Ray Ford / Noozhawk.com
The campers were later evacuated and reunited with their families after what Peterson called a “rescue operation.”
“They rode it out for hours, literally hours,” he said.
Mandatory evacuation orders were in effect for the area around Highway 154. Incident commanders said anyone in close-by areas should be prepared to be evacuated quickly.
At least 400 firefighters were assigned to the fire, whose cause officially remains under investigation, although authorities said they believe it began with a vehicle fire.
Tom Horning, a camper from San Diego, said he had spent two days at Lake Cachuma, near where the fire burned, when his wife got a text asking whether he had been able to evacuate safely.
He said he looked off in the distance, saw the smoke and tried to head back away from the fire but was turned away at the highway.
“As far as other people were in danger of losing their homes, I mean we’re kind of lucky,” Horning told
NBC affiliate KSBY of Santa Barbara. “All we have is our camping stuff.”
A second fire, known as the Alamo Fire, which was burning in San Luis Obispo County, north of Santa Barbara County, exploded to 24,000 acres on Sunday after it broke out on Thursday afternoon, fire officials said.
The fire remained only 10 percent contained as more than 600 firefighters sought to bring it under control, incident commanders said Sunday. No injuries had been reported.
The fires in Southern California burned amid record-setting heat. Highs were expected to remain above 90 throughout the week.