The flames have ceased and the ominous cloud of smoke is long gone, but the effects of May’s White Fire remain in the national forest area along Paradise Road north of Santa Barbara.
The White Fire, which broke out on Memorial Day, charred almost 2,000 acres, and prompted a wide-scale evacuation of residents and visitors in an area of the Los Padres National Forest known as the Santa Ynez River Recreation Area.
In the ensuing weeks, the closure of areas and facilities on the Santa Barbara Ranger District was lifted — on June 20 — and camping areas such as the Fremont Campground have been filling up once again.
Blackened reminders of the fire are everywhere, however, and forest officials have been urging campers and other visitors to be very careful when exploring the Paradise Road area
Santa Barbara District Ranger Pancho Smith said visitors need to use extra caution while they are in the area affected by the White Fire.
But beyond the obvious change in the landscape, life on Paradise road for campers and day explorers seems to have returned to normal.
“We are staying for a few days and plan on walking the trails,” camper Rachel Hanauer said on a recent weekend.
She and her companion, Abby Kimmitt, said the effects of the fire have not dampened their desire to explore the area. The Indiana natives still planned on experiencing the local backcountry
For the the well-loved Paradise Store just off Highway 154, business has begun returning to normal for the summer, according to owner Laura Armor.
“We were greatly impacted because two of the biggest campground areas were closed on important days,” Armor said.
The store is one of the few restaurants near the Paradise Road campground.
Even after the fire was out and the danger had passed, fewer people decided to stay at the camping areas or even just to come up for the day.
While the fire was burning, the only business to the store was from people who were fighting the fire.
“It was interesting to see all the manpower that was fighting the fire pass the store,” Armor said.
The White Fire was sparked by day-use visitors using an allowed cooking fire in one of the barbecues of a designated camping area. Gusty winds blew ashes into some nearby vegetation.
Officials did not bring up charges against those responsible because the blaze cause was deemed accidental.
As the fire burned, thousands of campers were evacuated as firefighters tried to contain the blaze.
Agencies from all over Santa Barbara County assisted with the firefighting effort.
Although there was a $2.89 million price tag for controlling the fire, it caused no injuries or fatalities, and only a few structures were damaged.