The Santa Barbara County Fire Department is increasing staffing levels to deal with the heightened risk of wildfire due to winds expected to buffet the region through Thursday.
The National Weather Service issued an advisory on Wednesday, saying that moderate northerly winds would hit the area in the evening and into Thursday morning. Winds of 35 to 45 mph are expected, and the advisory will remain in effect from 8 p.m. Wednesday to noon Thursday.
In the statement, the NWS said that winds beginning Thursday evening and lasting into Friday night would be “the first notable Santa Ana wind event of the season.”
As the winds increase, the relative humidity in the air will decrease — a combination that could result in an extended period of critical fire conditions, the advisory said.
Just one week ago, the Lookout Fire broke out near Painted Cave above Highway 154, burning 45 acres, threatening homes and prompting evacuations before it was contained.
Sundowner winds that were expected never materialized, helping firefighters control the blaze with no structure damage.
Winds expected Thursday could make driving difficult, especially for high profile vehicles, and the NWS cautioned drivers on local highways — especially near Gaviota, San Marcos Pass and below the hills of Montecito.
Noozhawk spoke Wednesday afternoon with Capt. David Sadecki, who said the county Fire Department is continuing to monitor the situation.
The department requested assistance Wednesday from CalFire, the state agency, which agreed to stage five engines and a leader in Carpinteria as a precaution, Sadecki said.
Four hand crews were being sent from Ventura County, and county fire will increase staffing even more by 8 a.m. Thursday, when three engines, a water tender and a battalion chief will join the watch.
A red flag alert for the county hasn’t been issued yet, which takes into account wind speed, humidity and temperature, and though humidity has been dropping, it isn’t low enough to trigger a warning, Sadecki said.
“We are continuing to monitor weather conditions, and are in constant communication with the National Weather Service as well as all the other departments,” he said.
Sadecki encouraged anyone who spots any sign of smoke to report it by calling 911, and to use extreme caution if using spark-producing machinery in brush areas.
He also encouraged the public to have an evacuation plan in place and identify two exit routes from their neighborhoods, to evacuate if asked by fire or law enforcement officials, and to report any suspicious people or vehicles.