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Friday, January 18 , 2019, 7:09 pm | Fair 56º


Crews Overcome High Winds, Low Humidity to Make Gains on Corralling Alamo Fire

4-day-old blaze spreads to nearly 29,000 acres as firefighters dig in to keep flames from advancing east


With the Alamo Fire still raging out of control east of Santa Maria on Sunday, the 4-day-old battle was focused on keeping flames corralled on the west side of Tepusquet Canyon and out of Los Padres National Forest.

That effort was largely successful, although one structure, a residence, was destroyed by the wildfire.

As of Monday morning, officials say, the fire had burned more than 28,926 acres, with containment remaining at 15 percent.

One structure has been destroyed but Cal Fire public information officer Bryson Keener did not know the location.

“The fire progressed a little bit,” he said Sunday evening. “We did have a little bit of a rise in the humidity and a lowering in the temperature, but due to the high fire danger, the low fuel moistures and the large amount of grass we have, the fire continued to burn in an easterly southeasterly direction.”

Hotter days expected later this week have firefighters concerned.

“At this point with the lower temperatures and the higher humidity, we’re going to try to make a more active attack on the fire when we can,” Keener added. “Weather permitting, of course.”

Increased humidity helped keep the blaze from growing dramatically overnight after seeing large growth Friday and Saturday.

“There’s still plenty of opportunity for this fire to grow,” Chris Elms, another Cal Fire public information officer, said earlier Sunday.

“As of this morning, it was pretty much holding to the west side of the Tepusquet Canyon area. The goal is to keep the fire on the west side of that canyon.”

Contingencies are in place if flames reach Los Padres National Forest, he added.

Highway 166 and Tepusquet Road remained closed Sunday.

Evacuation orders were still in place Sunday for Tepusquet Road from Blazing Saddle Drive to Santa Maria Mesa Road, Blazing Saddle Drive and White Rock Lane, plus Colson and Pine canyons, Buckhorn Ridge and White Rock Road.

About 200 houses are within the evacuation area, with roughly half of the residents declining to leave, Elms said.

As of Sunday evening, Cal Fire said the fire remained a threat for 133 structures.

The wildfire started Thursday afternoon near Twitchell Reservoir off Highway 166, and it grew Friday after jumping lines created by retardant. The blaze raced over ridges with flames visible around the Santa Maria Valley.

On Saturday, the fire moved east-southeast. Firefighters were stationed at several residences to protect them from the flames.

As of Sunday evening, firefighters did not have an estimated date of containment or cost of battling the blaze.

“We still have a lot of work to do,” Elms said. “A lot of open fire lines, still very active out there.”

Vineyards and other fields with crops to the west and south will help aid efforts to reach full containment.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

At least one tasting room in the area closed Saturday and Sunday due to the fire, with charred areas seen adjacent to some vineyards.

The firefighting force totaled 1,664 on Sunday, but that number is expected to remain essentially the same due to other wildfires burning throughout California.

On Saturday, crews were stretched after the Whittier Fire ignited near Lake Cachuma on Highway 154.

Cal Fire also battled the Tower Blaze that started Friday on the Cuesta Grade north of San Luis Obispo before being contained.

At least two other fires sparked Saturday in Atascadero and San Miguel in northern San Luis Obispo County.

“We’ve had a string of fires all over the place,” Elms said. “We’re doing our best to share resources to make sure that all that stuff is being handled.”

For a time Sunday, a half-dozen helicopters were assisting the small army of firefighters on the ground at the Alamo Fire.

The Stone Fire, which was burning east of Santa Margarita on Sunday, forced some aircraft to be diverted to San Luis Obispo County, however.

“Those resources are going back and forth between the fires, depending on needs,” Keener said.

In all, California has 5,000 firefighters battling 14 blazes, Cal Fire officials said.

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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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