Monday, February 19 , 2018, 2:57 pm | Partly Cloudy 57º


Local News

La Brea Fire: 10,500 Acres Burned West of Cuyama

Seven tankers, six helicopters and 580 firefighters deployed to remote canyons of Los Padres National Forest

The fast-moving La Brea Fire grew to 10,500 acres Monday as it burned in a remote area of Los Padres National Forest, about 16 miles west of New Cuyama. No structures are threatened and the cause of the wildfire remains under investigation.

Seven air tankers and six helicopters were dropping fire retardant and water on the flames, and 580 firefighters are on the lines. U.S. Forest Service officials said Sunday night that crews were holding the fire at Sierra Madre Ridge near Horse and Water canyons but little progress has been made. The rugged area of heavy, 6-foot-tall chaparral is about 10 miles east of Tepusquet Peak and six miles south of Highway 166.

The fire, which was reported at 2:45 p.m. Saturday, was estimated at 1,300 acres at nightfall Saturday, but USFS officials said Sunday that “major runs” during the night had pushed it to 2,500 acres. By Sunday evening, it had grown to 10,000 acres. Early Monday, officials said lower humidity overnight had helped slow down the blaze, which is now at 10,500 acres.

Highway 166 remains open but authorities have closed Sierra Madre Ridge Road to McPherson Peak and south to the Sisquoc River, including the Colson area. Campgrounds in the area have been evacuated. Sunday evening, USFS officials said flames were visible from the Spanish Ranch area of Highway 166.

Smoke from the fire rose over the Santa Ynez and Santa Maria valleys. Joey Ramirez of Ventura, who was visiting Lake Cachuma with his family Saturday afternoon, told Noozhawk that “a towering cloud of brown smoke seemed to be drifting south toward the lake.” By 7 p.m., high haze could be seen over Goleta and Santa Barbara.

Ominous brown sky was not a welcome sight for fire-wary South Coast residents. In an e-mail to Noozhawk on Saturday, Santa Barbara resident Corina Maclaine said she thought “not again” when she noticed the cloud.

“We were evacuated in the Gap and Jesusita fires and my first thought was ‘not again,’” she wrote. “Hopefully, this will stay away from populated areas.”

The La Brea Fire is north of the 2007 Zaca Fire burn area. That fire ignited on July 4, 2007, and burned all summer, scorching more than 240,000 backcountry acres. Almost one year later, the Gap Fire was sparked in the mountains above Goleta and burned 8,800 acres. In November 2008, the 2,000-acre Tea Fire erupted in the Montecito foothills, destroying 230 homes. That was followed by May’s Jesusita Fire, which ignited above San Roque, destroyed 77 homes and led to the mandatory evacuation of more than 30,000 area residents.

Anyone with information about the cause of the La Brea Fire is asked to call the tip line at 805.686.5074.

As of late Saturday, personnel were deployed to the La Brea Fire from the forest service, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, the Sheriff’s Department, CAL FIRE, Vandenberg Air Force Base and the Ventura County Fire Department.

In addition to the challenges of a remote location and inaccessible terrain, San Rafael Wilderness regulations ban all vehicles, including bulldozers and fire engines, and mechanized equipment such as chainsaws, unless special permission is granted.

The Santa Ynez Valley awoke to a heavy marine layer early Sunday, but backcountry temperatures are expected to reach the upper 90s, with very low humidity.

Click here for a La Brea Fire locator map.

County spokesman William Boyer said Los Padres National Forest updates can be obtained at 805.961.5770. Information also is available on the county Fire Department’s information line at 805.681.5546.

With fire-season conditions becoming more dangerous, Los Padres officials have strengthened forest restrictions. As of last week:

» Smoking is prohibited in all areas of the national forest except within an enclosed vehicle, building or campfire use site.

» Recreational target shooting is prohibited in all areas of the forest except at the Winchester Canyon Gun Club, 6621 W. Camino Cielo, and the Ojai Valley Gun Club. Hunting with a valid California hunting license is exempt from this restriction.

Fire restrictions previously in place include:

» Open fires, campfires or charcoal fires are allowed only in campfire use sites. Campfires must be attended at all times and must be extinguished completely before departure.

» Portable stoves and lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum or pressurized liquid fuel are allowed in areas other than campfire use sites, but only with a valid California Campfire Permit. Campfire permits are available free-of-charge at any Forest Service office. All flammable material must be cleared for a distance of five feet in all directions from camp stoves, a shovel must be available, and a responsible person must attend the stove at all times when it is in use.

» Internal combustion engines may be operated only on roads or trails that are designated for such use. (This restriction is in effect year-round.) Motorists must have an approved spark arrester.

Noozhawk publisher Bill Macfadyen can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). This story includes reporting from Shawn Knight of KRAZ-FM Radio.

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