Catalytic converter believed to be cause of Rucker Fire

County of Santa Barbara tweeted cause

Rucker Fire burns nearly 600 acres in...

LOMPOC, Calif. - 10/02/2017 Update:

The Rucker Fire remains 90% contained after burning 444 acres. According to fire officials, full containment has been delayed until 6 p.m. Tuesday, October 3 due to winds. It is believed a catalytic converter is the cause of the fire(s), tweeted the County of Santa Barbara.


[4:30 p.m.] Following a break in containment on the Rucker Fire Sunday afternoon, expected containment was pushed back 24 hours. Roadways are still open or partially open throughout the area.

[2:30 p.m.] Fire Crews were able to regain containment Sunday afternoon after a flair up burned about two acres beyond the containment wall.

[1:00 p.m.] The Rucker Fire broke containment Sunday afternoon. Gusty winds picked up embers which ignited near La Purisima Mission, burning two to three acres. The mission was evacuated and multiple aircrafts were ordered to help regain containment.

[10:00 a.m.] The cause of the Rucker Fire is believed to be a malfunctioning vehicle. Officials said multiple pieces of a catalytic converter were found in the area where the fire sparked.

[8:00 a.m. PDT 10/01/17] The Rucker Fire is now 90 percent contained. Full containment is expected by 6 p.m. Sunday. Acreage remains at 441. There were no injuries reported. One shed was damaged, according to Fire officials.

[8:30 a.m. PDT 9/30/17] The Rucker Fires is now 60 percent contained. Acreage was adjusted to 441. 150 homes are still threatened. The cause of the fire remains under investigation. 519 firefighters remain on scene.


[9:00 p.m. PDT] The suspect vehicle that was sought by California Highway Patrol was located. The driver of the vehicle was cleared of any wrongdoing. 

Even though many homes were threatened, the only structure to sustain any damage was a shed, according to officials.

The following streets in the Mission Hills area are currently closed:

  • Rucker Road and Purisima Road east bound to Mission Gate. 
  • Harris Grade Road from Highway 135 to Burton Mesa Road. 
  • Rucker Road to Calle Pasado North to where Rucker Road meet Harris Grade Road.

[8:00 p.m. PDT] All Evacuation Orders and Warnings have been lifted.

[7:25 p.m. PDT] Rucker Fire is 10% contained according to Santa Barbara County Fire officials.

[7:12 p.m. PDT] The Rucker Fire has burned 570 acres according to Cal Fire officials.

[7:06 p.m. PDT] All street closures within Lompoc city limits have been lifted, according to the Lompoc Police Department.

[6:21 p.m. PDT] The California Highway Patrol is investigating a report of a possible vehicle connected to the Rucker Fire. The described the vehicle as a black and white old police sedan without emblems with a partial California license plate of: 7VV

CHP reports that the vehicle was seen driving at a high rate of speed at each fire location. It was last seen in the area of Rucker Road and Onstott Road possibly heading towards Vandenberg Air Force Base.

[6:05 p.m. Update] Mandatory evacuations for Cebada Canyon have been lifted, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office. Residents are being allowed to return home in that area.

The Rucker Fire has scorched 300 acres and is zero percent contained. 270 firefighters are battling the blaze along with the help of six winged aircraft dropping Phos-Chek and five helicopters making water drops on hotspots.

[5:45 p.m. PDT] Air Quality Warning issued for Santa Barbara County to be in effect until Rucker Fire conditions improve. Details here.

[5:32 p.m. PDT] Lompoc Airport is closed to general traffic. The airport is currently being used to support firefighting operations for the Rucker Fire.

[5:19 p.m. PDT] Only service animals are allowed at the evacuation shelter set up at Lompoc High School. A Mandatory Evacuation Warning is in effect for Mesa Oaks and Cebada Canyon. A Mandatory Evacuation Order is in place north of La Purisima Road through Cebada Canyon Road east of Harris Grade Road. More information here.

[4:55 p.m. PDT] La Purisima Road residents are being allowed back into their homes with proper identification, according to the Lompoc Police Department.

[4:47 p.m. PDT] Road Closures: All traffic north of H Street at Central closed to traffic heading north. Rucker Road and La Purisima closed. Anyone needing to go to Santa Maria should use Highway 246 to Buellton and north on U.S. Highway 101. More information here.

The Lompoc Police Department recommends avoiding Santa Lucia due to heavy traffic backup.

[4:24 p.m. PDT] Crews battling two major fires that make up the Rucker Fire incident. One of the fires has jumped past Los Berros Elementary School and is starting to make a run up the canyon on the other side of the school. Crews are concentrating their efforts on the hillside east of the school.

[3:28 p.m. PDT] Red Cross will be opening an evacuation shelter at 4 p.m. at Lompoc High School located at 515 W. College Avenue. For help with animal evacuations call 805-681-4332.

[3:24 p.m. PDT] The Following areas are under Evacuation Order: Rucker Road east to Harris Grade and north to La Purisima and Cebada Canyon including all of North Mission Hills and La Purisima Mission. If you are not in the evacuation area but feel you are in danger, do not wait for an evacuation order to leave.

Vandenberg Middle School students who live in the Mesa Oaks, Mission Hills, Highlands and Bluffs neighborhoods were not able to ride the bus home and should be picked up at the school's multi-purpose room. 

[3:07 p.m. PDT] The Rucker Fire appears to be jumping Rucker Road towards more residential areas.


Emergency crews are responding to a report of multiple brush fires burning near the area of La Purisima Road and Rucker Road in Lompoc.

The Santa Barbara County Fire Department was notified of the fires shortly after 2 p.m. A full fire response has been activated for the Rucker Fire or Rucker Incident with air support units being requested for water drops. Four to six separate fires with a wide girth were reported.

Approximately 300 acres have already burned according to emergency traffic radio with the fire reportedly spreading rapidly fueled by heavy brush and being pushed by winds.

About 100 structures are threatened at this time according to emergency traffic radio. An evacuation zone has been established for everything east of Harris Grade and everything north of Highway 246/La Purisima Road to Cebada Canyon.

A Reverse 911 was sent to approximately 890 phone lines, according to the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office. 

The California Highway Patrol's Traffic Incident webpage says they're investigating the possibility of a vehicle in the area that may be dragging a chain and could have sparked these fires. However, an official cause of the fire is yet to be determined. A fire investigator is on the way to the scene.

Fire officials are urging looky-loos to stay away from the area as a lot of emergency equipment is coming into the area to battle this fire.

The first team of firefighters to arrive at the scene made a quick assessment of the multiple fires to determine which ones posed a greater threat to the residents in the area and began to aggressively attack those, said Santa Barbara County spokesperson Mike Eliason.

Check back for continued updates on this developing story.

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