Sunday Afternoon 1:30pm
For the past hour, fire activity increased dramatically on the south side of the San Rafael ridgeline. For the first time since the fire began on July 4th, it is now burning in a remote section of the Santa Ynez Valley.
At mid-morning, as the heat began to build, flames could be seen working their way both south and east along the front flanks of San Rafael Mountain and McKinley Peak. For a while it appeared the fire line would spill down into Peachtree Canyon. A little after noon, as the upper part of the West Fork of Santa Cruz Creek became engulfed in flames, the plume burst through the sky like a hot air balloon, sending smoke thousands of feet into the air.
Within minutes, the flames that had been bearing down on the top of Peachtree Canyon laid down as easterly winds began to move the fire back towards San Rafael Peak. It will be hours before fire fighters know if this was a temporary effect or if Peachtree residents once again are out of danger.
Currently, the fire is showing signs of continued movement across the upper end of the Santa Cruz drainages. Along the eastern ridge of Santa Cruz Peak flames in excess of sixty feet could be seen with binoculars. Because of the smoke, it was impossible to determine whether or not the fire was burning in the Mission Pine Basin area but it is likely that is the case.
Should the fire burn through the Santa Cruz drainage, the next “fall-back” line for containing the fire is the Buckhorn Road. However, with 27 miles of rough dirt road leading from Upper Oso Campground to Big Pine Mountain, it is a line that will be difficult to hold.
In preparation for fire activity on the eastern side of Santa Cruz drainage, Forest officials have closed Paradise Road to entry for recreational use.
By Ray Ford