Lightning sets fires along California Central Coast

SANTA BARBARA, Calif. " An intense rash of lightning strikes ignited numerous brush fires in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties early Friday, fire officials said.

A 15-acre blaze in Tepusquet Canyon in Santa Barbara County led fire officials to close roads as fire equipment was moved on site.

No buildings were in danger, but the fires have "serious potential" to expand, county fire Capt. Eli Iskow said.

Lightning also caused several small brush fires in backcountry areas.

In San Luis Obispo County, lightning sparked about a dozen small fires but most were extinguished by rain, said Cal Fire spokeswoman Angela Gutgesell.

"We got a good downpour," she said.

Four fires were still burning and ranged in size from 25 acres near Orcutt Road to three acres near San Luis Obispo High School, she said. No buildings were threatened.

The fires were sparked by an unusually intense rash of lightning strikes overnight.

The National Weather Service said the storm system formed over Redondo Beach, south of Los Angeles, and sparked more than 400 lightning strikes as it moved up the coast.

"It was sort of a rare event," said metereologist Steven Van Horn, adding that most of the strikes occurred over the Pacific Ocean.

No new storms were forecast for southern and central California, he said.

Lightning sparked some 2,000 fires in northern California earlier this summer.


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