Highway closed, evacuations ordered as Alisal Fire expands to 3,700 acres
SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif .– Firefighters responded to reports of a mountain top fire and smoke in Santa Barbara County on Monday afternoon.
The fire first started in the Santa Ynez Mountains above the Alisal Reservoir. Smoke and flames were visible at the top of the hill between the Gaviota coast and the Santa Ynez valley.
The fire quickly burned more than 50 acres and spread at a rapid rate, according to Andrew Madsen, public information officer for the Los Padres National Forest.
At 5:30 p.m., the fire burned 600 acres. By 6 p.m., the fire had grown to over 1,000 acres and tripled to 3,000 acres by 7:30 p.m.
At 10 p.m., the Alisal fire was measured at 3,700 acres.
The fire burns in a dense chaparral and is driven by strong winds. The smoke is visible throughout southern Santa Barbara County, including from the Santa Ynez Valley and along the Gaviota coast.
Much of Santa Barbara County is subject to a high wind warning with strong winds throughout the area. This warning is in place until Tuesday morning.
Air support units were called in to respond to the blaze, but were grounded due to high winds.
Nikki Stevens of the Santa Barbara County Fire Department said the blaze could “burn to the ocean” by Monday night. He shouldn’t threaten Goleta, Stevens said.
Firefighters are in place to protect structures as planes continue to be unable to take off due to the wind.
Currently, an evacuation order is in effect for residents of Refugio Canyon, including Arroyo Hondo, Tajiguas, and Arroyo Quemada. The evacuation order was then expanded to include El Capitan State Park and El Capitan Campground.
An evacuation warning has been put in place for the area north of El Capitan Campground and east of Dos Pueblos Canyon.
The evacuation order extended to the area between El Capitan Beach State Park and W. Camino Cielo Road.
A temporary evacuation center has been set up in the parking lot of the Dos Pueblos high school at 7266 Alameda avenue in Goleta.
Santa Barbara County Animal Services have been activated to assist with the evacuation of animals. Cattle can be taken to the Earl Warren Fairgrounds. Pet owners should call 805-681-4332 if assistance is needed to evacuate animals.
As many as 100 structures, including ranches and homes, are immediately threatened, Stevens said. Stevens said sheriff’s deputies were going door to door to ensure residents were evacuated.
An outhouse was destroyed in the fire at 10 p.m. Monday.
Caltrans planned to close the 101 freeway in both directions as the fire spread up the hill towards the freeway.
Highway 101 has been closed from Highway 1 in Las Cruces and from Winchester Canyon / Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta.
Refugio Road is entirely in the immediate area of the fire, according to the California Highway Patrol.
The Los Padres National Forest Service is the primary agency responding to the fire with assistance from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.
Traffic is slowed down in the closure area due to poor visibility and emergency vehicles. A traffic accident involving a large platform took place just north of Refugio, according to CHP. The semi-trailer left the roadway and caught fire.