Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 9:29 pm | Fair 73º


Local News

With Sherpa Fire Nearly Contained, Crews Shift Focus to Control

As the Sherpa Fire west of Goleta edged toward full containment Wednesday night, firefighters were beginning to shift their focus to completely dousing any hot spots within the burn area.

At the 6 p.m. briefing for firefighters assigned to work overnight into Thursday, it was announced that the blaze had reached 93-percent containment, with only a small section of fire line on the rugged northeast section of the fire to still be constructed.

The area burned was adjusted downward — to 7,474 acres from the previous estimate of 7,969 — as crews were able to do more accurate mapping, according to Lee Beyer, a fire information officer.

With the fire near containment, ground and aerial crews began searching out and extinguishing hot spots, which can erupt suddenly and be pushed by winds outside of containment lines, Beyer said.

Hand crews concentrate on digging out roots and turning the soil over to eliminate smoldering embers in the ground.

The number of personnel assigned to fight the fire continued to drop, and stood at 1,090 Thursday morning. Many of those firefighter have been reassigned to wildfires burning out of control in Southern California.

Officials expected the number to drop to 180 by Friday, when the blaze will be handled primarily by local firefighters.

Resources still assigned to the Sherpa Fire included 54 fire engines, 34 hand crews, 19 water tenders, 10 helicopters, 9 bulldozers, and 4 masticators, Lee said.

Fire crews are closely monitoring wind patterns and utilizing an infrared-equipped aircraft to identify hot spots and other problem areas.

They will continue working until incident commanders are confident that the fire cannot be reignited, Beyer said.

While the weather in the fire area has improved the last two days, with lower temperatures, higher humidity and less wind, a Red Flag Alert for critical fire-weather conditions has been issued for Santa Barbara County South Coast and mountain areas.

It will be in effect from 6 p.m. Thursday until 6 a.m. Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.

Cause of the fire still has not been disclosed, but indications are it was accidental. It began last Wednesday afternoon near some buildings on Ranch La Sherpa near the top of Refugio Canyon.

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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