Blaze burns nearly 17,000 acres
Alisal Fire crews achieved 41% containment by Friday evening, up from 11% Thursday.
The blaze has burned nearly 17,000 acres as of Friday.
Highway 101 reopened at 6 p.m. Thursday after Caltrans and fire departments repaired guardrails and sign posts. The adjacent railway reopened two hours earlier.
Although these passageways are open, the evacuation orders remain.
Attacking the fire from the air remained a main strategy as three of Southern California Edison’s four Quick Reaction Force arrived from Los Angeles, Orange and Ventura counties alongside a mobile retardant base and air attack platform.
They are type-one helitankers, achieving the largest classification for the ability to hold 3,000 gallons at a time. The addition nearly doubles the number of type-one aviation in the fleet.
A total of 17 aircraft combated the fire.
Firefighters focused on safeguarding Highway 101 and slowing westward expansion.
The fire stopped in the young vegetation in the Sherpa Fire scar, Santa Barbara County Fire Battalion Chief Chris Childers said in the Thursday morning operational update.
Crews have anticipated the Sherpa Fire scar acting as a natural fuel break since Monday.
Chief Childers said the fire began to spread in the Sherpa Fire scar when the wind was heavy.
When the winds calmed down, the east side of the blaze showed little movement.
“We’re talking days until containment, but it’s all dependent on this wind,” Los Padres National Forest spokesperson Andrew Madsen told the News-Press. “We’re trying to get the firefighters out in front of it, but then the wind changes.”
He said the weather tends to stir up the fires in Los Padres but then puts out the flames as the winds settle or the coast impacts the blaze.
The National Weather Service predicts winds around 7 mph today and up to 16 mph tonight with gusts from 8 p.m. to 1 a.m. in Gaviota.
Winds Thursday reached 13 mph at 4 p.m. but, on average, remained around 7 mph after a calm morning.
Evacuation orders expanded Wednesday night to include the area west of Arroyo Hondo to the intersection of Highway 101 and State Route 1. A warning was extended to all properties in the Hollister Ranch area, to the west of the blaze.
Vista de las Cruces School, at 9467 San Julian Road in Gaviota, was included in the order Wednesday night. Superintendent/Principal Dr. Lois Peterson told the News-Press the school was downgraded to a warning area later, per the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office.
She is working with authorities to decide when to open the school’s doors. For now, the students and staff are on a pre-planned fall break.
The school is a close-knit community with around 25 students. Dr. Peterson called families that live near the fire’s origin to make sure they are safe; they all evacuated earlier this week.