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Many mountain community residents stay behind during the Cave fire

Air tanker 72
John Palminteri
A strong attack with planes and helicopters has helped to slow down the Cave fire off San Marcos Pass.

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - An area loaded with 30-year old shrubs and trees off Painted Cave Road above Highway 154 is now wiped out of its vegetation because of the aggressive spread in the Cave Fire.

About 2:30 Tuesday morning, the canyon erupted with erratic winds and it had fire burning on many fronts as part of the larger Cave fire. That fire broke out about 4:15 p.m. Monday. The cause is not known.

Painted Cave is a high risk spot to be in. Depending on conditions and the number of vehicles in the area, it is a tight mix with limited ways in and out.

With the winds calming down and the fire running out of fuel in many areas, 10 planes and 9 helicopters were able to focus on hot spots and lines of defense.

It was a steady day of work to create a box around the fire. 50 loads of the fire retardant PhosCheck were dropped on the burn area.

Many Painted Cave residents who were told to evacuate, did not all heed the warning.

Jenny Van Seters said when authorities came to her door, "I was in my gear at the time and I said, 'I am staying for now.' We just walked the street actually so I could help point out who was gone already, who was staying, who needed help and that established trust with them."

A nearby resident, Marina Gallagher-Perez said, "there's just no way I will leave my property. I have never left and they take my name down and my drivers license and I have always stayed. I have been through many fires."

This community is well organized and has planned for fires for years.

Van Seters and others are part of an "ember team." She said, "We were on radios with one another and some lookouts around the community. We were up all night just walking the community and we were running hose out wherever we could. We have different pumps and water systems we were ready!" 

Nearby the historic Painted Cave with Native American drawings on the rock walls has been sealed off and protected by firefighters. The art is said to have been done in the 1600's. A special metal blanket is on the entrance and signs to help those areas to hold off any fire."

The cave is a California Historic Park and treasured archeological site.

Article Topic Follows: Fire
Cave fire
San Marcos Pass
santa barbara county

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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