Structure fire prompts evacuations
SANTA BARBARA — A two-story residence caught fire Thursday night in the 600 block of West Ortega Street in Santa Barbara and quickly spread to the area of TV hill and prompted several evacuations to be ordered, authorities said.
The Loma Incident was reported just before 9 p.m. Thursday. Massive flames were seen in the area and a “fair amount of smoke” was billowing in the air, according to scanner traffic.
The fire was initially reported as one acre burning in heavy fuel, spreading up the hillside of Loma Alta and being pushed by strong winds. Several county fire engines were dispatched to the area as evacuations were conducted to nearby residences. The fire was reportedly burning on both sides of Loma Alta around 9:15 p.m. Thursday, according to emergency dispatch radio.
One resident was reportedly trapped and unable to escape. Around 9:20 p.m., another structure was partially involved in fire with others directly affected.
Harbor Patrol personnel reported that the fire was “enormous” and assisted in shutting down traffic at the intersection of Shoreline and Loma Alta drives as crews responded to the blaze.
Just before 9:30 p.m., units requested Edison respond and shut down the power in the area of Miramonte Drive.
Crews remained engaged in structure protection and were attempting to control the fire as of press time Thursday.
— Mitchell White
Bridge widening, rail replacement underway
BUELLTON — Construction is underway to widen the bridge and replace railing on Highway 101 near Buellton at Nojoqui Creek just south of Santa Rosa Road.
The $5.9 million project is completely funded by Senate Bill 1, the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. The project will extend the lifespan of the structure and upgrade and modernize the bridge rail improving safety, according to Caltrans officials.
“US 101 is an essential corridor on the central coast that serves commuters, tourists and commercial transportation,” Caltrans Director Toks Omishakin said in a statement. “This SB 1-funded project is a vital investment in fixing our bridges and supporting the efficient movement of goods and people throughout the region.”
Motorists will encounter southbound lane closures from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays. Northbound lane closures are set for 7 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday to Thursday and 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. Fridays. Traffic delays are not expected to exceed 15 minutes.
In addition, one lane will be closed in each direction across the Nojoqui Creek bridge through the end of the year, officials said.
The contractor for the project is Spectrum Construction Group of Irvine. Construction is scheduled to be complete in spring of 2022.
— Mitchell White
Environmental crimes found at illegal pot grow
SANTA MARIA — Nearly 8,000 marijuana plants were eradicated and more than 300 pounds of illegally processed cannabis flower were destroyed following the service of a search warrant last month in Santa Maria, authorities said.
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife, with assistance from deputies with the Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Department, served a search warrant related to environmental crimes associated with illegal cannabis cultivation on April 30 at the parcel in the 1400 block of Tepusquet Road in Santa Maria.
The parcel is considered an environmentally sensitive area and home to native plants, fish and wildlife species. As a result, commercial cannabis cultivation is prohibited in the area by the county board of supervisors.
Officers eradicated 7,943 plants and destroyed over 300 pounds of illegally processed cannabis flower. CDFW environmental scientists documented several environmental violations, which included substantially altering a streambed, placing materials deleterious to fish and wildlife where it may pass into the stream, and stockpiling rubbish in and around a nearby tributary.
A formal complaint will be filed with the Santa Barbara County District Attorney’s office.
“We appreciate the California Department of Fish and Wildlife’s partnership in the eradication of this illegal grow,” Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said in a statement. “In addition to the unfair competition that these illicit growing and distribution operations have on legitimate, legal cannabis operations, this case also shows how detrimental they are to our sensitive environment.”
Along with CDFW wildlife officers and environmental scientists, support for the investigation also came from the State Water Resources Control Board, California Highway Patrol, California Department of Food and Agriculture and Santa Barbara County Code Enforcement.
“This egregious activity will not be tolerated at the expense of the environment and those in the regulated cannabis market,” David Bess, CDFW Deputy Director and Chief of the Law Enforcement Division, said in a statement. “Illegal operations of this nature fuel other associated criminal behavior and put public safety at risk. I applaud this allied agency effort with our enforcement partners in Santa Barbara County.”
— Mitchell White