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Just as the first snows have begun to quench the summer fires in the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevadas, a major blaze has flared up on the California coast. It’s the sign that fall fire season has begun. The Alisal Fire, west of Santa Barbara, raged through dry brush over the last few days, growing rapidly. Fierce winds drove the fire from the ridgetop to the coast, cutting off a major highway and railroad lines.

“There have been incredible challenges, with winds gusting up to 70 miles per hour and starting spot fires up to a mile away,” said Jimmy Harris, fire chief of the Los Padres National Forest, at a press conference on Wednesday.

Authorities haven’t determined what started the Alisal Fire on Monday afternoon. They have been busy setting up perimeters to corral the swelling fire, which is only 5 percent contained. The wind has whipped down from the hills, carrying a plume of smoke out to the Pacific Ocean, and driving the fire though the coastal chaparral, a biome dominated by thick, evergreen bushes and shrubs. Over 15,000 acres had burned as of Thursday. The flames scorched the Tajiguas Landfill and threatened its $150 million methane capture sy... Read more

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