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Sunday, November 18 , 2018, 7:37 am | Fog/Mist 49º


Progress Toward Containment of Whittier Fire is Slow But Steady

Map of the Whittier Fire as of Thursday morning. Black line represents containment, while red indicates open fire line. Click to view larger
Map of the Whittier Fire as of Thursday morning. Black line represents containment, while red indicates open fire line. 

Firefighters continued to take advantage of favorable weather conditions on Wednesday as they made slow but steady progress toward full containment of the 11-day-old Whittier Fire.

The blaze was reported to be 18,430 acres and 76 percent contained Thursday morning, essentially unchanged from the figures reported 24 hours earlier.

Target date for full containment is July 30.

Most of the remaining open fire line is on the southern flank of the blaze, which has been burning in the mountains between Lake Cachuma and the coastal areas west of Goleta since July 8.

On Wednesday, hand crews were positioned in spots along the steep and rugged southern flank, and were directly attacking the flames, supported by helicopters making drops of water and retardant, according to Dennis Burns, fire behavior analyst for the fire.

“They can’t get to all points because it’s super steep,” Burns said, “but they’re going to get to the points they can, and work the rest with aircraft.”

Some firefighters were "spiking out" or spending the night on the fire lines rather than returning to the base camp.

Elsewhere on the fire, crews were working to strengthen containment lines, dousing hotspots, and beginning the more mundane process of removing gear related to the fire fight.

Cachuma Lake County Park was reopened to campers and day use, and the historic Cold Spring Tavern east of the fire also opened its doors for business again.

The only area still under mandatory evacuation order was West Camino Cielo from the Winchester Canyon Gun Club to Refugio Road.

Evacuation warnings remained in effect for Cachuma Village; Calle Real north to Camino Cielo from Winchester Canyon Road on the east to El Capitan Ranch Road on the West.

The American Red Cross has moved to stand-by status and shut down the evacuation center at San Marcos High School near Goleta.

Los Padres National Forest imposed Level III fire restrictions on Wednesday for the entire forest.

Nearly 1,520 personnel are assigned to the fire, a number that was expected to dwindle in coming days as crews are released or sent to other fires burning in the state, particularly the Detwiler Fire burning west of Yosemite National Park.

That blaze had blackened 48,000 acres as of Wednesday, and was only 7 percent contained.

With local fires coming under containment, at least two strike teams of fire engines from area departments were deployed to the Detwiler Fire.

Five engines and a battalion chief were sent from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department, according to spokesman Mike Eliason.

Chief Pat McElroy told Noozhawk the Santa Barbara City Fire Department sent two engines as part of a 5-engine strike team that also included crews from the city of Lompoc, the Carpinteria-Summerland Fire Protection District and the Montecito Fire Protection District.

Night and morning low clouds and fog have continued to benefit firefighters as they work for full containment, and the forecast calls for more of the same for the next several days. No dangerous wind conditions are in the forecast.

Noozhawk executive editor Tom Bolton 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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