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Alisal Fire shifts to federal incident with additional staffing and funds

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Alisal Fire along the Santa Barbara County coast has shifted to a federal incident. With that comes additional staffing, resources and funds.

Gaining the upper hand on the fire will depend in large part ON the behavior of the winds along the Gaviota coast where the flames first broke out Monday.

The fire began in a remote location. The cause remains under investigation.

Incident Commander Woody Enos said the canyons often have drastically different conditions. In some cases they can be quiet and then in areas like Refugio or El Capitan and it can be "howling 50, 60, 70 miles an hour." Enos said that was the case on the first day of the fire.

Speaking at the unified command site at the Earl Warren Showgrounds in Santa Barbara, the unified command comes with resources, mutual aid, and when it's over, the recovery plan.

It's estimated between 700 and 1000 firefighters will be called in for this fire.

Some of the hills are falling apart with the explosive fire behavior. Deputy incident Commander Matt Ferris said,
"as soon as the fire passed over all the rocks rolled on the road and the trees were falling into the area. That's what we are dealing with to gain access into the area."

Firefighters are hoping the advancing flames will hit some old fire zones and slow down, specifically  the 2004 Gaviota fire on the west side and the 2016  Sherpa fire on the east side.

"So we're hoping as it progresses in nature it will slow down with a  shorter fuel bed  but more importantly once it's moving in that direction you can see the fire is already slowing down."

Where it is burning, however, it's hot, conditions are erratic and it's spreading in old dry brush.

The county says priority properties are getting on site protection including the Tajiguas Landfill equipment which has had some fire impacts.

Santa Barbara County Executive Officer Mona Miyasato said the county will be assessing the new facility where the fire burned. It has an uncovered area filled with wood chips that filters air from the attached Materials Recovery Facility.

The ranch properties are well known in the area. Every structure is getting protection from the fire crews.

The fire will cost millions to put out but financial relief is in place.

"Luckily for us, a big event happened yesterday and our request for federal help FMAG (fire management assistant grant) was granted by Cal OES which means a lot of our costs will be reimbursed by the federal government," Miyasota said.

She also said the county is well experienced in disasters, deployment of resources, and financial reimbursements from these large scale incidents.

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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT NewsChannel 3. To learn more about John, click here.

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