Sunday, November 19 , 2017, 3:25 am | Fair 42º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Brush Fire at South Vandenberg Air Force Base Grows to 400 Acres

Sunday’s Atlas V rocket launch postponed as precaution; VAFB, Santa Barbara County firefighters attack blaze with help from fleet of aircraft

Spectators in Vandenberg Village watch smoke rise on the horizon from a brush fire burning Saturday evening on Vandenberg Air Force Base. The blaze is burning on VAFB’s South Base area. Click to view larger
Spectators in Vandenberg Village watch smoke rise on the horizon from a brush fire burning Saturday evening on Vandenberg Air Force Base. The blaze is burning on VAFB’s South Base area. (Nora Wallace photo)

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A wildfire that broke out Saturday evening on Vandenberg Air Force Base had grown to at least 400 acres overnight, forcing officials to delay the scheduled Sunday morning launch of an Atlas V rocket.

As many as 250 firefighters reportedly were deployed to the blaze, which was dubbed the Canyon Fire and was burning on South Base, the area south of West Ocean Avenue (Highway 246) southwest of Lompoc.

VAFB firefighters were assisted by crews from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, which sent several engines, bulldozers, a hand crew and an Air Support Unit helicopter.

Before night fell, air tankers and other aircraft also were in on the attack at the 99,000-acre military base.

By 10:30 p.m., VAFB officials said the fire had burned 50 acres near Arguello and Santa Ynez Ridge roads. As of Sunday morning, the fire’s footprint covered 400 acres, according to county Fire Department spokesman Mike Eliason.

The cause of the blaze was not known.

According to emergency dispatch reports just before 10 p.m., flames were moving toward Honda Canyon on South Base and had jumped bulldozer lines.

Honda Canyon is the site of a deadly 1977 wildfire that killed the base commander, the fire chief, an assistant chief and a fire bulldozer operator.

The Canyon Fire is burning on Vandenberg Air Force Base southwest of Lompoc. Officials say no facilities or infrastucture have been damaged. Click to view larger
The Canyon Fire is burning on Vandenberg Air Force Base southwest of Lompoc. Officials say no facilities or infrastucture have been damaged. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)

County fire officials referred inquiries to VAFB representatives, but for several hours Saturday night base public affairs officials would divulge no information about the blaze. The officials said approval was being sought from Air Force commanders and that “the situation was fluid.”

South Base currently has an Atlas V rocket sitting on Space Launch Complex-3, with its WorldView-4 satellite on board, in anticipation of Sunday’s launch attempt.

The fire appeared to be some distance away from SLC-3, but VAFB officials said Sunday morning that the rocket launch attempt had been delayed because of the firefighting effort.

A new launch attempt won’t occur before Tuesday morning,  United Launch Alliance officials said.

In preparation for another launch attempt, technicians had replaced a valve that caused a leak and forced mission managers to scrub Friday’s blastoff, ULA officials

“No facilities or infrastructure have been damaged as the fire is located in a remote canyon between Arguello and Santa Ynez roads, and crews are working to contain the blaze,” VAFB said in statement late Saturday.

“According to Col. Paul Nosek, Emergency Operations Center commander, no space launch complexes or critical range assets are in immediate danger.”

The dearth of information from the Air Force about the fire — and the direction flames were moving — left owners of horses boarded at La Salle Stables, at 451 Lasalle Canyon Road adjacent to South Base, wondering whether they needed to prepare to evacuate their animals.

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.

Crews from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department are among the personnel battling the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base. Click to view larger
Crews from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department are among the personnel battling the Canyon Fire on Vandenberg Air Force Base. (Santa Barbara County Fire Department photo)
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