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Surging wildfire forces evacuations in California

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May 27, 2013 10:24 PM EST | AP

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — A surging wildfire forced more than 1,000 people, including Memorial Day campers, to evacuate the mountains of California's Santa Barbara County, officials said.

The fire broke out about 2:45 p.m. Monday in Los Padres National Forest about 15 miles north of Santa Barbara and quickly surged to 700 acres amid winds of about 20 mph, U.S. Forest Service officials said.

The fire was threatening about 50 homes, many of them cabins and vacation rentals, and 50 to 75 residents had evacuated, county fire Capt. David Sadecki said.

Paradise Road and the many campgrounds along it were closed, forcing about 1,000 campers to evacuate, Sadecki said.

A U.S. Forest Service garage and two vehicles had burned, he said.

The American Red Cross set up an evacuation center at Santa Barbara City College and another was set up for horses stalled in the area's many stables.

The National Weather Service said the winds may get worse as night falls, but fire officials said they may also get help from the weather.

"We're hoping the temperatures drop and the humidity rises," Sadecki said.

A huge plume of gray and white smoke rose over the mountains and hovered over Santa Barbara, where many residents were flooding Facebook and Twitter with photos.

The county has issued an air quality warning because of the smoke and wind, advising people to limit time spent outdoors and to avoid outdoor exercise altogether.