La Brea Fire Update

Doubles in Size Overnight, No Evacuations at Present for Santa Maria Area

Update, 5:30 pm: US Forest Service reports flames can now be seen from the Spanish Ranch area of Highway 166. Crews continue to hold the fire at the Sierra Madre Ridge. Incident command is working to provide an updated acreage figure.

The La Brea Fire, which started yesterday at 2:50 pm, continues to burn in an area of the San Rafael Wilderness that is very steep and difficult to reach on the ground.

Heavy fuels (vegetation), long range spotting and moderate to rapid rates of spread continue to hamper fire fighters in their efforts to contain the fire. Extreme fire behavior was observed, as the fire made major runs throughout the day and was fuel driven. Flames from the fire could be seen on the ridgeline from areas along SR-166 this afternoon.

The portion of the forest from the intersection of SR-166 and Sierra Madre Road east to McPherson Peak, south to the Sisquoc and west to the forest boundary is currently closed due to the fire emergency. Campgrounds in the area have been evacuated.

Incident report from Inciweb, the Federal Incident information system, posted 9am Sunday morning, and other sources.

The La Brea Fire, which started yesterday at 2:50 pm, continues to burn in an area of the San Rafael Wilderness that is very steep and difficult to reach on the ground.

The fire moved very rapidly yesterday and long-range spotting ahead of the main body of the fire was observed. Last night the fire pushed out in all directions. Bulldozers and crews worked yesterday to prepare an area along the Sierra Madre Road to be used as a fire break, should the fire reach there. Eight fixed wing air tankers, four helicopters, 11 engines, and 14 crews are assigned to the fire today.

La Brea fire approximate location, April 9

View August 9th location of La Brea fire in a larger map

Major runs were observed during the night and fire behavior is expected to increase today with the high temperature and low relative humidity that is predicted.

Sierra Madre Ridge Road is closed and campgrounds in the area have been evacuated.

Basic Information

Incident Type: Wildfire

Cause: Under Investigation

Date of Origin: Saturday August 08th, 2009 approx 02:50 PM

Location: 26 Miles east of Santa Maria

Incident Commander: Jamie Copple

Current Situation

Total Personnel: 362

Evacuations: None at this time.

Closures and road status: Highway 166 is open. An emergency closure of the forest from the intersection of Sierra Madre Ridge Road and Highway 166 to McPherson Peak and south to the Sisquoc River is in effect. This closure includes the entire Colson area. Campgrounds in the area have been evacuated.

Agencies: U.S. Forest Service, Santa Barbara County Fire Dept., Ventura County Fire Dept., CAL FIRE, Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Dept., Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Incident Command Post location: Preisker Park in Santa Maria

Size: 2,500 acres

Fuels Involved: Chaparral

Fire Behavior: The fire pushed out in all directions last night and major runs as well as spotting were observed.

Significant Events: No action was taken during the evening due to the lack of an anchor point, inaccessible terrain, and extreme fire behavior.


Planned Actions: Establish anchor points.

Growth Potential: Extreme

Terrain Difficulty: Extreme

Current Weather

Wind Conditions: 14 mph NE

Temperature: 60 degrees

Humidity: 46%

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

event calendar sponsored by:

Thousands of Plaintiffs Added to Refugio Oil Spill Case

Litigation follows footsteps of 1969 Union Oil spill attorneys.

Push Comes to Shove Between Law Enforcement and Mental Health

County supervisors confront too many needs with not enough money.

Helicopter Hits Electrical Wires, Starts Small Fire

A crop duster hit power lines in Ellwood Canyon.

County Accountant Pleads Guilty to Embezzling $2 Million

Forensic audit discovers almost 300 false invoices filed over nine years.

Los Padres ForestWatch Opposes Logging in Condor Country

Timber companies target 2,800 acres of trees near Mt. Pinos along the Tecuya Ridge.