The Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors adopted the Gaviota Coast Community Wildfire Protection Plan last week, after years of development went into the document that examines fire risk and mitigation measures.
Rob Hazard, the county fire marshal, said the goals of the plan are to expand risk reduction options such as vegetation management, access and evacuation, access to grant funding, and coordination among stakeholders.
The Gaviota Coast is more rural than other South Coast areas with community wildfire protection plans, and agricultural and grazing lands “offer significant buffers to wildfires,” Hazard said.
During the 2008 Gap Fire, “we all know the orchards saved Goleta,” he said.
Some Gaviota Coast communities only have one way in and out, and evacuation can be a challenge, he noted.
Wildfire response planning is looking at more shelter-in-place options and “temporary refuge areas” for residents and firefighters if the primary or only escape route is cut off during an emergency.
The Camino Cielo fuel break is a U.S. Forest Service project so not included in the county’s plan, Hazard said, but he noted that it is “significant to preventing fires from crossing from one side of the mountain range to the other.”
The plan also looks at critical infrastructure on the Gaviota Coast that needs to be protected from wildfires, including the radio repeater network on Santa Ynez Peak and other mountain areas, and the Tajiguas Landfill.
The 2021 Alisal Fire burned 16,970 acres along the Gaviota Coast. It destroyed 12 homes, mostly in Refugio Canyon, and caused an estimated $20 million in damage to the landfill.
The community wildfire protection plan also includes structural retrofit programs (making homes more resilient to embers), more signage identifying high fire risk areas, and public education efforts on making property less vulnerable to wildfire damage.
The Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to adopt the plan.
Click here to read the full plan.
Other Santa Barbara County community wildfire protection plans are available to read through the county Fire Department’s website, including Santa Barbara, Mission Canyon, Goleta, San Marcos Pass, Carpinteria-Summerland, and Montecito.