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Property owners and county leaders begin assessing the Alisal fire damage

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - The Alisal fire damage assessments are underway as the damaging fire starts slowing down in its massive footprint along the Santa Barbara County coast.

Highway 101 has opened to traffic after being closed for three days, but when it was quiet and empty of vehicles, the sound of firefighting helicopters was the number one tune for the day.

The fire attack from the sky with thousands of gallons of water and fire retardant is still on to get hot spots out and to control the very hard to reach rocky slopes.

 The water sources are very close by, specifically the Pacific Ocean, along with many ranch lakes. It makes for a quick turn around to hit the hottest spots.

Up in Refugio Canyon the destruction is coming into view. Flames charged down from the mountain top in the first hours of the fire Monday,  pushed by violent winds.

About four miles up, vehicles and some buildings were over run by flames.

The damage totals are still being calculated and there are reports of other buildings down ranch roads that were lost.

The famous Circle Bar B ranch  main building and its guest cabins have been spared,  the horses were evacuated  but fire was all around the landmark property.

Many other ranches and longtime rustic housing in the area is still getting inspected.

A row of mailboxes is on the ground from fire damage. It's not far from some burnt vehicles.

Santa Barbara County leaders say they threw everything at the fire the moment it broke out.

Santa Barbara County Executive Officer, Mona Miyasato said, "since I have been here for the last eight years  we have proclaimed 18 now 19 times for disaster. We have opened our EOC 40 times. I think the public is well prepared, our staff is well prepared  our firefighters   our IMT our incident management team, our reporters everyone is well prepared we have all gone through this before."

 In Tajiguas Canyon the new 130-million dollar Materials Recovery Facility swallowed  flames in a special large wood chip filter site.

The damage was significant and crews are cutting open a concrete wall to bring the burning material out.

Santa Barbara County Public Works department information officer Lael Wageneck  said, "the building is completely intact.  And the fire was in the wood chip area. We are currently still assessing the damage. We don't have a time table yet on when the building will go back on line or what it will take to get it back on line."

The components to operate that part of the system here are scorched or melted.

The canyons around the landfill were loaded with fire.

Trash and recyclables from southern Santa Barbara County are still being collected but they are not coming to this site for now. "We have a contingency plan that sends the trash and recycling  to two different locations in Ventura County," said Wageneck.

He said the employees were able to get out without injury and fire crews were on the scene quickly to guage the speed of the fire and the potential for spread through the area.

The nearby Baron Ranch had significant damage and some of the popular hiking trails will have to be rebuilt. It is adjacent to the Tajiguas landfill, and was purchased by the county as a buffer for the facility.

Article Topic Follows: Fire
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John Palminteri

John Palminteri is senior reporter for KEYT News Channel 3-12. To learn more about John, click here.


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