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Alisal fire costs exceed $19-million with flood potential increasing from burn zone

SANTA BARBARA COUNTY, Calif. - Santa Barbara County Fire Chief Mark Hartwig says the cost of the Alisal Fire, now more than a week old, is $19.5 million.

In a report to the Board of Supervisors, ten residential structures were destroyed, one was damaged and numerous outbuildings were impacted. There was one injury and no fatalities.

Some of the structures were identified through property tax information and parcel numbers.

Public Works Director Scott McGolpin says a Tajiguas Landfill Materials Recovery Facility had significant damage. Two concrete walls on a large filter had to be cut down to spread out burning wood chips. Damage is expected to be several million dollars.

The Tajiguas site cannot, for now, take the South County trash. That is being trucked to the Toland landfill in Ventura County. Gold Coast, also in Ventura County, will take the recyclables.

With rainy weather expected ahead, McGolpin said there is a chance that some "debris and materials" could come down the creek. He is hoping the state will come through with funding to help with the efforts to keep Refugio Road open.

He says a series of debris racks will be going in soon.

"The tributary work that goes up into the little finger canyons  most of that burned, " said McGolpin. Work underway now, including plans to divert the flow from impacting specific areas, "and avoid numerous closures this winter up Refugio road and we gotta make sure those people are safe this winter and not cut off  from the community."

Thousands of destroyed acres have drainages into canyons and creeks that flow through populated areas, Highway 101, Calle Real, and Union Pacific railroad tracks towards the Pacific Ocean.

  "We unfortunately are a community that is very well aware of the impacts of fires and the floods  following a fire," said Hartwig. "You can really see in front of your eyes how the wide area that was affected will narrow down into these one, two or three canyons so  as you watch it . You can see the devastation."

Red Cross workers continue to patrol in the Refugio Canyon area for anyone looking for help. They are also providing water to residents who have system failures.

The area is being repopulated with property owners and their animals back at home.

Federal funds will help offset the bulk of the fire costs. One of the biggest line items is the cost for aircraft. Hartwig said, "even if they are not flying, we are paying for them because they are sitting and ready to fly."

Firefighters are moving their command post from the Earl Warren Showgrounds to El Capitan State Beach.

About 250 firefighters will be on the scene this week, working on full containment and patrolling and hot spots.

For continuous updates on the Alisal Fire, click here.

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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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