Plumes of smoke seen behind Montecito on Saturday evening were from planned backfire operations, according to Montecito Fire District Chief Kevin Wallace. The backfiring is part of a proactive fire strategy designed by the Zaca Fire Joint Incident Command to consume fuel in the path of the fire, thereby reducing the impact and power, and perhaps change the direction of the fire.
Reached at 4:30 pm as he was observing the backfiring from Camino Cielo Road, Chief Wallace said the backfire operations were progressing as planned. “The backfires are lit and the smoke columns are moving north as expected,” Wallace said.
The backfires, causing the smoke plumes seen in Montecito, are about nine miles from the Montecito in the Pendola Jeepway Road area. The backfiring operation was put into action when, yesterday [August 17], the fire became established on the southern flank in both Agua Caliente and Diablo Canyons and an increased threat to our densely populated areas. Tonight officials from the incident command post said today’s backfiring operation went according to plan.
In other fire related news, on Friday Cal Fire crews and heavy equipment began clearing brush from Romero Canyon in Montecito. According to Montecito Fire District spokesperson, Curtis Vincent, the operation reclaimed an old vehicle access road from Romero Canyon Road to Camino Cielo
“They are not cutting a fire break, they are opening an old road so they can use if for equipment if they need it,” Vincent said. He further explained the current trail, popular with front country hikers, is actually an old abandoned utility road. “It was a forest service road until the ’70s, then it fell into disrepair and was put to bed. They are just reopening it.”
Vincent said three bulldozers worked at the top of Romero Canyon near Camino Cielo but they did not cut a wide swath. “It will be just wide enough for a truck and, at this point, there is no dozer work planned for the bottom end of the trail, south of the Edison’s blue gate. In that area they will just be cutting back brush.”
Romero Canyon trail remains open, but fire officials issued this statement: “Please use caution when in the Romero Canyon area as heavy equipment and other fire resources will be active in the area. Recreation activity on the Romero Canyon trail is not advised.”
The size of the fire is now at 183,408 acres. Containment is at 75% percent. The estimated cost is now over 81.7 million dollars. Over 2,945 personnel are currently working on this fire.
The fire is well established in Mono Creek, Agua Caliente, and Diablo Canyons. Firing operations were completed on the Monte Arido Fuel Break from the Live Oak / Richardson branch break south to the Pendola Jeepway. Another firing operation kept the fire north of the Olgivy Ranch Road. Crews continue to backfire on the Hildreth Jeepway southward, and along the Pendola Jeepway.