Saturday, February 24 , 2018, 2:33 am | Fair 36º

 
 
 
 

Local News

Thomas Fire Teams Evaluate Flooding Risks in Burn Areas as Containment Stays at 92%

Federal Burn Area Emergency Response team and California Watershed Emergency Response team are analyzing areas charred in 281,893-acre fire

Retardant dropped from tankers and sprayed from trucks during the Thomas Fire coats vegetation and fences along Park Lane in Montecito. Click to view larger
Retardant dropped from tankers and sprayed from trucks during the Thomas Fire coats vegetation and fences along Park Lane in Montecito. (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

Thomas Fire containment remains at 92 percent as personnel assigned to the fire monitor the blaze and analyze areas for post-fire hazards including flooding risk.

The 281,893-acre fire destroyed 1,063 structures and damaged 280 more, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

Burned areas include 47,069 acres in Santa Barbara County and 234,824 acres in Ventura County, USFS spokesperson Kerry Greene said.

Most fire activity is in the back country, and firefighters are monitoring “slowly burning and smoldering pockets of fire” in the Bear Heaven and Cherry Creek areas of the Sespe Wilderness, which are too steep for direct access, according to Forest Service officials.

The Santa Barbara and Ojai ranger districts of Los Padres National Forest are closed to the public within the Thomas Fire perimeter, and campfires are only allowed in designated-use sites.

Many South Coast front country hiking areas are closed as well, with signs and caution tape blocking off trails including the San Ysidro trailhead on Park Lane and the Cold Spring trailhead on East Mountain Drive.

Members of the federal Burn Area Emergency Response team and California Watershed Emergency Response team are analyzing burn areas and finding locations at risk for flooding and debris flows, and will turn over the information to the Santa Barbara and Ventura county emergency management offices.

The Cold Spring trailhead on East Mountain Drive is closed after the Thomas Fire, as are other areas of Los Padres National Forest. Click to view larger
The Cold Spring trailhead on East Mountain Drive is closed after the Thomas Fire, as are other areas of Los Padres National Forest.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)

“After a wildfire, flood risk is usually highest until vegetation returns, which can take up to five years,” the Forest Service said in a statement Tuesday.

The Santa Barbara County Air Pollution Control District has lifted its air quality watch, but there is a warning in effect for Ventura County because of oil seep fires in the Upper Ojai Valley.

Authorities say they are still investigating the cause of the Thomas Fire, which broke out Dec. 4 near Santa Paula.

Investigating agencies include the Ventura County Fire Department, the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office, CalFire, the U.S. Forest Service, and the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

On Sunday, the Forest Service declared the Whittier Fire officially out, almost six months after it started.

The 18,430-acre blaze started July 8 near Lake Cachuma and burned along the Highway 154 corridor and Santa Ynez Mountains.

The fire was declared 100-percent contained in October, and authorities said this week that the cause was still being investigated.

“While the fire was considered contained and controlled back in August, there was a portion of the fire — west of Condor Point — that was inaccessible to suppression tactics because of steep and rocky terrain,” Santa Barbara District Ranger Pancho Smith said in a statement Monday.

“We’ve continually monitored the area using infrared aircraft to track hot spots or any fire activity that could be a concern. Our last flight report yesterday showed zero heat signatures within the fire perimeter, so we’re confident in declaring the Whittier Fire out.”

Santa Barbara County has fire recovery and flood preparation resources online here, and Ventura County has its own Thomas Fire recovery website here.

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli 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.

The hills behind Carpinteria High School are scorched from the Thomas Fire that continues to burn in the back country. Click to view larger
The hills behind Carpinteria High School are scorched from the Thomas Fire that continues to burn in the back country.  (Giana Magnoli / Noozhawk photo)
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