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Alisal Fire burns 16,962 acres, now fully contained

The Alisal Fire has burned 16,962 acres and is now fully contained. The cause remains under investigation.

Highway 101 which was closed one week ago, reopened Thursday evening after being closed since Monday.

Officials said during a news conference Wednesday afternoon that a federal incident command team would assume lead responsibility of the fire beginning Wednesday.

The fire was first reported Monday afternoon in the mountains between the Gaviota Coast and the Santa Ynez Valley. The fire is believed to have been sparked in the Santa Ynez Mountains above Alisal Reservoir.

The fire quickly burned more than 50 acres and was growing at a rapid rate of spread, according to Los Padres National Forest Public Information Officer Andrew Madsen.

By Monday evening the fire had grown to more than 3,000 acres and continued to spread overnight. By Tuesday evening the fire had quadrupled in size.

The fire burned in dense chaparral and was being pushed by strong winds. Smoke was visible throughout southern Santa Barbara County including from the Santa Ynez Valley and along the Gaviota coastline.

Much of Santa Barbara County was under a high wind warning with strong winds throughout the area when the fire first broke out. That warning remained in place until Tuesday morning. And a wind advisory will be back in place Wednesday at 3 p.m. for the Santa Barbara South Coast and Santa Barbara County mountains.

More than 1,700 firefighters are assigned to the fire. Air support units were called in to respond to the fire on Monday but were grounded due to severe winds. Helicopters joined the fire fight Tuesday morning, but fixed-wing aircraft remained grounded until the afternoon. More aircraft are expected to hit the flames throughout Wednesday afternoon before winds picked up again in afternoon and evening.

Of the 439 structures that have been threatened by the flames, three residences and two other outbuildings have been destroyed, according to Santa Barbara County Fire.

Part of the Tajiguas Landfill was damaged by the fire Tuesday morning. The Santa Barbara County Public Works Department said wood chips in the landfill's biofilter caught fire. Public works is assessing the damage. Officials said the Exxonmobil Las Flores Canyon Facility was protected by defensible space and was not at risk due to its concrete structure.


An evacuation order in effect for residents in the Refugio Canyon, including Arroyo Hondo, Tajiguas and Arroyo Quemada. The evacuation order was later expanded to include El Capitan State Park and the El Capitan Campground. Those evacuation order were lifted early Friday night.

The evacuation order was expanded early Thursday morning to include the area west of Arroyo Hondo to the intersection of Highway 101 and Highway 1. This includes Vista Del Mar School and Gaviota Beach.

An evacuation warning was put in place for the area north of El Capitan Campground and east to Dos Pueblos Canyon, east of Calle Mariposa Reina, west of Arroyo Hondo, and south of West Camino Cielo.

The evacuation warning was extended to all properties within Hollister Ranch area as a vegetation fire was nearby early Thursday morning.

The evacuation order expanded to the area between El Capitan Beach State Park and W. Camino Cielo Road.

On Friday evening, many of these evacuation orders were canceled.

More evacuation warnings were lifted on Saturday for the area west of Highway 101 including Gaviota Beach and Hollister Ranch properties.

And on Sunday, evacuation orders for the area west of Arroyo Hondo to the intersection of HWY 101 and HWY 1 were lifted along with the area of Arroyo Hondo and Refugio Canyon and between El Capitan Beach State Park and West Camino Cielo.

An evacuation center was set up at the parking lot of Dos Pueblos High School at 7266 Alameda Avenue in Goleta. Evacuating residents are encouraged to bring extra clothing, pillows, blankets, hygiene supplies, important documents, medication and other comfort items. Items for children and infants are also encouraged.

Santa Barbara County Animal Services has been activated to assist with animal evacuations. Livestock can be taken to the Earl Warren Showgrounds. Animal 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 are going door to door to make sure residents are evacuated.

One outbuilding was lost to the fire by 10 p.m. Monday.

Road Closures

Santa Barbara County Fire announced Sunday morning that Gaviota, Refugio, and El Capitan State Beaches/Campgrounds will remain closed until Oct. 24 for firefighter staging, housing and access.

Caltrans closed Highway 101 in both directions Monday afternoon as the fire burned its way down the hillside toward the freeway.

The Highway 101 closure was in place from Highway 1 at Las Cruces to Winchester Canyon/Cathedral Oaks Road in Goleta.

On Thursday, the highway reopened to traffic but drivers were urged to use caution as fire crews remained in the area.

Refugio Road is fully in the immediate area of the fire, and is closed, according to the California Highway Patrol.

Traffic was slowed in the area of the closure due to poor visibility and emergency vehicles in the area. A traffic crash involving a big rig took place just north of Refugio, according to CHP. The semi-truck went off the roadway and caught fire. The driver was rescued by Guadalupe Police Chief Michael Cash. To read about the harrowing rescue, click here.

The Los Padres National Forest Service is the lead agency responding to the fire with assistance from the Santa Barbara County Fire Department.

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