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Re: Los Padres National Forest: La Brea Fire

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August 13, 2009 04:54PM
The La Brea Fire has been very active in the past 12 hours, increasing in size by approximately 10,000 acres. The fire has moved predominantly southwest this morning, into the Bear Canyon area, but as of 2 p.m. it had not crossed into the west side of the canyon. That movement was the primary reason for initiating the Evacuation Order at the Tepusquet community at noon today.

With the hard work of dozers over the past few days to open old firelines left from the Zaca Fire, and with the location of the current fire, managers are planning a burnout operation this afternoon using a helicopter with mounted equipment, called a helitorch, which serves as an aerial ignition device.

Effective immediately, the helicopter will begin to backfire areas between the current wildfire perimeter, and the constructed dozer lines that have been built in the hopes of containment. The highly experienced operator in the helicopter will begin "firing" operations in the North Fork La Brea road and Rattlesnake Canyon. They will then move slowly north toward the quarry near Colson Peak and then onward in a northwest direction, paralleling the dozer line.

The purpose of this work, which is a common strategy, is to remove fuel (brush) in a way that controls the fire movement. This method uses "fire to fight fire" by removing volatile fuel under our terms. This work can accomplish a large burnout in a shorter time frame by maximizing favorable conditions and, thus, reducing the exposure to fire personnel.

The wildfire remains several miles away from Tepusquet Road and fire managers believe the best option to check the fire is to use both aerial and ground firing techniques. "Firing" operations are likely to continue by hand crews into the night, depending on weather conditions.

Aircraft have been pre-treating the dozer line with fire retardant to further help in the containment objectives. The fire retardant helps by wetting and reducing oxygen availability as it coats the brush near the dozer line.

The fire also remains active in the Cuyama Valley area pushing south parallel to the Sierra Madra ridge. Dozer lines continue to be built to stop the spread.

Effective at 12:00 p.m., Thursday, August 13, 2009, a mandatory Evacuation Order was issued by the Santa Barbara County Sheriff's Office for the following area due to fire activity of the La Brea Fire:
  • ALL of Tepusquet Canyon, from Santa Maria Mesa Road to Highway 166
  • ALL of Colson Canyon, including the Blazing Saddles community
  • ALL of Ruiz Canyon
The canyon roads are being closed to the public to allow for the evacuations.

Fire and Sheriff Officials estimate the new evacuation orders include about 150 homes and ranches.

An evacuation order is still in effect for the 14 threatened residences on Foothill Road and the 7 residences on the Buckhorne Ridge. An evacuation warning was issued via reverse 911 to the 104 residences in Cottonwood Canyon.

The New Cuyama High School and Benjamin Foxen Elementary School are currently the designated temporary emergency shelter staffed by the Santa Barbara County Chapter of the American Red Cross. If you need assistance with the evacuation and sheltering of animals, please contact the animal hotline at 681-4332.

Firefighting conditions remain difficult due to the steep and inaccessible terrain, dry dense chaparral, low relative humidity, and erratic winds. Extreme fire behavior has been observed since the fire began. The northeast portion of the fire area has not burned since 1922. Due to emergency vehicle traffic and congestion on Highway 166, the public is urged to seek an alternate route and to use extra caution when traveling the highway.

There will be another community meeting on Friday, August 14, at 6:30 p.m. at the Benjamin Foxen Elementary School, 4949 Foxen Canyon Road, in Sisquoc.

The fire is now estimated at 40,470 acres. Three helibases still support the fire, one at Santa Ynez Airport, one at Santa Maria Airport, and a supply helibase at the Incident Command Post. A retardant base is located at Spanish Ranch in Cuyama Valley.

The Fire Investigation Team is asking for the public's assistance to help establish the casue of the La Brea Fire. If you have any information regarding the La Brea please contact Forest Service Fire Investigators at 805-686-5074. Investigators have spoken to witnesses, but are still seeking additional information that may assist with the ongoing investigation.

An emergency closure order is in effect for portions of the Los Padres National Forest in and around the fire. For more information, please contact Fire Information at (805) 961-5770 from 6am-10pm

Temporary flight restrictions have been put in place over the fire area.

Engines: 89 Crews: 57 Dozers: 28 Helicopters: 10 Total personnel: 1,641


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