Environment & Science

2nd wildfire breaks out on Vandenberg Air Force Base

In this Monday, Sept. 19, 2016 photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a fire burns several miles behind Space Launch Complex-3, housing the Atlas V rocket & WorldView 4 satellite, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Crews are working to surround the wildfire at the central California Air Force base that forced the postponement of a weekend satellite launch. The blaze has expanded to the south as it grew to more than 16 square miles.
In this Monday, Sept. 19, 2016 photo provided by the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, a fire burns several miles behind Space Launch Complex-3, housing the Atlas V rocket & WorldView 4 satellite, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. Crews are working to surround the wildfire at the central California Air Force base that forced the postponement of a weekend satellite launch. The blaze has expanded to the south as it grew to more than 16 square miles.
Mike Eliason/AP

Another wildfire, likely sparked by a downed powerline, broke out and forced the evacuation of buildings on a large central California military base where the Canyon Fire has been burning all week, officials said.

The new fire broke out at 2 p.m. Wednesday on the north side of the coastal, mostly undeveloped Vandenberg Air Force Base is unrelated to the older, larger fire that's on the south side, base officials said. The new fire, dubbed the Washington Fire, has burned about 250 acres and is "controlled" with an unknown containment percentage, according to Vandenberg Air Force Base.

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The new blaze, which had grown to at least 100 acres, brought the evacuation of administrative buildings, but was not yet a threat to any of the housing or key facilities on the base.

Southward winds sent smoke over Lompoc, a city of 40,000 people at the edge of the base, though the flames themselves were not threatening the city.

A preliminary report says a downed powerline sparked it.

Resources were being diverted from the earlier fire that broke out over the weekend in a remote canyon and forced the postponement of a satellite launch. It was 70 percent contained and had burned about 19 square miles (49 square kilometers) of rugged land.

A firefighter died Wednesday and another was hurt when the water truck they were in overturned on a highway outside the city of Lompoc, miles from the fire lines.

Ventura County firefighter Ryan Osler was killed, and Adam Price was injured. There were no other occupants in the truck.

Neither fire posed an immediate threat to the base's launch complex that fires satellites into space.

The two fires forced the cancellation of an exotic car show on the base planned for the coming weekend.

Vandenberg encompasses nearly 156 square miles (405 square kilometers) along the Pacific Ocean.

Gusty winds and dry weather expected to continue throughout the weekend, pose an elevated fire risk. Red flag warnings are in effect.