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Crews Reach 90% Containment of Canyon Fire as Growth Slows at Vandenberg Air Force Base

Minimal activity on the South Base fire reported for Thursday, despite gusty winds in the area, and full containment is estimated for Monday

The Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base was reportedly 70-percent contained as of Thursday morning.
The Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base was reportedly 70-percent contained as of Thursday morning.  (Geomac Wildland Fire Support photo)

Containment of the Canyon Fire at Vandenberg Air Force Base climbed to 90 percent for the 12,518-acre blaze on Thursday, with crews reportedly hoping to have it fully surrounded Monday. 

Firefighters reported minimal fire activity Wednesday night and Thursday for the blaze burning on South Base.

Crews focused on finishing construction of containment lines, eliminating hot spots and working to minimize long-term environmental impacts, Vandenberg officials said in a statement.

"Despite 45 mph wind gusts, only smoldering and interior islands burning with no threat to line was noted," federal officials said.

During an issued wind advisory Thursday afternoon, another vegetation fire started on the North Base, near the Communications Squadron Building and Airfield Road. 

Air quality in Santa Barbara County was impacted by the fires and some monitoring stations recorded unhealthy levels Thursday, or unhealthy levels for sensitive groups. 

The Canyon Fire started just before 5:30 p.m. Saturday near Arguello and Santa Ynez Ridge roads on South Base.

With firefighters’ gaining an upper hand, special teams from the 30th Space Wing, Vandenberg’s main unit, are re-entering South Base to assess preliminary damage and ensure facilities are safe for recovery crews to begin returning to normal operations.

South Base is home to multiple launch facilities, offices and support equipment in addition to sensitive Chumash sites and historical buildings. 

A roadblock on Ocean Avenue/Highway 246 as Highway 246 has been lifted with the road open to Surf Beach.

Base officials created the roadblock after dozens of spectators parking on the shoulder to get pictures and video of the then-out-of-control blaze. 

Santa Barbara County lifted evacuation warnings for La Salle Canyon and Miguelito Canyon on Wednesday night, Capt. Dave Zaniboni from Santa Barbara County Fire Department said.

Vandenberg officials continue to remain mum about the estimated containment date, saying it is unknown. 

“However, we are continuing our efforts to ensure this happens as quickly as possible,” Lt. William Collette said. 

Meanwhile, federal sources are saying the blaze could be fully surrounded by Monday morning. 

That’s earlier than previous containment estimate of Sept. 30.

One firefighter, Ryan Osler, 38, of Ventura County Fire Department, died in a water tender rollover accident at Highway 246 and Purisima Road on Wednesday morning.

The driver, another Ventura County firefighter, was also injured in the rollover. 

Four other firefighters have been injured during the Canyon Fire, officials said.   

The cost of fighting the fire has climbed to $7 million, federal officials said.

Information about the Canyon Fire has been limited since it’s on Air Force property, with updates delayed because they needed multiple levels of approval. 

Local residents have expressed frustration at the lack of information at the peak of the fire, with flames visible on ridges nearby as they considered whether or not to evacuate horses from La Salle Stables and other areas. 

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.

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