The Whittier and Alamo fires in Santa Barbara County are two of several major wildfires to break out in early July across California.
The Whittier Fire started Saturday, July 8, 2017, in Los Padres National Forest near a campsite and exploded in size, traversing a mountain range and shutting down Highway 154. It left behind burned out vehicles and buildings at a Boy Scouts Camp as it marched across southern Santa Barbara County. The fire burned nearly 11,000 acres by Tuesday with containment at 25 percent.
On the northern end of the county, the Alamo Fire was the state's largest fire as of Tuesday July 11, 2017. The fire, which began Thursday July 6, 2017, burned 46 square miles and was 45-percent contained Tuesday, when CAL FIRE reported 14 large wildfires burning throughout California. "Large" wildfires are fires 300 acres or larger.
Winter downpours pulled the state out of years of drought, but also brought a layer of grass that's fueling early-summer fires.
"What the heavy rains have done is created a grass crop that we haven't seen in forever," said Santa Barbara County fire Capt. Dave Zaniboni. "That creates faster moving fires, hotter fires, it carries fire much more readily."
Years of drought in the region created dangerously dry conditions that were aggravated by sweltering high temperatures over the weekend in Santa Barbara County.