The wind-driven Alisal Fire has caused mostly minor damage to structures and infrastructure along Santa Barbara County’s Gaviota Coast as of Thursday. About 440 structures are threatened in the fire area, including private ranches and homes.
Three residences and two outbuildings have been destroyed by the fire as of Friday morning.
The blaze has prompted evacuation orders and warnings for hundreds of residents and forced railway and road closures in both directions on Highway 101 between Highway 1 and Winchester Canyon Road/Cathedral Oaks.
The railroad tracks along the Gaviota Coast reopened as of 4 p.m. on Thursday, according to Kristen Allison, public information officer for the incident management team.
Highway 101 reopened in both directions shortly after 6 p.m. on Thursday, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The highway pavement remains in good condition and crews have done some guardrail repairs along the highway in the area near the Arroyo Quemado bridge and reinstalled a large traffic sign where a wooden post had been burned by the fire, Jim Shivers, Caltrans District 5 spokesman, told Noozhawk.
Refugio State Beach, El Capitán State Beach and Gaviota State Park are all under mandatory evacuation orders and closed until further notice, according to the California Department of Parks and Recreation.
Gaviota State Beach closed Tuesday night in conjunction with the mandatory evacuation order, according to Tyson Butzke, ranger for the Channel Coast District.
“We’re standing by just like everybody else is to see when the freeways open, and Gaviota State Park might open when the freeways open, but we are just waiting to see,” Butzke told Noozhawk.
Several acres of the Refugio and El Capitán parks have burned, but there has been no damage to infrastructure or buildings in the area, just park property, Butzke said.
Rangers had to fully evacuate both Refugio and El Capitán on Monday night, and campers were sent either to the county evacuation area at Dos Pueblos High School or Carpinteria State Beach for an overnight visit “before they could venture elsewhere,” Butzke said.
Both Refugio and El Capitán park areas are currently being used by fire crews for fire support, according to Butzke.
Just north of the Gaviota Tunnel, Vista Del Mar Union School, in Las Cruces, was added to the evacuation zone as the fire continues burning west.
Superintendent Lois Peterson told Noozhawk that the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department initially included the school in the mandatory evacuation order zone but called around 9:40 Thursday morning to say that the evacuation zone has been lifted and the school is only in the warning area at this time.
The school is on fall break this week, so no students or staff are on campus and only a few staff members had to evacuate, Peterson said.
Santa Barbara County Fire Station 38, on Calle Mariposa Reina in Gaviota, has not been damaged in the blaze, according to the county.
There has been fire damage at the county’s Tajiguas Landfill, which was in the fire’s path Tuesday morning. There was a flare-up from the fire in the landfill’s biofilter outside of the Materials Recovery Facility, according to Lael Wageneck, spokesperson for the county’s Public Works Department.
While the fire damaged drainage, landfill gas collection systems, and heavy equipment, the Materials Recovery Facility and the Anaerobic Digester are still intact, he said.
There has been no additional damage since what was reported on Tuesday, but crews are still assessing the scene, Wageneck told Noozhawk Thursday. County Fire Battalion 11 is on the site monitoring the situation, he added.
While the landfill is not accepting trash, there is a contingency plan in place where Gold Coast Recycling in Ventura County is accepting recyclable material and the Toland Road Landfill in Santa Paula is receiving other materials, Wageneck said.
Waste collection services from residents and businesses will continue as usual, and the South Coast Recycling and Transfer Station remained open as of Thursday.
The fire burned through the hills and canyon of the Arroyo Hondo Preserve, but the historic adobe, discovery barn, family picnic area, and other historic structures and interpretive signs remained intact as of Wednesday, according to the Land Trust for Santa Barbara County.
Reagan Rancho del Cielo — the ranch where former California Governor and U.S. President Ronald Reagan used to stay — had not been impacted by the Alisal Fire as of Thursday morning, according to Young America’s Foundation (YAF), the nonprofit organization that now runs the ranch.
The surrounding area is under evacuation orders, but several YAF staff remain on-site and are “actively engaged with fire personnel” who are aware of the staff’s presence, according to YAF. A fire crew was stationed with an engine by the main ranch adobe home on Wednesday night.
The Alisal Fire continues to have fire activity in Refugio Canyon and has caused damage to some outbuildings and other structures, according to fire reports.
The main buildings and cabins of Circle Bar B Guest Ranch on Refugio Road are undamaged, but there are damaged structures further up the canyon.
The ExxonMobil oil and gas processing facility in Las Flores Canyon, which has been shut down since the 2015 Refugio Oil Spill, has not been damaged by the fire as of Friday morning, according to ExxonMobil spokeswoman Julie King.
“We have been closely monitoring the fire. ExxonMobil’s primary focus continues to be the safety of our employees and contractors in the area,” King told Noozhawk. “Our focus there is to maintain these onshore and offshore facilities in a safe, preserved state.”
The Channel Islands Marine and Wildlife Institute could also potentially be impacted by the fire.
Click here for the latest information on fire-related evacuations, road closures, and air quality.
Visit the Santa Barbara County fire incident page here: https://readysbc.org/alisal-fire/
Visit the incident command page here: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/7862/
— Noozhawk staff writer Jade Martinez-Pogue can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.