Santa Barbara County declares state of emergency on day two
By MADISON HIRNEISEN and ANNELISE HANSHAW
NEWS-PRESS STAFF WRITERS
The Alisal Fire expanded to nearly 15,000 acres by Wednesday morning as firefighters continued attacking the blaze amidst windy, smoky conditions. The fire was 5% contained.
On Wednesday morning, the fire jumped Highway 101. Evacuation orders remained in effect.
Highway 101 in the area remained closed Wednesday morning, which meant motorists had to go on State Route 246 through Solvang, then take State Route 154 to reach Santa Barbara. Highway 101 is closed from State Route 1 at Las Cruces to Winchester Canyon/Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta.
On Tuesday, the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors declared a local state of emergency in response to the fire. The board also asked that Gov. Gavin Newsom reinforce the county’s state of emergency.
The fire, which began Monday afternoon near Alisal Reservoir, established itself in Refugio Canyon on Tuesday and moved toward the burn scar of the 2016 Sherpa Fire, Santa Barbara City Fire Chief Chris Mailes told the City Council. He maintained there was no current threat to Santa Barbara.
Chief Mailes said Tuesday that the fire is starting to move down to the ocean area in several places and is starting to trek east, though it continues to burn through Refugio Canyon and to the west of the canyon.
Northwest winds of up to 40 mph pushed the fire southeast on Tuesday, according to Chief Mailes. The wind’s speed prohibited crews from utilizing fixed-wing aircraft, though helicopters delivered water drops over the flames.
Crews were hopeful that the winds would die down Tuesday evening.
The Office of Emergency Management extended an evacuation area to the area east of Calle Mariposa Reina, west of Arroyo Hondo, and south of West Camino Cielo at 3 p.m. Tuesday — 20 hours since the last change in evacuations.
Officials said Tuesday that about 100 to 150 structures remained threatened by the blaze, and one barn had been damaged.
The fire surrounded the Tajiguas Landfill Monday night, and the biofilter outside the Materials Recovery Facility flared up Tuesday. Public Works describes the biofilter as an “uncovered concrete structure filled with wood chips that receives and filters air from inside the maintenance recovery facility.”
The Alisal Fire also damaged the landfill’s drainage, landfill gas collection systems and heavy equipment. As part of a contingency plan, facilities in Ventura County will manage waste collected in the area on a short-term basis, according to a news release from the Public Works Department.
Andrew Madsen, the public affairs officer for Los Padres National Forest, told the News-Press on Tuesday that he’s encouraging people to keep an eye on fire activity in the coming days.
Smoke from the blaze was visible in downtown Santa Barbara on Tuesday, and fire officials reported low visibility in Refugio Canyon and near El Capitan State Beach.
White smoke indicates that there is not a lot of carbon associated with the fuel, while dark-colored smoke indicates the burning of thick chaparral brush, Mr. Madsen said.
“I just encourage people to keep their eye on this one, with the burning in some areas that really haven’t seen any considerable amount of fire activity in a considerable amount of time,” he said.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
As a result of the smoke and ash from the fire, the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department issued an air quality watch Tuesday morning for the entire county, including the Channel Islands.
If residents see or smell smoke or are in an area with poor air quality, the health department recommends everyone:
— Head indoors and remain indoors, as much as possible.
— Avoid strenuous outdoor activity.
— Close all windows and doors that lead outside to prevent bringing additional smoke inside.
— Avoid driving when possible and use “recycle” or re-circulate mode to avoid drawing smoky air into the car.
— Drink plenty of fluids to keep respiratory membranes moist.
— If you are an essential worker and must work outside during wildfire smoke conditions, the use of a properly fitted N-95 mask provides protection.
All county residents can check updated local air conditions by visiting ourair.org/todays-air-quality or fire.airnow.gov. As of Tuesday afternoon, the quality was moderate at the PM2.5 level, which means people with extreme sensitivities should consider reducing prolonged or heavy exertion.
Symptoms of exposure to smoke and soot include repeated coughing, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, wheezing, chest tightness or pain, palpitations, and nausea or unusual fatigue or lightheadedness, according to the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. Those who experience symptoms should contact their doctor immediately, recommends Public Health.
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