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Firefighters battle tough conditions, knock out grass fire

Intense sundowner winds along the Gaviota coastline created tough conditions for firefighters.

“We had gusts up to 25 mph, with sustained winds up to15 to 25 miles an hour,” said Mike Eliason with the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

The winds weren’t the only factor firefighters had to worry about.

“You have the trifecta for fire danger — high winds, the low humidity, and the high temperatures,” explained Eliason.

The fire started just after 3 p.m. Monday along the railroad tracks and Highway 101 near Mariposa Reina.
Flames moved quickly, but fire crews didn’t waste any time.

“We kept it in check. We were able to hold it at one acre through an aggressive attack,” said Eliason.

The aggressive attack included crews from Santa Barbara County Fire, Forest Service, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and a water dropping helicopter.

At times, the strong winds even gave the air crews trouble. They had to make several passes to get just the right position. Crews shut down one lane of the Southbound Highway 101, and Union Pacific Railroad shut down service.

Firefighters say the location of the fire, and the direction of the winds were in their favor.

“The fire ran to the edge of the cliff and ran out of real estate,” Eliason explained.

Crews were able to knock out the flames within a couple of hours.

Train service was restored and both lanes of the highway were reopened.

Investigators are looking into the cause of the fire.

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