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Firetrucks at the ready.

John Goodman

Firetrucks at the ready.


Gap Fire Evening Update

Multi Agency Coordination as Firefighters Battle Blaze


As of 5:30 p.m., Santa Barbara County Fire Department officials reported that the fire had grown to 300 acres. Three hundred and fifty fire fighters are working to contain the blaze, assisted by an impressive array of equipment, including eight fixed-wing aircraft, five dozers, four tankers, four helicopters, and an assortment of specialty engines mostly used for brush fires. Especially dangerous is the fact that this area hasn’t burned since the 1955 Refugio Fire. The current wind forecast, which predicts wind speeds of up to 40 miles per hour this evening, is also worrisome. Unlike yesterday evening, flames can be seen from Cathedral Oaks Road, though officials have not changed their evacuation orders. Residents on the north side of Cathedral Oaks are under warning. At a press conference this afternoon, Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown and Fire Chief John Scherrei were encouraged by the support given by other communities, but still voiced the need for more manpower.

Camera crews filming the action.
Click to enlarge photo

John Goodman

Camera crews filming the action.

At the base of the mountains, officials are launching what they describe as a well coordinated effort to both battle the flames and mobilize for any emergency situation. The 1990 Painted Cave Fire, which raced from the mountains to the freeway in an hour and a half, has been mentioned numerous times, as it is still a vivid memory for many residents and public safety officials. “Just because you may not live in an area that is immediately adjacent to the fire, doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be prepared,” said Sheriff Brown at a press conference this afternoon. Brown along with Chief Scherrei stated the need for everyone to have a wildfire action plan. One fairly recent innovation being utilized by public safety officials is a reverse 911 system that sends a prerecorded phone message to people living in a designated geographic area if the need to evacuate arises. All land line phones in a designated region would receive the call, but the option to have a call sent to a cellular phone is available as well. Anyone interested that service can register their cellular phone on the sheriff’s website [http://www.sbsheriff.org/reverse911.html].

Of the 40 or so people evacuated from La Patera and Glen Annie Canyons last night, only one showed up at the evacuee center at San Marcos High School, said Red Cross CEO Janet Stanley. Small pets can be accommodated in crates on the school’s tennis courts, and those with larger animals can call the large animal hotline, at (805) 681-4332. Larger animals will most likely be kept at Earl Warren Showgrounds. “We need to remain calm, be prepared, know where your family members are, know your evacuation routes, and stay close to your radio,” said Stanley. However, for those families or individuals who have not stocked up on food and water, she said, “The Red Cross can provide food, blankets, comfort packages, mental health services and a variety of other things for those in need.”

Second District Supervisor Janet Wolf, who lost her own home in the Painted Cave fire, urged residents to keep an ear glued to a battery operated radio so as to stay abreast of changes in the threat level, and also to make sure that children understand what is going on. “I just want to assure people that they are in excellent hands,” she said. “We will do everything we can to ensure your safety.” The array of fire equipment from around the state assembled in the Dos Pueblos High School parking lot-one of the staging areas for fire crews-suggests the extensive effort being made to keep the fire away from more inhabited areas. “A lot of the work is done down here deciding what resources we need,” said Cindy Ohojnacky, of the Los Padres National Forest Fire Service. “It’s not as glamorous, but it’s exciting.”

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