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State funds help to bolster fire crews during critical situations

New state funds have been allocated to help area fire agencies with extra resources during critical fire conditions.

In Santa Barbara County during what is expected to be intense heat and red flag fire conditions more engines, dozers and command staff members will be on hand along with a helicopter with night vision capabilities.

The first time this approach was used was on July 6 during what was called the Holiday fire on North Fairview near Holiday Hill in Goleta.

High winds pushed the flames and multiple structures both homes and ranch buildings were lost. But the fire was kept above Cathedral Oaks road and not in the densely populated neighborhoods.

The dangerous fire conditions exist when there’s high heat, low humidity and winds blowing off shore through the tight down canyon valleys which tends to increase the temperatures.

The “Sundowner” impact can be quick and devastating.

That’s why the state resources are so valuable.

“We’re going to have the same exact strike team here again and we are going to have them pre positioned down here in the Goleta area and it really helped with the Holiday fire it put fire extra engines on that fire within minutes,” said David Zanaboni with Santa Barbara County Fire.

Fire crews assigned to a wildland incident are not just attacking the flames they see but they are also looking at cutting off access to other areas if there’s a wind shift. That’s where big bulldozers are going into action, cutting a fire break on the flanks. Zaniboni said if, “the fire is moving down here we know where it is going to go, it is going to bump into the neighborhoods it is going to bump into the orchards. If it got started going making a run uphill then it has forever to go. (That includes dense forest land.)”

During the Holiday fire one resident saw the dozers cutting lines near his property and it made a significant difference in the fire fight.

With extra equipment arriving residents still need to be ready to evacuate. Fires can easily move faster than phone calls can be made.

As critical situations unfold, Santa Barbara County’s office of emergency services in coordination with the Sheriff’s department will send out reverse 911 calls. In some cases they are designed for one side of a street or neighborhood but not the other side.

“If they are in the urban interface or if they are in a wild land prone area where there is fire they need to have a plan and be ready don’t wait for a fire to start,” said Zaniboni.

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