Thursday, November 15 , 2018, 8:37 pm | Fair 56º

 
 
 
 

Ray Ford: Thomas Fire Burn Area Trails May Be Closed Through Winter

Closure includes all trails within Cold Spring, Hot Spring, San Ysidro, Buena Vista and Romero Canyons and the upper Franklin Trail in the Carpinteria area

The Thomas Fire burned the Santa Barbara-area front country McMenemy Trail, as seen from the Saddle Rock Trail. Conditions will change given lack of vegetation to hold the hillsides in place. Click to view larger
The Thomas Fire burned the Santa Barbara-area front country McMenemy Trail, as seen from the Saddle Rock Trail. Conditions will change given lack of vegetation to hold the hillsides in place. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

At a meeting of local trails organizations this week, Los Padres National Forest Santa Barbara District Ranger Pancho Smith announced that trails within the Thomas Fire perimeter will be closed for the near future and that only certified agency officials will be allowed are allowed in the area.

This includes all trails within Cold Spring, Hot Spring, San Ysidro, Buena Vista and Romero Canyons and the upper Franklin Trail in the Carpinteria area.

When pressed to provide a date when they might reopen, Smith responded that it would be reasonable to assume that it would be at least through the rainy season.

“We’re just now getting the BAER (Burned Area Emergency Response) team in to assess damage in the Santa Barbara area now,” he said, “The scope of this fire is unprecedented.”

For the trail leaders who had hoped to get in and survey the damage, plan volunteer trail projects and raise the funds needed to hire additional trail crews, Smith cautioned that it may be some time before that can happen.

Smith noted that there are around 17 named canyons in our area that were completely burned out during the fire, including those noted above.

The good news is that trails and recreation areas outside the burn area are now open for public use.

Thomas Fire burn areas can be seen from the closed San Ysidro trailhead on Park Lane in Montecito. Click to view larger
Thomas Fire burn areas can be seen from the closed San Ysidro trailhead on Park Lane in Montecito.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

This includes front country trails up to the Los Padres National Forest boundary, other front country trails in Rattlesnake, Mission and San Roque canyons, and the lower Santa Ynez Recreation area.

The lower half of the Franklin Trail is also now open for public use.

There are already signs announcing the trail closures at some trailheads, including San Ysidro and Cold Spring.

Asked by the trail leaders what they might be able to do right now to help, he requested that they ask their user groups to not to use the trails in the burned areas while they are closed.

Smith also cautioned that there are still almost 500 fire personnel assigned to the fire, mostly focusing on rehabilitation at this point, and heavy equipment operations going on.

“We recut or added close to 200 miles of dozer line during the fire,” Smith said. “A lot of that is along the Camino Cielo crest and other parts of the upper Santa Ynez River watershed. We’ve already had a few close calls. If at all possible people should avoid Gibraltar Road and East Camino Cielo.”

Without going into detail, he also noted that the California Office of Emergency Services will soon have a detailed map of the burn area online in which viewers can type in their addresses and
see if their homes are within the potential flood zones. 

The burned Girard Trail has ravel and rock cascading down the trail. It could become totally impassable after rainfall. Click to view larger
The burned Girard Trail has ravel and rock cascading down the trail. It could become totally impassable after rainfall. (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

The map will include a line 20 feet higher than the fire perimeter that marks the high point emergency officials believe flood waters could reach in the lower part of the canyons if we
receive severe rainfall this winter.

“The type of flooding that decimated El Capitan Canyon last winter is a real possibility in our front country canyons,” Smith added.

Until the winter storms arrive (if they do), it won’t be clear how soon the burned area trails will be open for use again.

The expectation now is that it may be as late as May before trail repairs may be started and given the unknowns, worst case situations could close them for much longer.

In the meantime, the good news is that plenty of other trails are open and available for use.

Noozhawk outdoor writer Ray Ford can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Click here for his website, SBoutdoors.com. Follow him on Twitter: @riveray. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

A map released by Los Padres National Forest showing Thomas Fire closure areas. Click to view larger
A map released by Los Padres National Forest showing Thomas Fire closure areas.  (Courtesy photo)

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