder-dry brushy canyons in the same area where a 1990 blaze destroyed more than 400 homes.

No homes had burned as of Tuesday night but about 2,400 homes and other buildings in the Goleta area near Santa Barbara remained threatened, fire officials said.

The National Weather Service expected rain to hit the region before dawn Wednesday, with up to an inch possible as the storm moved through.

The rain should help drench the flames. Forecasters said it probably won’t fall strongly enough to trigger any major mudslides on the fire-stripped ground.

In January 2018, a downpour on burned slopes just east of Santa Barbara unleashed massive debris flows that devastated Montecito, killing 23 people and destroying homes.

Most of the fire’s growth occurred Monday and while the burned area increased on Tuesday, most of the 5,500 people who had been ordered to evacuate were being allowed home.

The fire was 10% contained Tuesday night after burning nearly 7 square miles (17 ½ square kilometers), much of it in Los Padres National Forest.

The steep terrain, coupled with dry vegetation and erratic winds, made for a tough firefight.

“It’s just a hard, difficult piece of country to fight fire in and the weather is the most extreme anywhere around,” said Jim Harris, Los Padres National Forest fire chief.

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Antczak reported from Los Angeles.

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