Natural oil shale fire smolders at beach near Santa Barbara

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SANTA BARBARA, Calif. (AP) — Authorities say smoke wafting from a hillside above a beach west of Santa Barbara is from a naturally occurring fire.

The fire was reported Monday morning at Arroyo Burro Beach Park.

The Santa Barbara County Public Health Department says the smoldering fire is due to friction causing spontaneous combustion of oil shale embedded in sedimentary rock. Winds also provide a constant influx of oxygen.

The smoking area is about 3 feet by 4 feet located about 10 feet above the beach.

Crews have removed nearby vegetation that might ignite.

Officials recommend staying away from the immediate area because low levels of hydrogen sulfide have been detected within 50 feet of the cliff face.

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