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Santa Barbara - South County

Area firefighters in Northern California on multiple mutual aid assignments

BUTTE COUNTY, Calif. - Santa Barbara City firefighters are among the front line responders from the Central Coast now assisting fire crews in multiple Northern California fires.

Santa Barbara County crews have been at the Beckworth Complex fire in the Plumas National Forest at 105,000 acres and the Dixie fire in Butte County at 60,000 acres. It is east of Paradise.

Santa Barbara, Santa Maria, Lompoc, Carpinteria and Montecito firefighters are working together. 22 are on the "strike team."

Santa Barbara City Fire Battalion Chief Mike Hoose is a Strike Team Leader trainee. He spoke by phone saying, "we are experiencing  larger fires with more explosive growth,  more aggressive fire weather and fire behavior."

The 14-day assignment began July 11, and they've already been able to save homes including one owned by the Likes family who had stayed behind in a community of about 1000.

Hoose said , "we lost no structures  we had no injuries.  Mr.  and Mrs. Likes likes to help out. " They had heavy equipment on the property.

With the vast experience within a strike team Hoose says it is helpful in changing conditions.
"A smoke jumper, a hot shot,  heavy equipment operators we come to the plate really ready to with a tremendous depth of experience."

"When fire engines from our area  are dispatched as part of a mutual aid strike team to other fire zones,  fire agencies make sure there's enough coverage remaining throughout Santa Barbara County to respond to all calls.

The challenges of this season's fires have come fast, and  the plans have been adjusted to meet the often unpredictable flames where they exist, or prepare to take on the full force.

In one location, "the fire just exploded in size and growth and activity," said Hoose. "You watch the long range spotting and trees starting to torch off. At times the smoke was so thick you couldn't see in front of you and the wind is blowing rocks down and trees down and you are moving up Highway 70 to protect structures."

    Saving lives and property  either at home or hundreds of miles away from their fire stations here comes with deep satisfaction.
"The feeling that you were able to save that residents, that ranch, those buildings not only for that family but future generations, thats great," said Hoose.

According to InciWeb, or Incident Information:

The Beckwourth Complex fire is not expected to move outside its current perimeter.  The fire remains at 105,348 acres and is now 88% contained. Crews are finding and extinguishing pockets of lingering heat that are within 100 to 300 feet—depending on terrain—from the containment line. As the fire is increasingly contained, crews, equipment, and other resources are being reassigned to other incidents or returning to their home units for rest between mobilizations. Widespread smoke from the Dixie Fire continues to affect Susanville. A group of initial-attack firefighters is prepositioned on the west side of the fire, allowing for a rapid response to new fires. Last evening, night-shift firefighters quickly mobilized and contained a new lightning-caused fire west of the Beckwourth Complex. In areas where the fire is contained, crews and equipment have begun fire-suppression repair work.

The Sugar Fire within the Beckwourth Complex is remaining within its perimeter of over 60 miles of containment lines. Occasional smoke may be visible as unburned vegetation well within the perimeter smolders. Firefighters continue to monitor and patrol the entire fire perimeter. 

The Beckwourth Complex is comprised of the Dotta Fire and the Sugar Fire.  The Dotta Fire was ignited by lightning on June 30 near Dotta Canyon on the Beckwourth Ranger District of the Plumas National Forest.  On July 2, the Sugar Fire started by lightning west of Sugarloaf Peak.  These two fires are being managed as one incident, which is also called a complex. 

The Dixie Fire is east of Paradise and above Lake Oroville. It is 59,984 acres, with 15 percent containment.

Fire / Santa Maria - Lompoc - North County / Video
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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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