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Friday, February 22 , 2019, 9:58 pm | Fair 44º

 
 
 
 

Canyon Fire Reaches 12,000 Acres As Crews Make Progress At Containment

Lack of timely information frustrates horse owners at nearby La Salle Stables, who have evacuated horses from the area

Aircraft assist firefighters in the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base Tuesday.
Aircraft assist firefighters in the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base Tuesday. (Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps / U.S. Air Force photo)

With limited information about the 12,000-acre Canyon Fire’s advancing flames, owners of horses stabled on land near Vandenberg Air Force Base rallied to ensure the equines were safe with one member climbing a ridge to monitor the proximity.

More than 100 horses typically are housed at La Salle Stables in a canyon next to Vandenberg, but far fewer remained Tuesday due to voluntary evacuations.

While conditions appeared to be improving Tuesday, trucks hitched to trailers still remained at the ready in the afternoon.

As of Wednesday morning, the fire was 50-percent contained and reached 12,353 acres. 

Since the fire started Saturday evening, sending up huge clouds of smoke, owners have been frustrated at the lack of information about the fire’s progress and other specific details typically provided from civilian firefighting authorities. 

Horses were moved Sunday and Monday as evacuation warnings were issued for La Salle and Miguelito canyons due to the fire’s extreme behavior. 

“I think the only hard issue this time around was not very much communication from Vandenberg,” said Sydney Greer, a horse owner at La Salle Stables.

With sparse official information, horse owners took matters into their own hands. John Stamper has spent hours at the site, occasionally driving to the top of the ridge to assess how close flames were to stables and pastures.

“The majority of our communication is coming from him — he’s been up on the ridge,” Adelia Emerson said. “Staying here morning, day and night."

Oxnard Fire Department’s Chad Carroll stops to visit the horses at La Salle Stable near the Canyon Fire burning at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Click to view larger
Oxnard Fire Department’s Chad Carroll stops to visit the horses at La Salle Stable near the Canyon Fire burning at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“He’s our hero here,” Greer said of Stamper.

With today’s technology, the information appears to be in a funnel effect, she added.

"It’s just not getting disseminated where it needs to be for people involved in the crisis,”  Greer said. 

The horses that have left La Salle were relocated to property of friends and acquaintances around the Lompoc and Santa Ynez valleys. 

Firefighters tried to convince Stamper to leave the site Monday night.

“I stayed in my horse trailer last night here just to make sure I could keep an eye on it and go up there when I need to, just to make sure that these the horses that were left stayed safe,” Stamper said.

Horse owners showed their appreciation to the firefighters by bringing crews snacks. 

“Everybody came together here,” Greer said. “It was really great see that.”

On Tuesday, with less smoke enveloping the area, fire engines from Ventura County agencies sat nearby.

More than two dozens horses remained at La Salle Stables Tuesday afternoon but dozens of others have been evacuated due to the Canyon Fire burning nearby at Vandenberg Air Force Base. Click to view larger
More than two dozens horses remained at La Salle Stables Tuesday afternoon but dozens of others have been evacuated due to the Canyon Fire burning nearby at Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

Firefighter Chad Carroll from Oxnard Fire Department paused to pet the horses coming to the fence to greet him.

“It’s fun having the horses here,” Carroll said. 

Evacuation warnings for La Salle Canyon and Miguelito Canyon should be lifted in the next few days, said Capt. Dave Zaniboni of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department. 

Vandenberg officials are requiring that most of the information about the incident come from their staff. But a lieutenant said information must go through several levels of approval before public affairs can release details.

On Saturday, they waited five hours before issuing the first update about the incident, and acreage numbers have been hours behind updates given through fire sources.

More than 1,050 firefighters from over 50 agencies are now battling the wildland fire, officials said Tuesday night.

Firefighters from Ventura County stay positioned at La Salle Stables in case flames from the Canyon Fire being moving toward the home to horses. Click to view larger
Firefighters from Ventura County stay positioned at La Salle Stables in case flames from the Canyon Fire being moving toward the home to horses. (Janene Scully / Noozhawk photo)

“Cooler weather aided fire crews with building containment lines along the eastern edge of the fire today. The fire remained active on the northern portions, however, crews were able to engage the front line of the blaze directly and successfully established several containment lines along that front,” Vandenberg officials said. 

Crews also established fire breaks along the east and west boundaries Tuesday, with Wednesday’s goal being working to strengthen those areas to further protect the base’s critical launch complexes and prevent the fire from spreading off base property.

At Space Launch Complex-3 where an Atlas V rocket sits with the WorldView-4 satellite, crews were allowed back on the pad, United Launch Alliance President/CEO Tory Bruno said on Twitter.

“Been granted access to our pad for a least the next several hours,” Bruno said. 

Five hours later he added, “Team making the most of access,” explaining they installed a backup generator and more support equipment. 

“Firefighters cut a dbl (double) break. SLC6 also well protected,” he said. 

When the Atlas V rocket's departure was delayed Sunday morning, officials said the next attempt would not occur before Sept. 26, but depended on Western Range availability.

Since South Base must be evacuated due to the safety reasons during the launch, a new departure date is pending firefighting progress. 

Noozhawk North County editor Janene Scully can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

More than 1,050 firefighters from 50 agencies were assigned to the Canyon Fire as of Tuesday. Click to view larger
More than 1,050 firefighters from 50 agencies were assigned to the Canyon Fire as of Tuesday.  (Staff Sgt. Shane Phipps / U.S. Air Force photo)

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