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Monday, March 18 , 2019, 1:02 pm | Fair 68º

 
 
 
 

Weather Continues To Cooperate for Crews Fighting Alamo Fire

Alamo Fire containment reaches 65 percent Wednesday morning, and mandatory evacuations are reduced to a warning for Tepusquet Canyon areas

A Los Padres National Forest hotshot monitors a hand crew below during the Alamo Fire Monday. Click to view larger
A Los Padres National Forest hotshot monitors a hand crew below during the Alamo Fire Monday.  (Ray Ford / Noozhawk photo)

Another day of favorable weather and a small army of firefighters have allowed crews to surround more than half of the Alamo Fire burning east of Santa Maria as authorities reveal a second residence was destroyed.

Containment jumped to 65 percent as Wednesday morning, with 28,687acres charred, Cal Fire officials said.

Also on Wednesday morning, mandatory evacuation orders were reduced to a warning for Blazing Saddles Road, Tepusquet Canyon Road south from Blazing Saddles Road to Santa Maria-Mesa Road, White Rock Lane, Colson Canyon and Tepusquet Canyon Road north from Blazing Saddles Road to Highway 166, Buckhorn Ridge and Pine Canyon Road.

Residents and others entering the previously-evacuated areas were advised to beware of fallen power lines, burned trees and other hazards. 

Two residences and three other structures have been destroyed since the fire started Thursday off Highway 166 near the Twitchell Reservoir. Another 133 structures remain threatened.

A boost in the number of crews assigned to the fire came as efforts turn to putting out smoldering embers and evaluating damage to trees that, if left unstable by fire, could topple and pose a danger to both firefighters and residents.

Crews had planned to use the favorable weather to their advantage again Tuesday to extend containment lines. 

“We’re expecting the containment number to jump significantly,” Cal Fire public information officer Chad Carroll said mid-day Tuesday. 

The acreage burned has not grown in the past day, showing some progress toward surrounding the fire.

“As long as winds stay calm, temperatures stay low, humidities stay high, all those things will assist us in putting out this fires, the smoldering spots,” Carroll said. 

If the winds pick up, those smoldering embers could spur the fire’s growth and spoil containment lines. 

Despite slower flames, numerous firefighters along with their equipment remain in the area, with some blocking the already narrow Tepusquet Road.

“Access is what is keeping people away from their homes,” Carroll said. 

Additionally, the fire damaged utility poles and other equipment, so many areas remain without power until Pacific Gas and Electric Company crews make their repairs. 

“It can be quite some time before everything’s back up,”’ Carroll said.

Mandatory evacuation orders were in place through Tuesday night and Highway 166 was still closed. 

The cause of the fire remained under investigation, Cal Fire officials said. 

As of Tuesday morning, more than 2,200 personnel were assigned to the fire along with 179 engines, 26 water tenders, 10 helicopters and 48 hand crews, Cal Fire said. 

The Alamo Fire is the largest active incident in California currently, according to Cal Fire and the U.S. Forest Service lists.

That area’s last major blaze, the Big Dalton Fire, started on July 10, 1953, and reportedly charred 73,500 acres. 

The fire led to the establishment of Santa Barbara County Fire Department’s Station 23 in Sisquoc two years later, according to the agency’s history.

If it seems like the state has seen more fires in 2017, statistics confirm an increase in fire activity. 

Through July 9, California has seen 2,905 fires charring 68,129 acres , according to Cal Fire statistics for the state and local areas. For the same period last year, 2,270 fires had consumed 30,574 acres.

The year’s total for both Cal Fire and U.S. Forest Service incidents is 3,449 fires burning 92,439 acres, a number certain to grow. 

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.

An incident command map from Sunday shows the boundaries of the Alamo Fire burning east of Santa Maria. Containment reached 25 percent Monday morning. Click to view larger
An incident command map from Sunday shows the boundaries of the Alamo Fire burning east of Santa Maria. Containment reached 25 percent Monday morning.  (Contributed photo)
Santa Barbara County and mutual aid crews are fighting the Alamo Fire east of Santa Maria and the Whittier Fire in the Highway 154 corridor south of Lake Cachuma. Click to view larger
Santa Barbara County and mutual aid crews are fighting the Alamo Fire east of Santa Maria and the Whittier Fire in the Highway 154 corridor south of Lake Cachuma.  (County of Santa Barbara photo)

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