Thursday, April 19 , 2018, 2:58 am | Partly Cloudy 48º


Local News

Firefighters Beat Back Worst of Flames But Blaze Makes Power Play

Only West Camino Cielo east of the Gap Fire remains evacuated as containment reaches 50 percent.

“The Cavalry,” i.e., a converted DC-10 airliner, begins a drop high up in Ellwood Canyon on Monday, nearly four miles from the camera stationed at Cathedral Oaks and Glen Annie roads. (Chuck Cagara photo /

As firefighters gained the upper hand on the 6-day-old Gap Fire near Goleta and Santa Barbara and most evacuation orders and warnings were lifted, the Santa Barbara County Fire Department urged vigilance and preparedness Monday. Underscoring the blaze’s far-reaching — and unpredictable — effects, a Monday night power outage darkened about 36,000 households on the South Coast.

“We still need to be on guard, even for this fire,” county fire Capt. Eli Iskow told a Monday briefing at the county’s Emergency Operations Center.

By Monday afternoon, evacuation warnings were lifted for the area north of Cathedral Oaks Road between Highway 154 and Winchester Canyon Road. As the fire marches west, however, crews will focus more attention on the sparsely populated canyons and rugged terrain with towering, dense chaparral that will pose more of a challenge.

“Fifty-five-year-old fuel is extremely old fuel,” Iskow said. “It’s explosive. Add that to the south-facing aspect of this mountain, the drought, and we’ve got major challenges.”

Dos Pueblos Ranch, Eagle Canyon, Santa Barbara Ranch and Tecolote Canyon are still under evacuation warnings west of Goleta. On Tuesday afternoon, residents were cleared to return to their homes in the Haney Tract, Hidden Valley, Kinevan Road, Trout Club and Windemere Ranch communities. Only West Camino Cielo between Windermere and the actual fire remain under mandatory evacuation up the mountain.

(Erika Bildsten map)

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But while fire crews have made headway and are currently planning to make their next stand at Refugio Canyon, they’ll be facing higher temperatures later this week and monsoonal conditions that could bring unpredictable winds and lightning.

Meanwhile, power outages are likely to continue. About 8 p.m. Monday, the power went out for more than 36,000 Southern California Edison customers in Goleta and Santa Barbara after smoke and heat damaged electrical transmission lines. Edison spokeswoman Nancy Williams said repair crews were waiting for firefighters who were setting backfires along the main transmission line.

“It is absolutely imperative that we all continue to prepare for outages,” Edison spokeswoman Jane Brown said earlier Monday, adding that the areas most likely to be affected are north Santa Barbara, the unincorporated “Noleta” neighborhoods, Goleta, Isla Vista and Gaviota.

So far, about 9,600 acres have burned in the Gap Fire, which started July 1 near the Lizard’s Mouth hiking area on West Camino Cielo near the Winchester Canyon Gun Club. Officials have said the fire was caused by humans but have refused to say whether it was accidentally or intentionally set. The blaze remains under investigation and a 24-hour tip line — 805.961.5710 — has been established to receive information on the origin. No arrests have been made.

The scope of the Gap Fire was apparent Thursday afternoon from a vantage point on Old San Marcos Pass Road. (Ron Williams photo)

To date, three people have been injured and four structures have been destroyed, none of them homes. The blaze has cost $9.3 million in firefighting resources and more than 1,300 firefighters remain on the scene, backed by 14 bulldozers, nine water-dropping helicopters and five air tankers. The blaze was reported to be 50 percent contained at noon Tuesday.

In other Gap Fire news:

» The American Red Cross Santa Barbara County Chapter evacuation center remains open for residents and pets at San Marcos High School, 4750 Hollister Ave.

» Several information kiosks are being used to distribute fire and road closure updates. Kiosks in Goleta are at Calle Real Center in front of Trader Joe’s, 5680 Calle Real; Camino Real Marketplace, 7004 Marketplace Drive; the Fairview Shopping Center, 175 N. Fairview Ave.; the Goleta Valley Community Center, 5679 Hollister Ave.; and the Old Town 7-Eleven, 5810 Hollister Ave. In Isla Vista, a kiosk is at Embarcadero Hall, 928 Embarcaderso del Norte. And kiosks are in Santa Barbara at La Cumbre Plaza near Sears, 121 S. Hope Ave.; Paseo Nuevo, 700 State St.; San Marcos High; the Santa Barbara Mission, 2201 Laguna St.; and Stearns Wharf.

A sign of gratitude along Camino Meleno and other streets above the North Patterson Avenue “curve.” (Craig Jacks photo)

» The county Public Health Department and the county Air Pollution Control District on Monday downgraded the county’s Air Quality Advisory to a precautionary status. Although air quality in much of the county has improved, some areas may still be affected by smoke and ash.

» Summer session classes at Dos Pueblos High, 7266 Alameda Ave., have been moved to La Colina Junior High, 4025 Foothill Road, for the next two weeks. MTD will continue to provide bus service for students.

» Los Padres National Forest lands south of Highway 154 and East Camino Cielo between Gibraltar and Refugio roads have been closed until the Gap Fire is suppressed. The closure prohibits all public entry to national forest lands, trails, roads and recreation sites, but it does not apply to private land.

» Santa Barbara County officials have established a new Gap Fire public information line at 805.681.5195. The line will provide updates on the fire status and will be staffed from 8 a.m. to midnight. Los Padres National Forest’s Information Center can still be reached at 805.961.5770.

», Santa Barbara’s parents’ resource Web site and a Noozhawk partner, has a comprehensive update on summer camps and the fire’s effects on specific programs. Click here for more information.

» A citizens Web site,, has been dedicated to firefighters battling the Gap Fire. Click here to leave a post.

Heavy fingers of smoke snake across the face of the sun as dusk falls over La Patera Ranch on Monday. (Chuck Cagara photo /

Click here for up-to-the-minute reports from the Incident Information System. Click here to join the county Fire Department’s “Red Flag Zone 1” Google discussion group and to receive red-flag alerts.

For more information, watch Channel 19 Goleta TV or click here for the city of Goleta Web site.

Additional information can be found on county government cable TV station Channel 20, or the following AM or FM radio stations: AM stations KTMS 990, KUHL 1410, KZSB 1290 and KINF 1440; FM stations KCSB 91.9, KSPE 94.5 (Spanish), KSYV 96.7, KTYD 99.9, KSBL 101.7, KRAZ 105.9 and KIST 107.7 (Spanish); and San Marcos Pass Radio 1040 AM.

For the most complete fire coverage, however, check back frequently with Noozhawk, which is updated throughout the day and night.

Noozhawk staff writer Sonia Fernandez can be reached at [email protected] Local student Erika Bildsten is a Noozhawk contributor.

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