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Firefighters battle new blaze in California

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Los Angeles (AFP)

Hundreds of California firefighters on Tuesday battled a wind-driven brushfire that grew out of control overnight near Santa Barbara, threatening thousands of homes and prompting evacuation orders.

The so-called "Cave Fire" that started around 4:00 pm on Monday in Los Padres National Forest, grew to 4,100 acres (1,659 hectares) overnight as it moved toward populated areas in the cities of Santa Barbara, Goleta and nearby communities.

Some 600 firefighters were battling the blaze that prompted evacuation orders for about 2,400 homes.

Santa Barbara County Fire Captain Daniel Bertucelli said helicopters and fix-wing tankers were assisting the firefighters who faced steep, rugged terrain.

The fire was zero percent contained by midday Tuesday but officials said they were hopeful that a storm set to arrive in the area later in the day would help extinguish the flames.

"What's working in our favor is we're getting rain tonight," Bertucelli said.

The storm is expected to dump about an inch of rain in the fire region, bringing the potential of flash floods and debris flows, authorities warned.

The blaze comes on the heels of a series of fires that erupted in the state last month destroying homes and vineyards and forcing thousands of people to flee their homes.

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