In the early afternoon, as a southerly winds carried a thick band of smoke over the mountains, Santa Barbarans felt the impacts of the Zaca Fire. So thick that it appeared the fire was just over the crest, Forest Service public information officers received a steady stream of calls.
For the past several days the fire has been quiet with more than 80% of its perimeter contained. As of yesterday, only a small section of the fire line on the back side of McKinley Peak and San Rafael Mountain had active burning. Located on the steep north slopes, the fire was unsafe for direct attack. Instead, fire fighters monitored conditions, allowing the fire to burn up to the ridgeline.
Today, the fire became much more active, with flames working their way up several of the steeper drainages, it appeared this would be the day when fire fighters would get a handle on this last section of uncontained fire line.
Apparently this may not have been the case.
This evening, looking across the Santa Ynez Valley towards the San Rafael ridge, it is difficult to tell if the fire has crested it or not. There is simply too much smoke.
It is certain, however, that all of the fire fighting resources have been pulled off the ridge and that it will be early tomorrow before we will be able to see the extent of the fire’s movement.
At 9PM when the smoke lifted a bit, it was clear enough to spot the red glow of flames over the ridge. For the first time since the fire began on July 4th, flames can be seen from the valley floor.
Early Sunday Morning Update
Today’s Forest Service fire update confirms what spectators could see from the observation area along Highway 154. The fire has crossed the San Rafael Ridge in several spots, placing Peachtree Canyon residents in the line of fire.
Conditions as described by agencies battling the Zaca Fires:
An EVACUATION ORDER has been issued for the Peachtree Community. An EVACUATION WARNING has been issued for Happy Canyon Road up to Baseline Avenue. With the current warming and drying trend, active burning continued throughout the night in the uncontained, southeast area of the fire. Approximately 1000 acres burned in a southeast direction since yesterday with areas burning out of the San Rafael Wilderness, including two spot fires. The relative humidity recovery overnight was very minimal, only reaching into the mid twenties. Active burning is predicted to continue today, as single digit relative humidities and temperatures into the mid 90s prevail in the fire area. Columns and drift smoke are likely to be seen throughout the Central Coast. While the fire burns in old and heavy fuel, fire crews and air attack are continuing to work diligently to bring this fire to full containment. Please visit Inciweb for maps, photos and more information on the Zaca Fire.
Happy Canyon area
[And from an earlier Sunday morning report] The fire was very active late yesterday on its E/SE side in the San Rafael Mountain area within the San Rafael Wilderness. Winds caused the fire to spot across handlines and burn into heavy brush, burning an additional 600 acres by about 6:00p.m. The fire also ignited islands of unburned vegetation well-inside the firelines. Several water-dropping helicopters and eight retardant-dropping airtankers attacked the fire all afternoon. This evening with little humidity recovery, the fire continues to burn aggressively in heavy fuels and is expected to burn actively all night. The active portion of the fire is mostly within the San Rafael Wilderness,however the fire has crossed McKinley Peak and is backing down the hill. Smoke and ash are drifting over a wide area as far away as the coast. Flames are visible from some distance. Hotter and drier weather is expected to continue on Sunday and Monday. is available at Inciweb.
More coverage is available here.